Sicily, I Haven’t Forgotten You

The gold leaf mosaics in the Monreale Cathedral are spectacular.

The gold leaf mosaics in the Monreale Cathedral are spectacular.

I have focused so much on our travels and life abroad in Latin America that I have completely overlooked our recent trip to Sicily. This story is all about family. My father-in-law’s family emigrated from Sicily. We are talking about a BIG, Italian-size family. There are still over a hundred of their relatives living in and around Santa Maria in the north mountain country of Sicily.

Every biblical scene is done in mosaic detail.

Every biblical scene is done in minute mosaic detail.

My wife has visited Sicily on five previous occasions. This time, however, was the first time she visited with a husband. I wasn’t sure what to expect or what the local customs were for greeting a new member of the family. I can now tell you there is a lot of hugging and kissing involved. I finally got the hang of the alternating-cheek air kiss. The hugs vary depending on the family relationship – longer hugs with grandparents than with second or third cousins. The children give big hugs as soon as their parents announce, “He is your cousin.” Then they want to play.

The Concordia Temple in Agrigento built around 500 BC is a testament to the architects of Ancient Greece.

The Concordia Temple in Agrigento built around 500 BC is a testament to the architects of Ancient Greece.

Leading up to the family reunion is a twelve day private motorcoach tour of Sicily with family from the States. There is so much history here and so many sights to see. Every civilization that ever amounted to anything left its footprint in Sicily, and with good reason. Sicily served as the breadbasket to every empire that spread through the Old World. Geographically, Sicily is situated at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Sea. To this day there are more preserved Greek ruins in Sicily than there are in Greece. And the Romans picked up where the Greeks left off. There is also Spanish blood and Anglo blood in the Sicilian pedigree, which is evident when you notice the many Sicilians with light hair color and blue or hazel eyes.

The Aeolian Island of Vulcano seen from the road on Lipari.

The Aeolian Island of Vulcano seen from the road on Lipari.

We arrived by cruise ship in the Port of Catania after stops in Naples, Florence, and Pisa, Italy, Villefranche, France, Valencia, Spain, the Spanish Isle of Ibiza, and Tunis, Tunisia. My in-laws meet us in Catania. They had to rush home to the States for a family funeral the last time they were in Sicily. This may be their last opportunity to see family. Plus, Dad speaks beautiful Sicilian, and that is a huge benefit for the giant reunion that awaits.

My wife’s favorite spot in Sicily is Taormina, perched precariously on top of a small mountain. The Greek Amphitheater overlooking the sea is beyond compare. My favorite spot was the Aeolian Island of Lipari. The crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean and the views from the cliff road make this island paradise idyllic.

Cousin Nino knows where to get the best gelato.

Cousin Nino knows where to get the best gelato.

You cannot mention Sicily without mentioning the spectacular cathedrals. The 21,000 square feet of mosaics in the Cathedral of Monreale overlooking the capital city of Palermo are among the finest in Italy, if not the world. And in Tindiri, there is the Cathedral of the Black Madonna with its amazing folklore to go along with the architecture. There are other churches of note. However, the final stop on the ABC Tour (Another Blessed Cathedral) is the one in Santa Maria with the family name carved in stone along with the date, 1598.

I have not even touched on the food. I started out thinking the national dish of Sicily is eggplant because I could not get away from it. I eventually found alternatives. The world can take lessons from Italy on how to make dessert. The gelato is the best to be found anywhere and the cannolis are to die for!

A genuine Italian cannoli - whipped ricotta cheese and honey filling and rolled in crushed pistachios.

A genuine Italian cannoli is filled with whipped ricotta cheese and honey and then rolled in crushed pistachios.

living in Panama


14 comments on “Sicily, I Haven’t Forgotten You

  1. annewoodman says:

    That sounds like a wonderful trip! (And such a different area of the world than you usually write about!) Gorgeous photos and a nice story to go along with it. I really want one of those cannolis. ; )

  2. mkesling63 says:

    Thanks for taking me on your travels. I enjoy getting a personal view of history from places i have never been before.

  3. Wow what a large family! I also liked Taormina when i went to Sicily many years ago – we had a 19 hour trip from Malta across to Sicily and up Mount Etna which ended with everyone on the trip having food poisoning. A trip we all remember well! Thank you for coming across to my blog and liking my blog on Shanghai.

  4. Each of my in-laws had 8 or 9 siblings as did their parents. I think there are another 200 relatives in Buffalo, NY, most of whom I haven’t met. I think I looked like a deer in the headlights when I was being introduced around. 🙂
    Thank you for sharing your comments.

  5. etheldreds says:

    The cannoli look really good, no doubt I could die for it indeed :p

  6. browney237 says:

    Loved the photos – bought back memories of our two (so far) trips to Sicily. Monreale is amazing and your photos like my own barely do it justice – it’s the sheer size and detail that blew us away. Taormina was a wonderful experience and the food…. Your post simply confirmed our desire to return!

    • You are right that the mosaics at Monreale are simply on too large a scale to capture in a single photo. It’s true for me as well that most of my favorite blog stories remind me of places I have previously been. I can hardly wait to return to Sicily as well. Thank you for sharing your comments.

  7. Suzanne Mark says:

    I just opened your blog on a fluke. I used to live in Lipari and in Messina, near Taormina. Your post brought back fond memories of that drive around Lipari where you can see Volcano. I do miss that place. Thanks for posting.

  8. restlessjo says:

    It’s a privilege to visit a country as an “insider”. I feel like this when I’m in Poland, my Dad’s country of birth. Sicily is one I always wanted to visit.

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