Cuccìa, a Traditional Sicilian Dish

December 13, 1934

Today is the feast of Santa Lucia, a saint from Syracuse who was martyred under the emperor Diocletian. She is the patron saint of the blind and people with limited eyesight.

As usual, there are processions on her day, and the statue of the saint is carried on a litter along the streets of Enna. On this day, many families in Enna make a special meal called cuccı̀a. It is a ritual meal that was made in ancient Greece on the day of the commemoration of the dead. Nowadays in Sicily, the cuccìa is cooked on the day of the Feast of Santa Lucia. It is made from boiled wheat seasoned with chocolate or sweet ricotta, honey, and pieces of candied fruit.

On this day, my sister Carolina cooks cuccìa in a big cauldron and then invites all our neighbors to taste it. Even though I don’t like cuccìa, I really enjoy the coming and going of our neighbors who crowd my home all day long.

This is an excerpt from the diary of Vincenzo Chiaramonte in A Hidden Sicilian History

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



Enna’s cemetery is large enough to look like a town.  It has broad avenues and tall tombs. Many tombs are similar to small houses. They have a room inside with walled niches and an altar where once was celebrated Mass on November 2.

I dare say that the cemeteries in Sicily are unique. I have visited some burying places while traveling around the world, but they were completely different than the Sicilian cemeteries, for every population on earth has its own way of treating the dead, depending on its culture and traditions.

In Italy, before the Napoleonic edict, the dead were buried in the churches. Later, this custom fell into disuse.

My maternal grandmother, Paolina, used to keep in her family tomb a few chairs for herself and her family, relatives and friends that came to visit the tomb or had the chance to pass by it.

This is an excerpt from November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

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



On the last Sunday of August at seven o’clock in the morning, the citizens of Enna are  awoken by a 101-gun salute. It announces the beginning of the celebrations in honor of The Most Holy Mary of Valverde, who was the patron saint of Enna until 1412.

At that time, paganism still existed and there were also some Muslim families in Enna. So, a delegation was sent to Venice to buy a new statue that could symbolize the unity of creed of all the citizens of Enna. However, the old celebration in honor of The Most Holy Mary of Valverde didn’t fade away. Every year, three statues are carried in procession: Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Joseph, and Holy Mary with Baby Jesus.
According to some archaeologists, in the same spot where now stands the church of Valverde there was the temple of Demeter. It means the paganism didn’t disappear from the heart of the people of Enna. The name of the divinity has changed over the years, but the devotion to the Mother Goddess is still the same.

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind



Aunt Filippa opened the cupboard and took out a soup plate and a small cup. She put the plate on my head, asking my mother to hold it fast. Then, she poured some water into the plate and olive oil into the small cup. Finally, she dipped her finger into the small cup of olive oil and dripped some into the water.
I remained with that plate on my head for several minutes. Aunt Filippa was not convinced, and from time to time she dripped more olive oil. Then she scrutinized the shape of the drops.
The drops could take different forms. They could remain as they were, become wider, or even disappear completely. If the drop maintained the same shape it had when it was dripped, it meant that there was no hex on me. If the drop became wider, there was a real hex. Sometimes the drop disappeared completely, and that meant that there was a lot of hex. In my case, the drops disappeared, and for that reason Aunt Filippa dripped olive oil many times.
“This boy has a lot of hex,” she said, “but I’ll take it out of him. I swear!”
To do that she made special signs around the plate and said a special prayer, which she had learned from her mother on Christmas Eve. It was a secret prayer that had been handed down from generation to generation. She then concluded, saying that I was now hex free thanks to her prayer.
At the time I barely understood her method of removing the hex, but with passing time I realized that what Aunt Filippa had done probably had a scientific basis. Words, thoughts, and feelings have vibrations. Everything vibrates in the universe. It means that each kind of vibration affects both organic and inorganic matter, including the shape of the drops that Aunt Filippa used to diagnose the hex. In other words, if my body vibrations were good the drops assumed a certain shape; otherwise they got broad or sometimes disappeared. However, the real reason my mother and I had come to her was not to get rid of my evil eye, but for the intestinal worms.
I looked up at my mother again and shyly asked her, “What shall we do about my worms?” Once again my mother told me to keep silent and wait.
Aunt Filippa removed the plate from my head and put it, along with the small cup, on the near table. She then asked me to lift my T-shirt and bare my belly. Finally, she made certain arcane signs on my stomach, and at the same time said a special prayer, the words of which I could not understand because her voice was very low. The treatment lasted several minutes.
When her prayer was over, she recommended I drink a glass of olive oil with squeezed lemon and raw, mashed garlic the following day in the early morning. I followed her instructions, and I have to say that I actually excreted a lot of ascarids. Some of them were dead and some looked dazed.

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind



When the Second World War was over, most women in Enna didn’t work outside the home. They were housewives, dependent on their fathers, and once they got married they were submissive to their husbands. You often saw many ladies dressed in black in the streets, the symbol of sorrow. The close relatives of those who died wore black to show their grief. Every time a person died, the walls on the streets were covered with death notices as if the whole town was mourning.
The duration of mourning varied according to the kind of relationship with the dead person, but usually were observed the following criteria: if the dead person was an uncle, a cousin, or someone not a close relative, the woman dressed in black for three months. If a child had been lost, the woman dressed in black for five years. If a sibling passed away, his or her sister dressed in black for three years. If the dead person was the husband, the widow dressed in black the rest of her life. I never saw my grandmother dressed in anything but black. She lost two children and her husband.
As for men, the duration of mourning was shorter than that of women. They usually didn’t dress in black suits for a long time, but confined themselves to wearing a black tie, an armband, a narrow band around their jacket collar, or sometimes they wore a black button on it.
In the afternoons, after having done their chores, the housewives used to sit on their chairs by the window and watch the people walking in the streets. At that time, Via Sant’Agata was unpaved, and in the early morning you could see the goats going along the street and the shepherd then selling their milk to the housewives. It was a very fresh product. The goats were white, long-haired, and quite tall with upright and coiled horns. Nowadays, there are people in the cities who have never even seen a goat!

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind



My grandma taught me these traditional prayers, which I still say in Sicilian every night before sleeping, even now that I am old. The first prayer is:


I mi curcu ne stu lettu

C’è a Madonna supra u pettu

I dormu e idda viglia

Su c’è cosa m’arriviglia.


I sleep in this bed

There is Mary over my chest

I sleep and she watches over me

If something bad is going to happen she will wake me.

The second prayer is:


Ccu Gesù sugnu, ccu Gesù staiu.

Stannu ccu Gesù I paura un’aiu

Sacciu a curcata,

Un sacciu a livata,

L’arma mi sia sempri raccumannata

A Gesù.


I am with Jesus, I stay with Jesus.

As long as I am with Jesus, I have no fears.

I know I am going to sleep

But I don’t know if I will awake.

My soul is always commended

To the protection of Jesus.

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