CRISTOPHER COLUMBUS AND SICILY

Cristopher Columbus, the man who discovered America on October 12, 1492, must have known and loved Sicily a lot, for, whenever he arrived in a new land, he compared it with his beloved Sicily.

This can be seen in his logbooks.

When he explored Cuba, on October 28, 1492, he wrote in the logbook: “The island is full of very beautiful mountains, although not very high, and all the remaining part of the island is also high and resembling Sicily.”

During his second travel to America, when he landed in Puerto Rico on 17 September 1493, he compared the island to Sicily, because they both had a triangular shape.

When he finally arrived in Jamaica on May 5 1494, he wrote in the logbook that the island was bigger than Sicily.

Apparently, Sicily was in the heart and mind of Cristopher Columbus, for he used it for comparison, as if Sicily were his home island.

On the other hand, in the fifteenth century, Sicily was a point of reference for the whole of Europe, in the fields of art, literature and science.

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

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

SNOW IN ENNA, SICILY

It was cold during the winter in Enna. To warm up the rooms, people made use of braziers burning charcoal slack. It was customary to cook small pieces of sausage or a few potatoes, wrapped in yellow, thick paper of the kind used to wrap pasta, in the charcoal. We children vied with one another to eat a small piece of that delicacy.

Since the climate was colder than today, the roofs of the houses were white with snow almost all winter. Whenever I came home from school, I had the bad habit of warming up my frozen feet and hands in front of the brazier. The sudden contact of my cold hands and feet with the heat of the brazier caused me chilblains. My fingers and toes had purple hues and itched. To cure them, I wore thick woolen socks and gloves.

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History

Today it snows in Enna like seventy years ago. Obviously, despite climate changes, the earth will survive!

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

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

THE ROCK OF CERES IN ENNA (SICILY)

Ceres is the Latin name for Demeter, the well-known goddess of agriculture in Greek Mythology. Since the Romans had no gods of their own, they adopted the Greek gods.

The Romans revered Ceres so much that, in times of famine, even the Senate of Rome used to send a delegation to Enna, where it was believed to be the home of Ceres, to appease the goddess.

The Rock of Ceres is near the Castle of Lombardy. According to a friend of mine, who is an archeologist, the ancient temple of Ceres, the main in Sicily, was just on the Rock of Ceres and collapsed because it was too close to the edge of the rock.

Whether my archaeologist friend’s thesis is true or not, one thing is certain: The place is full of charm and mystery. From up there you can see almost all of Sicily: Mount Etna with its plumes of smoke, the Madonie mountain range, the beautiful town of Calascibetta, and much more.

When a church or a temple has occupied an area, it leaves an atmosphere rich in sacredness in that place, which lasts for centuries and millennia. Standing on the top of the Rock of Ceres, you can feel this arcane energy of peace and mystery even now. The subtle scent of the Divinity never fades!

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

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

BUCCELLATI AND BAGPIPE PLAYERS IN ENNA (SICILY)

Enna is a mountain city. It is quite cold in the winter, but the bagpipe players and the buccellati warm up the Christmas atmosphere.

Once families got together to make buccellati, typical Sicilian Christmas shortbread cakes that contained dried figs or ground almonds inside. Nowadays, they even put chocolate inside them.

They were cakes made to last all winter. I do not know what did they put in to make them last that long. I only remember that they remained soft and fragrant until the end of February, that is, two months after they had been made, without losing their organoleptic qualities.

Nowadays in Enna, families no longer make buccellati at home, because there are no wood-burning ovens in the houses, and it is much easier to buy them at the bakery. However, the delicious taste of the buccellati has not changed.

https://www.facebook.com/1597725398/videos/pcb.10223896529393283/1246392999186755

During Christmas, bagpipe players walk the streets of Enna and warm our hearts. They remind us that one day a Great Master came down to earth to teach us what love is.

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

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

PETROSO PALACE AND THE COLLEGE OF MARY IN ENNA (SICILY)

On October 14, 1758, the Sicilian nobleman, Baron Croce Felice Petroso, bequeathed his lands for the establishment of the College of Mary, an institution intended to educate the young people of Enna, a city in the center of Sicily.

Based on Baron Petroso’s will, the College of Mary was managed by the Sisters called Collegine. This lasted until the outbreak of the First World War, when the College of Mary was requisitioned by the government and transformed into a barracks for soldiers.

After the war was over, the College of Mary was entrusted to the Canossian nuns who carried out their educational task until a few years ago.

Now the College of Mary has closed its doors forever.

What about the dreams of benefactor Baron Croce Felice Petroso? Nothing is left but the yellowed sheet of paper containing his will.

Our dreams may not always last forever!

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

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

THE RELIGIOUS FERVOR OF PAST TIMES IN ITALY AND SICILY

In the year 1213, Count Orlando Catani of Chiusi came across Saint Francis of Assisi and was so fascinated by the figure of the saint that he wanted to give him something at any cost. The count wanted to give him money, but St. Francis could not accept because he had made a vow of poverty, so Count Orlando Catani gave him a mountain, an entire mountain! It was Mount Verna. St. Francis often went to meditate and pray in that mountain and it was there that he received the stigmata.

Something similar happened in Enna, Sicily, in 1758, when Baron Croce Felice Petroso bequeathed his entire fiefdom of Ramursura for the establishment of the College of Mary, an institution to be used for the education of the city’s youth. The Canossian Sisters came to the College of Mary, from Brescia, a city in northern Italy. They were highly educated and taught in many areas, including music, embroidery, and care for the deaf and dumb.

Today, the College of Mary is closed. What reminds me of the Canossian Sisters of the College of Mary is two small pictures that were given to my mother by a Sister with a passion for painting.

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

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

MARTORANA FRUIT, THE SWEETS OF THE DAY OF THE DEAD IN SICILY

At this time of year, almost all bakeries in Sicily display martorana fruit, the typical dessert on the day of the feast of the dead.

It is said that the Benedictine nuns of the Martorana Monastery in Palermo invented the recipe, hence the name of martorana fruit. Later, it became the traditional dessert for the day of the dead, which we celebrate in Sicily on November 2.

https://www.modernitalian.org/posts/the-day-of-the-dead

It was customary for children to receive toys and a basket of martorana fruit on this day. Even today, many families follow this tradition. Actually, November 2 is a joyful day of celebration in Sicily. By receiving gifts and sweets, children are taught to love and respect the souls of the dead.

Today the baker exhibited baskets full of martorana fruit. I asked her to give me the recipe, but she was evasive. She didn’t want to reveal her secret recipe. She just told me that the basic ingredient is almonds, which must be properly crushed. Of course, they must be Sicilian almonds!

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

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

TOTÒ, THE COOKIES OF THE DAY OF THE DEAD IN SICILY

November 2, the day of the dead in Sicily, is not an ordinary day. Indeed, it is a special day of celebration and joy. The Sicilians enjoy the feast and make special cakes for the occasion.

One of the typical cookies they make is called “totò.”

This morning, the baker made me try a lemon-flavored one. I had never eaten such a delicious cookie. He displayed chocolate, orange, and lemon flavored totò.

I asked him for the recipe for making such tasty sweets, but he was evasive and unwilling to talk about the ingredients he used. Obviously, he wanted to keep his recipe a secret.

November 2 is dedicated to the commemoration of the dead throughout the Catholic world, but only in Sicily is it considered a day of joyful celebration. This is because Sicily was a Spanish colony like Mexico and absorbed the customs of the Mexican Amerindians who used to celebrate the day of the dead.

Those populations imagined death as a continuation of life. For them, the afterlife was similar to life on earth. During the festival, they represented death as a person dressed up and enjoying the dance.

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

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

BONES OF THE DEAD, TYPICAL SICILIAN COOKIES

November 2 is drawing near and in all bakeries in Sicily it is possible to buy the typical cookies for this day, “the bones of the dead.” They look like human bones, are hollow and hard to eat.

Today, after buying some, I asked the baker to tell me the secret to making them so hard and hollow. He said that he leavens dough for two days on a canvas to make it lose its moisture, and then he bakes them at a low temperature, about 140 degrees. During the process, they lose sugar and become hollow.

On November 2, children receive gifts from the dead. Obviously, this is a fiction, for parents actually buy the gifts and pretend that the dead brought them. This way, children are taught to respect and love the souls of those who are no longer with us.

November 2nd is a day of celebration in Sicily. The tradition of celebrating the dead dates back to the time of the Aztecs. On the other hand, being Sicily a Spanish possession like Mexico, it absorbed Spanish customs and traditions deriving from contacts with the Amerindians.

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

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

THE TOWERS OF ST. THOMAS AND OF THE CARMINE IN ENNA (SICILY)

According to the illustrious historian Paolo Vetri (1826-1891), Saint Elijah the Younger, who was born and lived in Enna in the ninth century AD and led the resistance against the Arabs, built both the Tower of St. Thomas and that of the Carmine. Indeed, their shape is similar. They dominate two picturesque squares.

Probably, Paolo Vetri wrote this way because he was influenced by the popular legend that linked the Tower of the Carmine to Saint Elijah the Younger.

Legend says that on moonlit nights some people saw the ghost of its builder, St. Elijah the Younger, wandering near the tower. Is the legend true?

I can only say that a few years ago the renovation works of the Church of the Carmine and the adjoining tower began. While the church was restored immediately and smoothly, the works in the tower suffered a setback. The builders did not finish their job and left the scaffolding, the pulleys and everything there. The mystery of the ghost of the builder of the tower, Saint Elijah the Younger, remains!

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

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