Sicily is a land of contrasts.
It is both violent and gentle. The land, formed by fire, earthquake and
volcano is pushed up, broken off, its crust thrust in all angles and its
mountains are eroded and bare in places. Stones are exposed. Hills are
sharp and jagged, all showing an ancient upheaval of earth and land. And,
yet there is a tranquil nature to this island. Waves of wheat and wildflowers
sway in the Sirocco breeze and race up the graceful slopes and over the
hills. Villages cling to mountain tops, walls washed white, exposed to
the burning sun. Aqua blue waters surround white beaches. The land is dry
and parched from May to October as the unending sun changes green to brown.
Winters bring rain from the west across the island causing streams to appear
and rush to the sea. The earth absorbs the showers creating mud and clay
which clings to everything. And through it all are the people; the Sicilians.
I was told that the Sicilian language has no future tense. I was struck
by this and didn't understand why until I read the history of Sicily. Now
|" Be patient now, Chevalley, I'll explain in a moment; we Sicilians
have become accustomed, by a long, a very long hegemony of rulers who were
not of our religion and who did not speak our language...
In Sicily it doesn't matter whether things are done well or done badly; the sin which we Sicilians never forgive is simply that of 'doing' at all. We are old Chevalley, very old. For more than twenty-five centuries we've been bearing the weight of a superb and heterogeneous civilization, all from the outside, none made by ourselves, none that we could call our own. We're as white as you are Chevalley, and as the Queen of England; and yet for two thousand and five hundred years we've been a colony. I don't say that as a complaint; it's our fault. But even so we're worn out and exhausted...
This violence of landscape, this cruelty of climate, this continual tension in everything, and these monuments, even, of the past, magnificent yet incomprehensible because not built by us and yet standing around like lovely mute ghosts; all those rulers who landed by main force from every direction, who were at once obeyed, soon detested, and always misunderstood, their only expressions works of art we couldn't understand and taxes which we understood only too well and which they spent elsewhere; all these things have formed our character, which is thus conditioned by events outside our control as well as by a terrifying insularity of mind."
Prince Don Fabrizio Salina
'The Leopard" by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa
I spent the first night of this
trip in the mountain town of Erice. Located just east of the port city
of Trapani, last year I was given a tour of Erice by my friend Giovanni
Montanti. His father was mayor of Erice when Giovanni was a boy. Erice
is a mystical village, first founded by Phoenician priests and later conquered
by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Normans. Each civilization dedicated the
town to their priests and mystics. Erice is nothing short of a magical
stone fortress town on Sicily's west coast.
|Trapani from Erice||Trapani from my Hotel||Trapani at Night||Dawn in Erice||Dawn Looking North||Morning on Erice|
On my first full day I traveled
south along SS115 through the towns of Marsala and Mazara to the ancient
Greek [Doric] ruins at Selinunte. These ruins mark the westward extent
of the Greek influence on the island of Sicily. It was also the hardest
settlement to defend from the Carthageans and it changed hands many times
until it was finally conquered by Carthage. Selinunte has some of the best
preserved Greek ruins in the world.
|Selinunte||The Doric Ruins||Sicily's Temples at the Sea||Selinunte||Inside the Temple||Classic Greek Temple|
Agrigento to Siracusa
On my second day I traveled from
San Leone and Agrigento east to Siracusa on SS115. In Licata I took photos
of the terminus of the river Salso. The origins of this river start on
my cousin's land: Santa Caterina LoDico in the Madonie mountains. In mid
September the area is still hot. Temperatures this day reached 85F and
scattered thunderclouds threatened rain, but some of the most beautiful
countryside was between Vittoria and Avola where farms were lined with
white stone walls and everywhere were lush gardens of fruits, cactus, olives
|Licata and the Sea||The River Salso||Licata Looking North||Avola||Avola Looking North||Ortega Island, Siracusa||Siracusa|
Siracusa -Ortega Island
Ever since my first visit to Sicily
I was asked if I had visited Siracusa yet. This trip I stayed two days
and two nights in this beautiful ancient town in the Ionian Sea. Siracusa
is one of the most ancient of settlements and the third sister city of
the Greek Empire after Athens and Sparta. This is the birthplace of Archimedes.
I stayed on the island of Ortega which juts out into the sea. To the north
is Mt. Etna. The beauty of Siracusa lies in its narrow stone streets, broad
piazzas, wonderful restaurants, spectacular courtyards, and countless excavated
ruins, statues and monuments.
|Ortega Island||Siracusa's Sea Wall||Looking West||Siracusa||Fortress Walls|
|A Courtyard||A Siracusa Piazza||Statue to Diana||Diana||Courtyard Gate|
|My Hotel||Museum Courtyard||Greek Ruins||Side Streets||Main Piazza|
On my last day in Siracusa I traveled
off the island and went west to the main part of the city. I toured the
Roman and Greek amphitheaters and most of the statues and monuments. The
ancient Greek stadium is one of the most impressive in Sicily.
|Siracusa Art||Roman Theater||Theater||Greek Amphitheater||Amphitheater||Amphitheater||Amphitheater||View from My Hotel|
On the fifth day I rose early
and drove inland on SS124 through Florida and Vizzini to Caltagrione and
then northward on SS117 to Piazza Armerina. In Piazza Armerina are some
of the best examples of mosaic works in Sicily. From there, SS117 winds
north through Enna and then across the autostrada and up into the Madonie
mountains. This is the lands of my LoDico ancestry. On no less than three
occasions I was asked if I was Sicilian on this trip. Each time when I
said yes, I was asked where. When I responded: The Madonie and Petralia
Soprana, I received the same comment by Sicilians: "The people there are
|Vizzini||Piazza Armerina||Teatro Garibaldi||Piazza Armerina||Duomo||Church||Enna|
Santa Caterina LoDico
Located just 2 km north of Petralia
Soprana is the frazione known as Santa Caterina LoDico. Most of my relatives
live here and the rest have a second home here or live quite close by.
I lost track of the size of this land. Over the next three weeks I was
taken to many tracts of land belonging to my LoDico relatives. Some were
up in the mountains, accessible only by four-wheel-drive. Some were to
the north or east and were filled with vineyards, fruit orchards or cow
pastures. For the next three weeks I lived here, I ate here, and I worked
here. Not once did I eat in a restaurant and the only food I ate that was
store bought was the pasta, the pastries, and a few breakfast biscotti.
These photos are views of the various homes and structures in Santa Caterina
|Santa Caterina||LoDico Church||Homes||Newer Home||Main House||Stone Road||Santa Caterina|
The true beauty of this land lies
in the views. All the homes are surrounded by a beautiful vista of gently
sloping hills and fields. From the mountains in the northwest, the land
runs down to SS120 and then down past the homes to the beginning of the
river Salso. Then the land slopes up again, rising to the other side of
SS120 towards Gangi. In April and May these hills are green and lush. Now
in September and October they are shades of brown. The following photos
are taken from just outside the front doors of the homes. These views are
what you would see while standing next to the houses. Just about all the
land is within Santa Caterina LoDico.
|The View South||Looking East||East||Southeast||Future Golf Green||Santa Caterina LoDico||Rainbow|
I don't think there is a more
beautiful, untouched mountain town in all of Sicily quite like Petralia
Soprana. For those Sicilians, who know their island and know their people,
to continually say "The people of Petralia Soprana are very kind" is a
very special tribute. The great Roman philosopher Cicero wrote, around
100 BC, that the people of Petra Heliae, who had sided with the Romans
against the Carthageans in the First Punic War, were a gentle people who
deserved the protection of Rome. Now that I have spent time in Petralia
Soprana, a month in 2005 and again for almost a month in 2006, I am struck
by the closeness of all the people to each other. Everyone, from the oldest
citizen to the youngest child interacts with each other. One cannot walk
down a street or pass a person without being greeted with a 'Giorno'. This
is the town of my ancestry. This is where my LoDico ancestors lived and
walked on the same cobblestones streets as I do now. This is Petralia Soprana.
|Petralia Soprana||City of Two Castles||A Madonie Jewel||View from the East||View from South||Petralia Soprana||Panorama|
Festival of San Cosimo & Damiano
On September 27th I went to Petralia
Soprana with my cousins to celebrate the Festival of Saints Cosimo and
Damiano. My cousin Pietro was dressed in a suit and took me into town.
There was a large open market set up in town with food, clothing, household
goods, and many other products. The highlight for my cousins was the 'Americano'
food offered by some catering vans. There were greasy hamburgers, and fried
foods of all kinds. My cousins were surprised I passed on all of it. For
them it was a treat. For me, I had visions of the next home cooked meal
awaiting me that night back in Santa Caterina LoDico. We walked to the
S. Maria di Loreto Church and awaited the town band and procession. This
was the first time I saw the entire town band in full uniform. In this
town of 3200 people about 200 were involved in the musical band. I saw
many now familiar faces: the local butcher, the man who kept the church
keys, a banker, a baker. There were very old men, young girls, all ages.
I was struck by the thought of how close the lives of these people, these
to each other. Here, they practice in the band, they rely on each other
to produce a musical score; just as in life, they rely on each other to
produce a close knit community. I have four cousins in the band, two play
instruments and two are in the color guard. As the doors opened to the
church, the statues of the saints were brought out and the band followed
the statue bearers through the streets of the town. My cousin Pietro grabbed
my arm and indicated for me to get in line and I joined the procession.
|San Cosimo & Damiano||The Procession||Color Guard||Musical Band|
My first visit to Petralia Soprana in April / May 2005 was, in many ways, a life changing experience. After almost six years of genealogy research on my LoDico ancestry, to be able to spend a month in a small village of stone, perched on a mountain top, in the Madonie and find my relatives, to have them open their homes, their hearts, and their lives to me and my brother was truly an overwhelming experience. But, the people of the town of Petralia Soprana, the Sopranesi, as they call themselves (just like a person from Boston would call themselves a Bostonian) also accepted me. Not once in a month did I ever get a sideways glance, or a curious stare. Not once did I not receive a greeting from a person who passed me by. From the oldest woman or man to the youngest child, I always was greeted with a 'Giorno' or 'Sera' and 'Tutto a Posto" (you ok?or all in place?). In a way, I was the first returning person from America to come back and search for my roots. I met the mayor, and many people knew me as the American who returned.
I met a few townspeople back in 2005. Here is a story or two about some of them.
Signore Antonino Albanese
I met Antonino Albanese where one would meet most Sopranesi, in the town piazza. He sought me out one morning, came and sat beside me and told me the story of his life. He opened his wallet and showed me his photo ID from 1940. He was a sailor, a submariner, in the Italian Navy and on September 14, 1944 (yes he knew the exact date and time) his submarine was sunk by the Germans. This was 2005. On my visit in 2006 I saw Antonino one day and called out to him by name. We reintroduced ourselves to each other. I asked him how he was. He looked at me. He was a tall thin man, always well dressed in a suit and tie. He drew himself up, tucked his thumbs behind his suit lapel and said "I am 88 years old" and then smiled and did a little jig of a dance.
In 2005, almost every day I spent on the main square (Piazza del Popolo) I would see and talk with Signore Vaccarella. He did not speak one word of English and I didn't speak much Italian, but we always greeted each other and through gestures and simple words, we had a conversation. Mostly it was just about the weather or temperature. I would guess he was 75 years old, and like most older Sicilian men, the piazza was a meeting place. As my time in Petralia grew short, I saw him one day just before I was to leave. He came up to me, smiled and said (in perfect English): "Hello Michael, how are you today?" I was shocked and touched. Somehow, somewhere, he had learned to say this, for me.
Before I even went to Petralia Soprana in 2005 I began an email correspondence with a Leonardo Cancillari from Petralia Soprana. He wrote and understood English and helped me get lodging in town for my 2005 visit. He was disappointed that he would miss me for the first 2 weeks of my visit. He would be in Germany, but he offered to let me stay with him during the last 2 weeks. This was perfect timing since my brother would be leaving to return to America the same day Leonardo would return to Petralia. One day, just before I was to leave on my trip to Sicily in 2005 I found Petralia's musical band web site and notice Leonardo Cancillari played a clarinet in the band. So, when the day came to go to Leonardo's I asked my cousin Mimma to take me. She asked me, "Do you mean Leonardo Cancillari who plays in the band?" 'Yes" , I said, making a playing the clarinet gesture (my Italian was nonexistent in 2005, now it is just very bad). So off we went to Leonardo's house. He greeted me with open arms. We hugged, he offered me food and wine, he played the clarinet, the accordion, and hooked his computer up to an electric organ and he sand me songs. I even sang 'House of the Rising Sun' for him. It was the only song he had in English. Hours passed but I had some concerns. Leonardo did not speak any English. Not a word. Finally I asked Mimma, almost in desperation, "Are there two Leonardo Cancillari?" She said "Yes, the other, his cousin, is in Germany"
Here was a total stranger who opened his door to me and entertained me for hours, just like I was a long time friend. Such is the way with these Sopranesi.
The story of this Leonardo Cancillari continued when I returned in 2006. One day while in town with my 16 year old cousin Rossella, I heard my name being called and I turned around to see Leonard. He remembered my name. he came up to me and hugged me, asked me how I was. He said, as my cousin Rossella help translate, "I knew you would return!" He smiled and said, what I clearly understood without any need for a translation: "You feel it Michele, don't you? When you walk the street, where your ancestors walked. You feel it. It is in your blood, no? You had to return, yes? And do you know why?" I looked at him and asked, "why?" He grabbed my arms and looked at me and said, "Because you are a Sopranesi" I hugged him back. I had tears in my eyes. I looked at Rossella and she was crying, then Leonardo had tears in his eyes.
I told my cousins Pietro & Leonardo in a letter back in November
2005 that I would return to Santa Caterina LoDico in October 2006 to pick
grapes and learn how to make wine from the Sicilian Masters: Don Pietro
and Don Leonardo. What I didn't know that we would wind up picking 83 crates
of wine and making 1000 liters [500 gallons] of wine. Here are the photos
to prove it.
|Grapes on the Vine||Pietro's Harvest||Wine Crates||Tractor & Crates||Grapes||The Grinder|
|Grinding Grapes||The First Crush||More Grinding||All 1000 liters||The Grape Press||Hard Work|
|Pietro & Graziella||Removing Stems||Final Press||Pour & Store||The Last Drop||New Barrels|
Santa Caterina LoDico has two large almond orchards. Back in May
2005 I help plant three new almond trees in one of the orchards. Right
after the first rain in late September 2006 we picked the harvest. large
nets were placed under each tree and then we used large sticks to knock
off the almonds. After gathering them in sacks, we took them back to the
main house. A separator was used to remove the almond nut from the husk.
The separator was hooked up to a tractor drive shaft which spun a wire
coil inside a barrel. The almonds were fed in one end and out the other
end came the cleaned nuts. Here is a look at the harvest.
|Nets||Orchard||Sacks||Knocking||Gathering||Separator||Pietro, Carmelo, Maria Santa||Finished Nuts||Drying|
In the Madonie Mountains
Some of the best times I had in Santa Caterina LoDico was when Pietro
and I went into the mountains. My cousin Pietro is quite a character. At
age 64 he always has something to say, always there to make a joke. Of
all my cousins I found Pietro the hardest to understand. I am not sure
if it was how he spoke (Italian or Sicilian) or what he said, but it was
difficult for me to understand him. Until we were in the mountains. Then
for some reason I understood what he was saying. Maybe it was because he
spoke slower. Maybe it was because the words were simpler. Maybe it was
because he spoke from his heart. In those Madonie mountains, in his mountains,
on the land of his grand father and grand mother, he spoke clearly and
I understood him. One time we searched for some stray cows. Another time
we watered and weeded a garden. Once we went mushroom hunting. While yet
another time we went hunting for rabbit with the dogs. Here is a photo
collection of those times.
|Pietro's Melons||Pietro's Squash||Always Joking||Beans||Weeding||Tomato Sauce||Sauce|
|Rosario's Press||Squeezing Grapes||Table Grapes||A BBQ||The Family||Sandro's Clarinet||The 3 Cuginos|
|Get that Rabbit||Wild Mushrooms||Pietro's Fungi||Lilly||Into The Hills||Parco Madonie||Mountain View|
|The Madonie||Alpine View||Panorama||Madonie Park||Sicily's Park|
My great grandfather Francesco Paolo LoDico settled in the village
of Bompietro around 1855. This is the town where my grandfather Ignazio
LoDico was born. Bompietro is about a 25 minute drive south of Petralia
Soprana. On the outskirts of the village is a street named Via LoDico.
It borders a large field and garden. My great grandfather only lived in
Bompietro for about 20 years and by 1870 he had relocated to Marianopoli.
Here are some photos of Via LoDico in Bompietro.
|Cactus||Our House||Via LoDico||Street||Sign||Home||View South||Gardens||Cactus Fruit||Bompietro|
One Sunday my cousin Leonardo, his wife Franca, and two daughters
Mariella and Rossella took me to the town of Sclafani Bagni. This is where
Franca was born and we visited her family. The village of Sclafani Bagni
sits on top of a large rock. It is a beautiful mountain top community with
the ruins of a large stone castle at the top. I spent almost the entire
day and evening with Franca's parents, five brothers and sisters and their
family. Here is the beauty of another one of the jewels of the Madonie:
|Caltavuturo||Mariella & Rossella||Franca's Family||View South||Ancient Piazza|
|Sclafani Bagni||The Church||Stone Houses||Streets of Stone||View East|
|From Castle Top||The Village Below||Castle View Down||View North||Sclafani Crest|
|Chiesa Madre||Stone Cliffs South||San Filippo Church||San Giacomo Church||Castle on Hilltop|
San Mauro Castelverde
One small village of stone, nestled high in the Madonie range is
San Mauro Castelverde. One rainy afternoon I drove past Gangi and went
to see this village. I spent about four hours in this village, taking photographs
and taking in the views. This is San Mauro.
|San Mauro||Looking Northwest||Small Piazza||Borrello||North||Alley View||Church||Gangi|
On October 3rd I drove to Termini Imerese to meet with a genealogy
research group. The group has one thing in common: we are all Americans
with our ancestors from Termini Imerese. My mother's side of the family
all came from Termini Imerese. The family names are Mormino, Gentile, Sansone,
and Scarpaci. Here are a few photos from Termini Imerese.
|View from my Hotel||Termini Imerese||View from Church||Chiesa Madre||Statue||Aqueduct||Mormino Street|
Located about an hour south of Petralia Soprana, on the way to Marianopoli
and Villalba, is the Feudo know as Tudia. This large farm was, many years
ago, owned by rich land barons who employed many peasants and sharecroppers.
One of my oldest LoDico ancestors served as a 'campiere' [armed
field guard] for the Marchese of Tudia. These photos were taken of the
surrounding farmland and the main house.
|Feudo Tudia||The Road to Tudia||Signs to Tudia||Main House||Front View||Front Gate||The Farmland||Farm|
The town of Blufi is and will always be very special to me. This
is where the origins of my LoDico ancestry began. My first recorded ancestor:
Cristofaro LoDico was a 'campiere', employed by the Marchese Pottino
in Blufi. In return for his service, Cristofaro was given the land know
as Malpasso. If you haven't noticed by now, I am rather fond of cactus.
Don't ask me why but ever since I was a child I liked cactus. When I moved
to California in 1973 I took my old van, a box of clothes, my motorcycle
and my cactus plant. Blufi probably has more cactus plants than any other
town in Sicily. There are cacti everywhere used as hedges, road markers,
fences, and decorations. Located in Blufi is the Sanctuary of the
Madonna of the Oils, built by the Templar Knights around the first century.
On the Sanctuary grounds is a 'sacred zone' and a cemetery. There is one
large stone crypt in this cemetery and it bears the names of my LoDico
ancestors. Here are the photos of that Sanctuary and cemetery, taken in
|Sanctuary Rectory||Door & Cactus||Front Door||Sacred Zone||Cemetery Entrance|
|Cemetery||Stone Crypt||LoDico Crypt||Crypt Names||LoDico Ancestors|
NOTE: All photos on this page were taken
using my Pentax Optio 50 digital camera and saved at 1.5MB - 3.5MB file
size. If you wish a copy of the original photo, please contact me by email.
Original photos are suitable for enlargements and desktop backgrounds.