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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Strong & Passionate (& Loco)

April 4, 2013

Easter is long gone, I know.

But not here in Sicily. After an intense week of processions and candles and dirge-tolling bells and Roman soldiers on horseback and skies aflame with fireworks and Easter lambs and ricotta tarts and cassata cakes, we’re just starting to come to our senses.

Sicilians confirmed, once again, that they’re a strong and passionate people.

And absolutely loco.

In the little village of Ferla, Jesus and Mary wafted out of churches at the opposite ends of town on the shoulders of a dozen hale and hearty Sicilians. The Madonna went uphill; Jesus down. When they got within sight of each other, Jesus broke into a joyful downhill sprint toward Mary.

Easter Celebration in Ferla, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Twelve pairs of legs were scrambling, centipede-like, to balance his incredible weight while flying downhill. Onlookers gaped just inches away.

I had been casually snapping pictures–la-dee-da–when the stampede began. Aghast, I was–a straniera innocente more or less in their path.

Easter in Ferla, Sicily, copyright jann huizenga

But all is well that ends well, and the morning ended with fireworks streaming through blue skies, tears streaming down cheeks, and kisses & hugs galore. Easter in Ferla, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

I am sending you some virtual ones. xxxxxxxxxoooooooooo


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Good Friday Parade

March 29, 2013

The altar boys go first.


Then comes a fallen Jesus.


Brawny young shoulders carry him aloft._MG_1217

Comes a dolorous Mary._MG_1227

Out of church we go._MG_1231

Down a long steep staircase. Balance carefully now._MG_1238

Down. Down. Down.

Into the crowd.

Past my little Alis market and into the night, thick with funeral song.



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A Good Airing Out

March 22, 2013

Happy primavera*!

Do you want to feel oh-so-Italian?

Then go strip your bed and throw those quilts and blankies on a line.

You’ve been hibernating in their depths far too long. (Haven’t you?) Let the stale things inhale the blueish air.

Airing out quilts in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga


*Ah, Primavera. Here’s Botticelli’s version. And to my southern hemisphere amici, happy (belated) autumn!

Boticelli's Primavera


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Bread and Symbols in Sicily

March 19, 2013

Antonio wipes his floury face.

He dusts off his palms then smiles a shy-smile and hangs back.

The shopper next to me at the register, a tiny woman, blinks up with nut-brown eyes and explodes with words: “Yes, signora, you are right to take a photo of this bread! What he does is an art! And not many do it! How much longer…?”

Antonio unfurls his apron like a dusty flag and follows me out the bakery door into better light.

His opere d’arte–baroque breads, all curves and coils and curlicues–were created for today’s Feast of St. Joseph (Festa di San Giuseppe).

Sicilian Baker with St Joseph's Day Breads, copyright Jann Huizenga

The breads are symbolic. Antonio makes crucifixes and fish, too, but those were sold out by the time I arrived. The one below is half crown of thorns, half crown of roses.
St Joseph's Bread, copyright Jann Huizenga

I forgot to ask what this other one means. It appears to be dancing the tarantella. Any ideas?

St Joseph's Bread, copyright Jann Huizenga

I will not eat these–not because of my pasta paunch, but because of their soul. They will glow on my sideboard until they fall to crumbs.


Saint Joseph is Sicily’s most important saint, and his feast day is the source of much hoopla in the nearby town of Santa Croce Camerina.


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