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

FROM SICILY TO KOREA, TWO COUNTRIES, ONLY ONE HUMANITY

The journey from Catania to Seoul took almost one day. We had a short stopover in Istanbul, a city I adore. At long last, today we landed at Incheon Airport.

In the airplane, from time to time, I watched the map of the earth with the aircraft flying over several countries: Italy, Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, China, and so on. Seen on the map, the earth seemed to be immense, but compared to the infinite sky, it looked like a grain of sand.

What can be said about the powerful nations of the earth? Surely, they are smaller than a speck of dust in comparison with the boundless universe. They wage war against each other and seem to be eager to make their own nation prevail.

As for me, I am of the opinion that only individuals exist, not nations!

Now I am going to stay in my beloved Korea for three months. I feel like being at home. On the other hand, I consider myself a citizen of the world. The soul – assuming it exists – doesn’t have facial features or skin color.

Will the oligarchies that rule the world understand this idea of humanity some day? I hope so!

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

MICHELE SCOTO, A GREAT SCOTSMAN AT THE COURT OF FREDERICK II IN SICILY

Michele Scoto (Michael Scot) was born in Scotland in the twelfth century. He studied in three of the best universities in Europe of the time: Oxford, Paris, and Bologna.

Being a man of great learning, he landed in the court of Frederick II in Palermo.

He translated the texts of the Arab philosopher, Averroè from Arabic into Latin. Those texts spread rapidly in European universities and contributed to cultural progress.

Michele Scoto was also known as a magician. He predicted the place where Frederick II would die and other events. For this reason, Dante in his book, The Divine Comedy, placed him in a circle of hell. Obviously, everyone has their own opinions!

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

– Viaggi della Mente (edizione in lingua italiana)

THE BEAUTIFUL CHURCH OF SAINT THERESE IN ENNA, SICILY

About thirty years ago, the circumstances of life led me to Lisieux, the city in the north of France where Saint Therese had lived as a cloistered nun for nine years; in fact, she became a nun at the age of fifteen and died from consumption when she was twenty-four years old.

After she passed away, about four thousand miracles happened thanks to her intercession. These days, not only the Catholics, but also the Arabs, Orthodox, and Protestants love and worship her.

Although she never left the walls of the Carmelite convent in Lisieux, she was proclaimed ‘the patron saint of the missions’, ‘the protectress of Russia’, ‘the patron saint of France’, and ‘doctor of the church’.

In my hometown of Enna, we had sixty-four churches once. Nowadays, many of them have disappeared due to the shortage of priests and loss of faith. However, the glorious, tiny church of Saint Therese of Lisieux is still alive, although it has been closed for many years. The collapsed floor needs to be remodeled.

A few years ago, a local architect made a project for the reopening of the church. I heard that funds have been allocated for the purpose. However, work has not yet begun!

I hope this beautiful little church will reopen as a peaceful place for people to meditate and pray some day!

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

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 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 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