While reading a book recently about Sicily it reminded me of my first visit to the island of mythology and legend; the island of my roots…Sicilia. My memory reached back to my ninth grade English class where I learned about ‘the gods,’ “The Odyssey” and Ulysses. It was on this trip that I first traveled the Straits of Messina, between Italy’s mainland and Sicily and past the two sea monsters known as Scylla and Charybdis. My teacher, Mrs. Kidd, would be quite proud to know I remembered her teachings well.
On my first visit to the island the ancient Greeks called Trinacria, or three pointed, as we landed in the Palermo airport I swear to you, my blood and soul knew, for a strange feeling came over me. I was home!
As we began our tour in Palermo it became quite obvious I would only scratch the surface of this mysterious and complicated region and maybe never fully appreciate this enchanting culture and history. This is the city of Moorish palaces, Norman castles, Baroque churches, Santa Rosalia and the markets (vuccaria), which reminded me of the controlled bedlam of Chinatown in New York City. Using Palermo as our initial base we would see the Greek ruins of Segesta, Trapani, Marsala and Cefalu, as well as the mountaintop town of Erice. During the next few days I would learn more as we visited Agrigento and the Valley of Temples, Siragusa and Taormina.
It would be on a subsequent trip to Sicilia that I would visit the town of my grandparents – Cerami in the province of Enna; meet my family and take my children to meet them. I spoke before the Mayor and Council and dedicated a plaque to my grandparents in the town library. I was in love with this grand island escape, so much so, my wife and I renewed our wedding vows in a beautiful little church, Santa Caterina, in Taormina some years later on another visit to Sicily.
I can remember on the final night of my first visit as I stood on the balcony of my Taormina hotel looking out to an endless ocean of blue, my mind again reflected on “The Odyssey” and the devilish enchantress Circe. I assure you I heard her whisper to me…