THE RIACE BRONZES IN REGGIO CALABRIA

On our way back to Sicily, before taking the ferryboat, we visited the Museum of Reggio Calabria, which houses finds from Hellenistic period and, in particular, the Riace Bronzes.

They are two big bronze sculptures, dating back to the fifth century BC, that were found in the sea of Riace Marina, in 1972. Their perfect bodies embody the “harmony of forms” so dear to the Greeks.

For the Greeks, beauty was “the smile of the earth”. While building a temple or making a sculpture, they had in mind the idea of “harmony of forms”. It was not possible to find a Greek sculpture that was not beautiful.

Aphrodite was the ideal of female beauty as Heracles was the ideal of male beauty. Everybody, both gods and humans, fell in love with Aphrodite. But, all rules have their exceptions!

Aphrodite (the goddess of beauty) was jealous of Psyche (the goddess of the soul). Sometimes, Psyche outshone Aphrodite, for some fell in love with Psyche. They preferred the beauty of the soul to that of the body.

Do you think the same happens nowadays?

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English version)

A Hidden Sicilian History (English version)

The Vibrations of Words(English version)

Travels of the Mind (English version)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (versione in lingua italiana)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE HORSE AND ANXIETY

“When I lived in Germany, I had a horse that was frightened by his shadow. The horse didn’t know that the shadow of his body couldn’t threaten him. It was not easy to convince him not to get scared. At last, he understood that his shadow was an image projected by his body. After understanding, he calmed down.
“Therefore, whenever anxiety tries to take over you, take a rest for some minutes and sit silently. Watch your breathing, watch your mind, watch your body, watch your thoughts, and watch your anxiety. Gradually, your mind will be purified, and your anxiety will vanish! You can’t find it anymore because it comes from an impure mind.”
This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (edizione italiana)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo


THE HERMITAGE OF SANTA ROSALIA IN SANTO STEFANO DI QUISQUINIA (SICILY)

Santa Rosalia was born in Palermo in the XII century. Around the age of fourteen, his father, Count Sinibaldo, promises her in marriage to a prince. Santa Rosalia refused to marry and fled into a cave amidst the woods of Santo Stefano di Quisquinia, a place where nobody could find her. Obviously, near the cave there was a church or a convent where she received help and support. She lived in the cave for twelve years, and then she returned to Palermo to spend the rest of her short life in another cave in Monte Pellegrino.

The former cave of Santa Rosalia is quite long and narrow. Yesterday, I walked almost to the end of it. I felt that it was charged with spirituality.

Visiting the hermitage, I saw the cells of the friars. They were all oriented to Palermo, the city of Santa Rosalia.

In front of one of the cells was the photo and the ID of one of the last monks that lived in the hermitage.

A holy book stood out on a table of the dining room. Somebody told me that while the monks were eating, another monk stood and read aloud. Of course, he had eaten in advance.

On the ground floor was the room where the monks placed the dead. They eviscerated the corpse and, after six months, they moved it into a glass cabinet. The novices that wanted to become monks had to stay in the skeleton room for one week, drinking just water.  It was a good way to meditate, indeed! Don’t you think the rules of the world would benefit from meditating in such a room for one week?

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (edizione italiana)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE HUMAN MIND

The human mind tends to wander. It is very swift and jumps from one place to another, as if it were a monkey. While people are doing a specific activity, their minds are often elsewhere, thinking about unrelated, floating things: business, love, arguments, personal problems, and so on. The aim of meditation is to reach ‘mindfulness,’ ‘to be now and here,’ that is, to prevent the mind from wandering somewhere.

We can get good results by watching our breath. If you watch the air that comes in and out through your nostrils, it is impossible for your mind to wander somewhere because it is engaged only in being mindful of the inhalation and exhalation…

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind.

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (edizione italiana)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE PROCESSION IN HONOR OF ST. ANTHONY, IN ENNA (SICILY)

After more than two years, the processions come back to life in Enna!

Enna, in the center of Sicily, has been a religious city since time immemorial. In fact, it housed the main temples of Demeter and her daughter Kore.

When Cicero, the great Roman orator, came to Sicily to collect evidence against Verres, he had a feeling that the inhabitants of Enna were omnes sacerdotes (all priests).

Religion is imprinted in the DNA of the citizen of Enna. For more than two years, the city has been like in mourning due to the lack of processions. Now the time for mourning is over!

Yesterday, June 13, St. Anthony of Padua was taken in procession. He was a Franciscan friar. Actually, he was from Portugal, but he also lived in Padua. After the death of Saint Francis of Assisi, he became the Superior General of the Franciscans Friars. He died in a small town near Padua and is revered by all Catholics.

Carrying on their shoulders the litter with the statue of the saint, the brethren looked happy. Their beloved procession was back!

 Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (edizione italiana)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE ORTHODOX MONASTERY OF ST. ELIJAH THE SICILIAN AND ST. FILARETO, IN SEMINARA (CALABRIA)

Both St. Elijah the Sicilian – also known as St. Elijah of Enna, or St. Elijah the Younger to distinguish him from the Biblical prophet – and St. Filareto were Sicilian; the former was born in my hometown of Enna, the latter was from Palermo.

Having heard of the miraculous life of my fellow citizen, St. Elijah the Younger, I wanted to visit the monastery he had founded in Seminara, Calabria.

This saint is revered by both the Catholic and the Orthodox churches, for, when he lived, the Byzantine Schism had not begun.

While waiting for the church to open, I wondered why these two saints are so revered. What did they do that was special? I had the feeling that my fellow citizen, St. Elijah, was explaining to me the spiritual path he had followed. “To be a saint,” he seemed to say, “you need only one thing: to be a simple person!”

Meanwhile, the church opened and I took some photos, including those of the relics kept there. They are two small pieces of the bodies of St. Elijah and St. Filareto.

When I left the Monastery I thought that simplicity is more valuable than gold!

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (Italian edition)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE GINESTRA (THE SPANISH BROOM) IN ENNA (SICILY)

This morning, walking around the lush hills that surround Lake Pergusa, I came across some bushes of Spanish Broom. Their scent filled the hill.

Seeing those delicate flowers, I recalled the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi, one of the greatest poets in the world.

As a very young man, he wrote his poems, and then his poetic inspiration dried up. He could not write beautiful poems anymore!

Only at the end of his life, he got inspiration again and wrote the beautiful poem of which I have translated a few lines, hoping he will forgive me for my amateur translation.

LA GINESTRA

E tu, lenta ginestra,

Che di selve odorate

Queste campagne dispogliate adorni,

Anche tu presto alla crudel possanza

Soccomberai del sotterraneo foco, …

E piegherai sotto il fascio mortal non renitente

Il tuo capo innocente.

THE SPANISH BROOM

And you, lingering Spanish Broom

That decks this bare countryside

With scented bushes,

You too will soon succumb to the cruel power

Of the underground fire (the lava from Vesuvius)…

And you will bend your innocent head

Under your flexible, mortal bunch…

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (Italian edition)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE ZISA CASTLE IN PALERMO (SICILY)

The Zisa is an Arab-Norman style castle in Palermo and a World Heritage Site. Once, lush gardens surrounded the Zisa. It was the summer and hunting residence of the Norman kings.

King William I, known as William the Wicked, started building it in 1165, but it was his son William II, called the Good, that completed the works.

Walking through the halls of the palace, I tried to imagine the life of those who lived there nearly a thousand years ago. At that time, there was no television, no radio, and no cinema. What did they do? How did they spend their time? Of course, during their banquets, they talked about politics, but also about art and literature, to the sound of music.

These days, the Zisa houses a museum of Islamic art. What impressed me was the Tombstone of Anna. It bears an inscription in four languages: Jewish, Latin, Greek, and Arabic.  At that time, different nationalities and cultures coexisted and flourished in Sicily. Do you think the same tolerance occurs in today’s world?

 Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (Italian edition)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE SULFUR MINE OF FLORISTELLA, ENNA (SICILY)

Near Lake Pergusa, there is the ancient Sulfur Mine of Floristella, now abandoned. It is part of the Floristella mining park, which includes the ancient Pennisi Palace, named after the owner of the mine. The palace houses a permanent exhibition of pictures dating back to the time when the mine was live. It is also possible to see the ancient entrances to the underground and the Calcheroni furnaces where they smelted the ore.

I have described a sulfur mine in my book, A Hidden Sicilian History. Here is a little excerpt:

After about half an hour of riding, I saw a long line of men, young men, boys, and ragged children walking slowly on the road with the acetylene lanterns in their hands. They looked as if they were souls heading for the Valley of Jehoshaphat near Jerusalem on the day of the Last Judgment.

It was almost dawn when we arrived at a place with many cylinder-shaped stone mounds that gave off smoke on the top, while below a yellow liquid leaked through a crack in the stones_

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (Italian edition)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

LA SCALA DI SAN GIACOMO (THE STAIRWAY OF ST. JAMES) IN CALTAGIRONE (SICILY)

Caltagirone is a charming city in the Sicilian hinterland. It is famous for its sumptuous Baroque style buildings, the artistic Christmas nativity scenes, and above all, for the art of ceramics, which seems to date back to the Greek period.

The most beautiful palaces were built in the Bourbon period. This denotes that the city must have been thriving at the time of the Kingdom of Naples.

A few days ago, I happened to visit this beautiful city and was mesmerized by the breathtaking view of the Scala di San Giacomo. It leads to the Church of Santa Maria del Monte. The symbolic meaning is clear: to reach the divinity you have to strive a little bit; in this case, you have to climb a quite long stairway. The easy way leads nowhere.

The fronts of the steps are tiled with ceramic. On the sides of the stairway are workshops that also sell nice ceramic objects.

Caltagirone with its Baroque style palaces and the Stairway of St. James is really worth visiting!

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (Italian edition)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo