My Sicilian Village: Now and Then

March 4, 2014

Here’s my beloved Piazza Duomo, with the church of San Giorgio perched atop a high staircase, her chest puffed out, proud and lovely. The piazza is our salon–it is here that we celebrate, gossip, soak in the sun, raise a glass of wine, listen to the clamor of the bells.

Piazza Duomo, Ragusa Ibla, copyright Jann Huizenga

And now a shot from days gone by. It’s from an old postcard–shot maybe 50-60 years ago? The clock appears to have been in working order back then, but other than that not too much has changed, thank goodness.

Old Postcard of Piazza Duomo, Ragusa Ibla

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Off Season in Sicily

January 28, 2014

There’s something wonderful about being in Sicily on winter mornings: you have the piazza all to yourself.

Oh, there might be a mutt or two coiled in a corner… but otherwise there’s a deep calm, far from the clamoring crowd. You’re free to breathe in the empty island air and indulge your inner lone wolf.

(Is it the decade of a too-busy life in NYC that’s made me crave solitude? Shoving my way on and off the 6 and 7-train every day?)

Dog in Marzamemi, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

This is Marzamemi, a honey-colored fishing village on the east coast of Sicily (south of Siracusa and not far from Noto). I won’t set foot there in summer (crowds!), but in winter I could linger for hours. I hope heaven is as nice.

Won’t you join me for an open-air caffè? Now I’m feeling a little lonely.

Marzamemi Piazza, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

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Moonrise & the Cathedral

November 19, 2013

Somewhere deep in the heart of Sicily, there’s a moment of pure peace.

Moonrise in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

 

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How to Pick a Sicilian Olive

October 14, 2013

Ponies a-prancin’; olives a-dancin’.

That’s how it is this time of year in Sicily.

Horses in Sicilian Field, copyright Jann HuizengaThrow down that net and let’s get busy. There’s a bumper crop. The limbs surge with bounty.

Harvesting Olives in Sicily,copyright Jann Huizenga

You can do it by hand.

Harvesting Olives by Hand in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Or use a big red comb.

Harvesting Olives in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Or a motorized gadget, sort of like a fan on a heavy long pole.

Harvesting Olives in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Olives bounce everywhere, along with an avalanche of twigs and leaves.

“Could we do this?” I ask the olive pickers, pointing to Diana (whose trees these are) and myself.

They laugh at the idea. “You have to be strong, signora.” They flex their muscles, just in case we don’t get it.

Harvesting Olives in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

The men wrestle the whole back-breaking mess into the tractor and hurry to the olive press, which is heavy with the scent of hot sun and bitter soil. Total haul: 570 kilos of olives.

Nearly three hours later, after the olives are washed and thrashed and mashed and milled, out gushes the good stuff, a thick ribbon of green velvet.

At the Olive Press in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

We sip it from paper cups and taste all of Sicily: it’s like fresh-cut country grass still wet with morning dew, squeezed with sweet lemons and spattered with peppercorns.

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Gino, Builder of Bridges

September 1, 2013

I was in Sortino, “Città del Miele”, prowling the streets for a jar of wild-thyme honey.

Sortino sign

And there was Gino Cavallero, poking his head out the door. We got to chatting. Turns out he was on the crew of  the Irminio Bridge near Modica, the highest bridge in Sicily. I often drive to Modica on little back roads and see his bridge. I wasn’t sure I liked it–modern things in Sicily don’t usually impress–but now I think of Gino and his sweet smile and two years of hard labor whenever I see it. For me it’s “Gino’s Bridge.”

GIno Cavallaro, copyright Jann Huizenga

The central pier is 144 meters, he tells me. He went up and down it in a cable car. No, he didn’t have vertigo, not like some of the other men, who were afraid to work that high up. It didn’t bother him. A metal worker, he welded stuff together, from what I could gather, and worked on the bridge for 2 years. He is very humble. “My part wasn’t important; we were a team.” But from the gleam in his eye, I know he’s also proud.

Bridge near Modica, copyright Jann Huizenga

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If you go to Sortino, don’t miss the cathedral!

Cathedral at Sortino

 

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