THE TIME OF MOURNING IN OLD SICILY

After the funeral we had a tasty dinner. For eight days we were served breakfast, lunch, and dinner by our close friends. All the families gathered around the table. In Enna, you could not make the time of mourning at your will. It had to last eight days. During this time, besides being served delicious food by our relatives and close friends, we received visits from our neighbors and acquaintances.

The food we received was more delicious than anything I had ever eaten before—so much so that a doubt arose in my mind: “Is this a time for mourning or a party?”

After eating, we returned to the double bedroom to show our grief as the visitors came in little by little. I sat next to my mother and observed the scene. The visitors entered the room and gave condolences to the family members, starting with my grandmother, and then they sat on the chairs scattered across the room and remained silent or talked with some of the family members.

Every family member was dressed in black. As soon as a new visitor came in, my mother and Aunt Carolina put a sad expression on their faces. Then they started chatting with the newcomers. While they chatted their faces were quite relaxed, but whenever a new visitor came in, they stopped chatting right away and took on a sorrowful look. In fact, it was mandatory to show a contrite face; otherwise folks might think they didn’t mourn the loss of their father…

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo

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)

– Viaggi della Mente (versione in lingua italiana)

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

AN EDUCATIVE SICILIAN PROVERB

The proverb is this:

Quannu a fortuna nun ti dici, iettiti ‘nterra e accampa fafaluci

When luck is not on your side, you had better go to the countryside and pick up snails.

Do good and bad luck exist or are they just illusions? We don’t know. However, if there is a proverb about fortune, it means that countless past generations have come into contact with both good and bad luck.

What to do in case of persistent hard luck? According to popular Sicilian wisdom, instead of fighting against hard luck, we had better give up our aims, at least temporarily. Instead, we should go to the countryside, look for snails, and collect them. In this case we would do something useful, instead of wasting energy to fight against bad luck.

Snails are a delicious food. Assuming one knows how to cook them!

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)

– Viaggi della Mente (versione in lingua italiana)

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

THE CLOCK OF LIFE

In some parks in Daegu, Korea, there are devices that measure the quality of the air we breathe, and electronic clocks that mark the hours, minutes, and seconds with precision.

Our lifetime is also marked by the clock. It works uninterruptedly, but sooner or later it will stop, for we are limited beings! Therefore, what is the best way to live our transient life? The great Florentine patron, Lorenzo dei Medici (1449 – 1482) wrote this poem about life, from which I have extracted a few lines:

Trionfo di Bacco e Arianna

Quant’è bella giovinezza,
che si fugge tuttavia!
Chi vuol esser lieto, sia:
di doman non c’è certezza.
… Ciascun apra ben gli orecchi,
di doman nessun si paschi;
oggi siam, giovani e vecchi,
lieti ognun, femmine e maschi;
ogni tristo pensier caschi:
facciam festa tuttavia.…

Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne

How beautiful is youth,

Yet fleeting!

Let people enjoy their lives;

Tomorrow is not certain.

Everybody should open his ears,

And not live in the future.

Today we are, young and old,

male and female, all happy;

Let every sad thought fall away,

And celebrate life…

Yes, Lorenzo dei Medici is right. Well-being lies in living life here and now!

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)

– Viaggi della Mente (versione in lingua italiana)

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

CHRYSANTHEMUMS IN ITALY AND IN KOREA

Yesterday, we went to the chrysanthemum festival in Daegu, Korea. The botanical gardens were swarming with visitors. The flower beds and floral figures were adorned with multicolored chrysanthemums.

In Korea the chrysanthemum is considered a flower to be given in various occasions. The Koreans see it as a flower that conveys happiness and love. If you give a bouquet of chrysanthemums or even a single chrysanthemum to your beloved one, she will be delighted. A Korean friend of mine showed me the pictures of the chrysanthemums that a neighbor had given her from her garden.

If you live in Italy, never do that! In fact, the Italians associate this beautiful flower with death. We use chrysanthemums just to make wreaths for funerals and to deck the tombs and graves in the cemeteries on November 2, the Day of the Dead.

When in Rome do as the Romans do! If you do not know the culture of the country, give roses as a gift. However, the most beautiful flower is the one you keep in your heart. Give that flower, and you will not be wrong, for its fragrance and love will delight everyone you come across!

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)

– Viaggi della Mente (versione in lingua italiana)

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

KATHRYN OCCHIPINTI’S REVIEW OF A HIDDEN SICILIAN HISTORY


Reviewed in the United States on September 19, 2022

“A Hidden Sicilian History” by Ettore Grillo is a well-written novel that flows naturally from the Sicily of the past into the present. I especially enjoyed reading the Preface, called “The Find,” which sets up the premise of the book — that a manuscript has been found in the library of Enna (a small town in central Sicily) that contains the autobiography of a young man, Vicenzino, and includes his search to understand the lives deaths of those around him, as well as his journeys to India made to understand the meaning of faith. This was so well written that I was fooled at first, and actually believed that this story was a translation of a manuscript!

Grillo’s premise serves as a spring board that allows the reader a glimpse into a way of living in a Sicily of the past, with details that could only be known by a native. The accounts in the young boy’s life are told from the vantage point of the author as an adult, of course, ostensibly during a theatrical event. I truly enjoyed reading the descriptions of life in a small town in Sicily, which really came alive through the characters and everyday events. For instance, I learned details of country life when a young Vicenzino was sent to live in the country with his adult cousin who ran a farm. This was a simple life without electricity or air conditioning but rich in its connection to the land and philosophy, with no other diversions at night than stories told under the stars. I was amazed to find that Vicenzino became healthy through early morning exercise during walks while hunting with his cousin and on a simple diet of pasta and cabbage and potatoes for lunch and eggs for dinner — with the addition of an occasional rabbit they caught.

The reader then learns about what it is like to grow up in a Sicily of the past through glimpses into the activities of Vicenzino’s relatively well-off family, and even take a journey into a sulfur mine run largely by child labor that provided the family income.

Amid these details, the driving force of the first half of the novel is Vicenzino’s desire to learn about his name sake, his cousin Vicenzo, who was deeply mourned by his mother and whose death was shrouded in secrecy. Vicenzino does eventually learn all he wants about his uncle’s life, which takes us even further back into an historical Sicily.

The mores of the times feature prominently in the life of Vicenzo as well as Vicenzino and lead us into the second half of the novel, which is a travelogue of Vicenzino’s search in India for the meaning of faith. There are few details about India, but many about those individuals of great faith that Vicenzino and his wife seek out and visit. In the midst of this, we learn of a tragic event that occurred during the course of Vicenzino’s life that. along with the deaths he experienced as a child, helped drive his many visits to Italy as an adult and further his need to understand if there is an afterlife.

It is true that the theme of faith and the search for the afterlife was introduced in the preface, and descriptions of the Catholic faith permeate the life of Vicenzino and Vicenzo; therefore, I should not have been surprised that much of the second part of the book included Vicenzino’s search for a solution to his life questions through faith. But I did not enjoy the second part of the book that was set largely in India as much as the first half set in Sicily, since my interests do not extend to India and the different practices of faith in India. However, I would recommend this section for those who are interested in a discussion of how different peoples view faith and search for meaning in life.

Over all, I found this book an interesting and worthwhile read and would recommend it to those interested in a vivid account of a Sicily of the past.

I was given this book by the author for an honest review

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

FERRAGOSTO (AUGUST 15) IN CALASCIBETTA, SICILY

Calascibetta is a charming town in the center of Sicily. Instead of going to an overcrowded beach, we opted to spend a lovely afternoon in this small city.

After enjoying a delicious ice cream at a bar overlooking the main square of Calascibetta, Piazza Umberto, we headed for the Royal Palatine Chapel. It is located in the upper town. King Peter II of Aragon built it in 1340. The colonnade shows a series of enigmatic bas-reliefs. The most mysterious is the one at the base of a column on the right. A local stonecutter made it. Of course, he had a knack for creating works of art.

On the way back to our car, we saw a sundial. It is the smallest sundial I have ever seen, and it is still working!

A short distance from there, we visited some caves. There were about one thousand caves in Calascibetta, most of them hidden by the modern buildings. Perhaps, people lived there in ancient time.

We enjoyed a very quiet, peaceful, and happy holiday. Happiness is inside, not outside! We do not need to search it outside ourselves!

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 in lingua italiana)

– Viaggi della Mente (edizione in lingua italiana)

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

THE SPECIAL SKY OF ENNA (SICILY)

When a person visits a new place, he is usually attracted by something interesting to see: historical monuments, leisure places, beautiful landscapes, museums, and so on. It is quite unusual to find someone fascinated by the color of sky. Nevertheless, if you come to Enna, you will see that here the hue of the sky is different.

In my life, I have traveled across all continents, from north to south, from east to west, but I have not seen in other places the same sky as that in Enna. It has something magic and special.

If I were a painter, I would try to paint it on a canvas, but it would be difficult to find a mixture of colors to paint Enna’s sky.

What is the cause of such a peculiar color? The citizens of Enna think that Our Lady watches over them, as Demeter did in ancient times. They think that Mary’s blue mantle envelops the city. “Blessed are they who live in the city of Enna,” once a seer said. Who knows! Anyway, I love to see the sky of Enna. Whenever I see this magic sky, I feel blessed. I become a part of the universe!

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 in lingua italiana)

– Viaggi della Mente (edizione in lingua italiana)

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

THE MYTH OF SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS

On our way back to Sicily, we stopped by the nice town of Scilla (Calabria), which faces Sicily.

In the square of Scilla, stands out the fine sculpture of the nymph Scylla.

She was a very beautiful girl that ran into the envy of the witch Circe who turned her into a monster, half fish and half woman, with six heads of ferocious dogs.  

In Sicily, there was another monster, Charybdis. He sucked water from the sea and then spit it back, giving rise to dangerous whirlpools. Whoever passed through the Strait of Messina had to confront one of the two monsters. According to Homer, Charybdis was more dangerous, for Odysseus preferred to face Scylla that, however, devoured six of the men of Odysseus’ crew.

Nowadays, neither Scylla nor Charybdis exists anymore. The crystalline sea by Scilla invites us for a swim. Like all Greek myths, even the myth of Scylla and Charybdis has a deep meaning: Sometimes, in our life we confront difficulties. Not always, we are able to overcome them. In this case, as Odysseus did, it is better to choose the lesser of the two evils!

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 in lingua italiana)

– Viaggi della Mente (edizione in lingua italiana)

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

THE FEAST OF SAN CALOGERO, IN AGRIGENTO (SICILY)

Although the city of Agrigento has its own patron saint – San Gerlando, a Norman saint –, the citizens of Agrigento love San Calogero more than any other saint. He was a hermit who probably came to Sicily from Africa or the Middle East.

The celebrations in his honor last one week, from the first to the second Sunday in July. The brethren carry in procession his statue, and people crowd around it.

When there was leprosy, San Calogero took care of the lepers. At that time, people threw loaves of bread at him from the balconies and terraces of the houses, so as not to come into contact with him and run the risk of being infected.  The loaves of bread were for him and for the lepers too. Even today, during the procession, people throw loaves of bread at the statue of the saint.

While we were spending a three-day vacation in San Leone, near Agrigento, I had an irresistible urge to visit the church of San Calogero. We went there, sat on a pew, and meditated for a little while. I felt an atmosphere of sacredness and had the feeling that he was really a great saint, who fully deserves to be loved by his people: the citizens of Agrigento!

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 in lingua 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