At the tip of Italian boot, there’s a triangle shaped island, land of pastry delicacies, loud people and OG Godfather. Place where „famiglia“ and grandma stuffing you food at every step and occasion were invented. Where African, centuries ago – conquerors, now – migrants took and are taking their first steps in search for new lands and brighter future. It’s a land of forever bright sky and blue sea, warm and laid back people, dolce far niente(art of doing nothing) in its materialized form. It is Sicilia.
Have you ever heard of sfogliatella? It’s a sweet pastry, filled with soft, white, cheesy cream and tastes as heaven. I am not exaggerating. Literally heaven on a plate. Sfogliatella is made by dozen of thin layers of puff pastry hugging and covering the soft filling and it’s a proud product of south of Italy. Italy and Sicily in particular is like a big sfogliatella, with so many layers of diversity, in culture, people, dialects, food all covering the unique warm Italian soul and a charm that no one is immune to.
The rule of Etna and a „ too many men“ land
„Do you know why the buildings seem all dark and dusty“, Paolo asked while we were passing Catania on our way to the foot of the Mount Etna for wine tasting in its slopes. Thinking of what could be the reason, only thing that came to my mind was Etna, and dust she sends around whenever she’s coughing lava. „Is it Etna?“ I asked and Paolo nodded in approval adding „Etna, you know, is a typical Italian mother. Stands tall, holds and defines everything and everyone around, takes care of the land and the people. But, once she gets mad, you better run“. Italian mothers truly are very authoritative and once you have an opportunity to have lunch or dinner in an Italian home, you might think matriarchy was never gone. They are loud and bossy and, if you can’t make it to help them without being instructed to do so, better sit still and stay out of their way. Of course, that’s not all of them, once they sit down with family, you’ll get to see how loving and caring they are, good cooks and, overall, are glue that holds all together. She yells at you because she loves you, it’s that simple. Etna, on the other hand, as far as I think, is just thirsty for attention from time to time. Keeps the people on their toes. Will she kill everything around or just cough a bit to remind everyone of her presence and importance? You never know. That’s how you can tell she’s a female, right? She’s keeping all in for a while and then when she had had enough of it bursts everything into flames. While, Vesuvio, on the other hand, did a typical guy thing, got everything out of him immediately, that being needed or not, and then took a long nap.
We travelled from Syracuse, climbing the boot, stopping every once in a while in some places, aiming to reach famous bella Napoli. I once read somewhere that Mediterranean is a place of conflicted spiritualities and this cannot be depicting anything else more than it depicts Sicily. Whole island has survived through many centuries of being built, won, lost, gifted, borrowed, ruined, rebuilt, seen as shelter, inspiration, home, just to stay as a monument to all those times and all those people declaring ownership over it and leaving their mark behind. Greek temple in Syracuse resurrected as cathedral surrounded with red orange trees Arabs brought to the city during their conquests. Main University building in Catania, dating back to the 17th century stands as a magnificent example of baroque architecture that was finalized with last touches of Etna’s flying ashes. Greek theater at the hilltop in Taormina, ex Tauromenium, ex Al-Mu’izziyya, is a terrace overlooking bright, turqoise, Ionian sea and most importantly place where Nietzsche wrote „Thus spoke Zarathustra“. Sicily is a big tavern, huge crossroad, where cultures and people meet, mix and confront, have a one too many glasses of wine, grab a panini, exchange a word, followed by a juicy curse in a name of their gods, run away in fury, just to come back the next day and repeat everything. I already missed it while staying there, enjoying everything, trying to blink less than usual, not to miss a thing, leaving my eyes on broken facade, simple people and sea, I thought was bluest I can find, that being until I got to Naples…
I change too quickly: my today refutes my yesterday. When I ascend I often jump over steps, and no step forgives me that.― Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus spoke Zarathustra