All Saints Day

November 1, 2013

Today we celebrate saints. The whole nation is on holiday.

For the first time there’s the faintest whiff of fall in the bright blue air.

Sheets flap from every balcony. (On holidays and Sundays electricity is practically free in Italy. So everyone’s done the washing.)

It was a good morning for bumping into amici. I found Salvatore, a 95-year old friend, in a cafe on the piazza.  He told me war stories. How his ship was torpedoed. How he was taken prisoner by the British and marched through the Algerian desert without water.  How, in his prison camp in Liverpool, the British girls went wild for him. (“They didn’t care for the Romans, Tuscans, or Neapolitans–only Sicilians.”)

I greeted the furniture restorer, the ice cream maker, the baker. I found my friend Sara at the gardens, and she saw her friend Salvo, an artist who took us to his studio, stuffed with a thousand paintings of the Sicilian countryside.

A perfect morning in Sicily.

Village Snapshop, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Tomorrow, November 2, we celebrate departed souls (All Soul’s Day). Children will hunt around the house for gifts left by dead relatives, the cemeteries will be full, and we’ll devour cookies called Bones of the Dead.

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45 comments to All Saints Day

  • What a fabulous post, Jann. The words, the photo, so vivacious xx

  • I love the thought of all souls day and welcoming the departed spirits. Today in our village we had a Halloween evening with all the children dressing up and then parents and kids went to the businesses in the village who all gave them treats. xx

    • Jann

      Wow, so kids up north actually trick-or-treat! I’ve not heard of that down here, though I’ve seen the occasional kids dressed up. I bet your kids had fun. How sweet, Lisa.

  • John Schinina

    Ciao Jann, What a poetic brief came out from your writing, refering to your husbands arrival at the first visitation of your damp old house. Don’t ever give up your challenge. Brava, Jann

    • Jann

      Boy, John, that seems like eons ago when Hubby got a glimpse of the damp old house for the first time! So funny you remember that. :)

  • What a lovely post about All Souls Day in Sicily. This is our first 2nd November in Italy so we ventured to Milan’s famous Cimitero Monumentale. Amazing how busy it was. Like you, I think it’s a lovely tradition to have a special day to remember family and friends who have died. Oh and thank you for the tips about the electricty. Looking forward to continuing to follow your blog.

    • Jann

      Hey Jenny! How nice to hear from you and welcome to this blog, and to Italy! I don’t know Milan very well, but it’s certainly worlds away from Sicily. Now I’m gonna go and check out your blog.:)

  • Anitre

    Fantastic description of the current Sicilian autumn. Your photo captures the bright sunny days. Thanks for the electricity tips. I’ll ensure that I run my washing machine during the cheap time and I’ve sourced an Ossi dei Morti recipe, too. Keep up the blog, Jann! Brava! Brava!

    • Jann

      Anitre, thanks for cheering me on. You’re troppo buona! When shall we ever meet???? Hope your cookies turn out good. xxxx

  • vicki carol

    Your photo is a perfect composition for a painting. You have such a gifted eye.

  • –Jann,
    that photo makes me want to be there. Now.
    I smell the saucy, sunny, sheety air.
    The colours thrill me.
    but more than anything, I LOVE the sheets flowing softly in the Sicilian air. XxxxxxxxOOO

    • Jann

      Some Sicilians have told me they’re “ashamed” of the laundry that’s always flapping, but I love it too! Very few people here have driers for economic reasons… I think the laundry on the lines here is part of the charm. You wouldn’t believe how many photos I have of it! xxxxxx love to you, Kim. Your last post was amazing.

  • Wonderful post! I am loving Sicily more and more thanks to you. It does seem that Sicily is the “true Italy.”
    This morning I read lots of “War Memories” stories on the Telegraph newspaper website.
    Very thought provoking. I hope someone in your friend’s life has written down his memories for safekeeping.
    Also, interesting to find out that the Italians honor and remember their departed loved ones like the Mexicans do on Nov. 1 and 2 with their “Dia de los Muertos,”
    about which I am sure you know, too, coming from New Mexico!

    • Jann

      Ciao Caterina, I just looked at your photostream (again) and saw the dogs with the bushels of apples. Fantastico!!! Well, according to Goethe, you cannot understand Italy without knowing Sicily, which (and I paraphrase) is the essence of Italy. I am writing down Salvatore’s stories because he said even his daughter has never really shown any interest in them. My next blog will probably be about him. It must have been the Spanish who left the Day of the Dead traditions in both Sicily and Mexico (and NM). It’s so interesting to see the similarities between Sicily and NM.

  • I didn’t know about the electricity thing!

    • Jann

      Ciao Debra, do you use Enel electric? Look at the back of the bill and you’ll see that it says Monday-Fri from 8:00 to 19:00 is the most expensive time to use electricity (these are the ore di punta). Then there’s a medium-expensive time from 7:00-8:00 and 19:00-23:00 on weekdays and 7:00 to 23:00 on Saturdays. The super-cheap time = Sundays, midnight to 7:00 anytime, and national holidays. Once I learned this, my bills went down. :)

  • love hearing about various holidays + what a day in the photo. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

  • Sam

    Can you sample the dead bones cookies on Nov. 2 and respond to this comment with a description?

    • Jann

      Lots of different varieties of these, Sam, but they’re all very sweet. A traditional recipe calls for nuts (hazelnuts or almonds), sugar, flour, egg white, vanilla, cloves. (Marsala wine optional and usually covered with powdered sugar). They are sometimes molded into bone shapes, or sometimes just long finger-like cookies. I’ve also had some from the Siracusa area that were crunchy, more like hard candy, and more stick-like.

  • Toni

    Love the stories!!! The photo makes me want to move to Sicily even more.

  • What an beautiful, amazing image Jann. I love how you’ve intensified the everyday theatre of Sicily. Also in your writing. you bring it all home to me…where I get my passion for the dark and light of life – the Sicilian embrace of what it is to be alive. Enjoy the festivities. I would LOVE to be there right now xx

    • Jann

      Janine, I love how you put it: the everyday theater of Sicily. Something about being here makes me feel like I’m in a production, surrounded by character actors. :) Wish you were here.

  • ria

    A perfect photo of the perfect morning in Sicily! Love your post.

  • Jann! Loved this post! My granddaughter and I made ossi di morti yesterday! We’ll enjoy them with espresso tomorrow as we light candles in front of our deceased relatives photos!

    • Jann

      Beautiful, Terry, that you keep up the old traditions. I love a day devoted to thinking about lost loved ones. Hope you enjoyed your cookies! Thank you so much for commenting.

  • Angelo Milo

    Salvatore may have been a shipmate of my Zio Giuseppe…also shipwrecked and POW of the British. Nice photo! You have a way with the camera…transports me there. Like being beamed over to Sicily!

    • Jann

      Angelo, apparently there were 120 men on the ship that went out of Siracusa harbor, and it was bombed and only 80 survived. They floated in the water for 8 hours before an American ship picked them up, and then took them to Algeria. Same group?? Thanks for stopping by the blog, Angelo. Always love your comments.

  • Such a beautiful photo- so painterly.

  • Just tracked down a recipe for the cookies – sounds like the perfect thing for tomorrow!

  • Cathy

    So jealous of the sunshine :) Here, I’ve entered into my annual “Finally Facing The Reality That Its No Longer Summer, and Winter Will Be Here Soon.” funk. It doesn’t help that its a dark, wild, extremely windy day with torrential rains. I would much prefer your day, sounds lovely :)

    • Jann

      Oh my gosh–your weather sounds kind of romantic, Cathy (dark, wild & windy)!!! Straight out of Wuthering Heights.

  • Love hearing about customs in Sicily, Jann. Free electricity sounds like an idea whose time has come!

    • Jann

      :) The cost of electricity here varies according to the hour–there are 3 levels of cost. So you’ve always got to think about when to do what. It’s a pain to save all your laundry for Sunday, but it’ll save you a bundle!

  • Linda

    28° and sunny in Noto today but in the evening we have had to start closing the doors a bit so it is starting to feel like “sicilian fall”. My mom sent me a letter last week and some perfectly pressed New England autumn Leaves spilled out. They even smelled like fall back home. I almost cried.

    • Jann

      What a sweet gift from your mom. How adorable. It would have reminded me of my leaf collections in grade school, when my mom collected most of the leaves for me because she was so “into” the project. Sounds like you’re a little homesick? Time for a trip home?

    • Linda

      I have not been back for 8 years and consider here more home but to keep a love and rosy view of Sicily it is ideal to step away sometimes. Like anywhere else. I think it is more like you described-a childhood memory of crisp New England falls and playing in the leaves. My mmother was actually writing complaining about all the raking!

  • Aida

    Jann, can we see cookies called bones of the dead….? Love the photo seems still nice weather in sicily…thanks,!

    • Jann

      Now I’m writing on Nov 2 and we’re getting a little rain. The first coolness & rain since spring. (We needed rain, desperately.)

    • Jann

      Aida,
      Type in “ossi dei morti” in google and click on images. You’ll see the many different varieties of this cookie. xxxxx

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