|The view from the Falcone-Borsellino Airport which was named after two anti-mafia judges who were murdered on their way into Palermo in 1992.|
Since childhood, I've longed to return here. Back then I heard stories about Termini from other relatives who'd returned to visit family. I knew I would too, but I'd never imagined it would take this long.
|Grandma Rosaria posing at the door to her tiny kitchen empire in SE Portland. She was considered one of the best cooks in the family and time spent at her table was a gift.|
I'd heard about it from my great-grandma too. If only she could have seen me there! Just thinking about it truly brings tears to my eyes. I flew through the streets of her tiny hometown in our rental car. I think she would have smiled her wide smile and laughed a bit.
Then she would have asked if I would be a good Italian girl now.
|Our dear rental car. I recommend the 4-door Fiat. Fun car to drive—especially through narrow twisting streets at high speeds. (Oh how I miss those olive trees!)|
As soon as we arrived for our 5 days in Sicily we picked up our rental car and drove to the agricultural area just east of Termini on the opposite side of Monte San Calogero. (More on that below.) It was our home base for this part of our trip.
|Not sure if this kind of decorative chain would work in the US. I see lawsuit written all over this one.|
Visiting the cemeteries while in Italy is a must—especially if it's your "home turf".
Since many of my family members came here to Portland, Oregon generations ago, I didn't find many Amato family members, but next time I'll make the necessary connections.
It's a complicated affair. Sicilian culture and family life is not for the meek, mild or wildly independent. You can't really be part Sicilian because you must dedicate yourself to the lifestyle with gusto and a loyal heart.
For me, this was simply the trip where I went from dipping my toe into the pool to stepping down onto the first and second steps. (Honestly, I was way too emotional to meet relatives.)
Next time I'll dive. This trip was really just to scout it out. As you'll see, I very much enjoyed myself.
|What a lush Crassula!|
Much more is spoken with the eyes and the body than the mouth. That is Sicilian. That's why the island is advertised as "being for poets". It truly is a magical and unique place.
The whole cemetery was full of amazing plants, planters, and cut flowers. There were so many unique variations on the same theme.
In his left hand he's holding a pack of cigarettes. I was a bit shocked he wasn't holding coffee in the right hand, but instead, it's eternally posed in such a way as to have a flower inserted into it.
I'm sure that his conversation with God is always an interesting one. Sicily is dramatic.
I was of course fond of this broken down concrete baby greeting us at its gates.
Of course we went there several times for gelato and while walking and eating I noticed this sweet act of Sicilian plant kindness.
Trust me, if you've been there and you care and respect the people, you'll know exactly what I mean. You just don't walk around taking lots of pictures. It makes you stand out and that's the last thing you want to do.
|For many generations my male family members were greengrocers and I very much wanted to see how that had come to pass. During this trip, the greatest joy was seeing the trade still fully functioning in a modern world.|
The most difficult part was that it is still a job and a lifestyle for men. In Sicily there is still a very wide gender divide and women only tend to small planters and garden plots attached to their own homes.
I should add that you don't see many women at all. There are some working, but there are many you don't see because they're at home. Even those who are working, are often behind the scenes, unseen.
The mother where we stayed did all of the cooking, yet she remained hidden the whole time we stayed there. I caught a glance of her one evening, but she saw me and went back inside of her room.
This was a familiar arrangement to me, but I can't deny how torn it made me feel. On the other hand, it helped me to better understand my own family.
I know many people love Tuscany, but I'm Sicilian and I'll never stop loving the light, the colors, the sounds, the tastes, and the silence of the people of Sicily. It's in my blood. It's an even larger part of me than I'd known until I visited there.
It may have been invaded many times, and it's been ruled by many people, but that's what makes it so unique. My own DNA shows signs of the island's rich genetic and cultural history. Where else do you find Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern, North African, Spanish, and French influences blended together? Nowhere else!
Our room was at one end, and at the other, some young Sicilian men returned each evening from working somewhere in the area on the artichoke harvest.
Normally you'd say 'Hi' or acknowledge another with a nod. Because I'm a married woman, for several days they pretended not to see me. It felt strange, but I knew the game.
One day the obvious leader of the group said 'Hi' to me very nervously in English. I was sitting in a common area near where we all ate. It was the only spot in the place with Wifi and I was alone. It was obvious he didn't know much more English than that so he then laughed nervously and hurried off.
After that, a few others in the group cast me sideways glances, but out of respect, they never said anything more. By the time our visit was ending, I felt very safe around them. That's how Sicily works. It's all about trust and respect. They respected me, and it led me to trust them more. This means everything to a Sicilian and I enjoyed the interaction immensely.
I was also able to take this photo of a produce vendor. The old donkey carts my family used have been replaced with these little trucks. As you drive around the Palermo area you see them everywhere. They have the freshest produce in them and they get to market quickly. They simply pull up to the street, park and vend.
And of course that little truck had fresh local artichokes! So glad we ate them in a zillion dishes at the Agriturismo La Targa Florio.
I won't soon forget you and your sister the mythical ancient pistachio of Bronte.
To be continued...