Some Thoughts on the Sicily We Love……..

Written By: Arlene Ridolfi Valentine - Feb• 24•17
Sicily....Scicli Street Life

Sicily…..Scicli Street Life

Sicily warmed my heart, not just my body.  And months after being there I am still drawn back in every way….emotionally first, but also mentally and even physically.  It takes no more than a photo or an aroma or a fleeting memory to yank me right out of wherever I am and send me back with a big contented smile on my face.  The feelings this yearning generates are so strong I sometimes wonder how I can possibly still be standing here instead of being transported there on the strength of the thought current alone.

Sicily....Scicli Sidestreet

Sicily….Scicli Sidestreet

It all started when we decided to spend a month in Scicli, a very small town in southwest Sicily.  We had already visited Sicily a few times because we had been living in Florence for more than a decade, but those visits were exciting, exploring, exuberant kind of trips.  Trips to see exquisite shorelines, vibrant and crowded cities, dream-like architectural structures from the far away past, and of course to experience the food that even mainland italians consider to be in a class by itself.  But every time we visited, we left (each of us) with a little thread of return dangling in our consciousness.  We always wanted more.

Sicily.....Scicli Curve

Sicily…..Scicli Curve

So it was that when we were looking for a page-turning experience to mark the transition between a working life in Italy and a retirement life that would include time back in the USA, the moment Sicily entered the discussion the discussion was over.  For logistical reasons we found ourselves with a one-month window of free time and much to our surprise we actually knew where in Sicily we wanted to be.  We had become enthusiastic fans of the Commissario Montalbano TV series about a sicilian police commissioner and his crew of unique characters who solved one murder after another in their little corner of Sicily…..the corner we wanted to see.  Really good fortune stepped in at this point and a loving friend connected us to one of her loving friends who had an apartment to rent in Scicli.  That was it.  Simple as that.  We packed a small bag each and hopped on the night train to Catania.

Sicily.....Scicli Alley with Lemons

Sicily…..Scicli Alley with Lemons

From the moment we stepped off the bus that had taken us from Catania to Scicli a huge part of my consciousness separated and fell off to one side.  That was the part that contained all the worries and unknowns about the future.  Once that was gone, the other part came into sharp focus.  That was the part that let me take in the flood of good that was coming my way…smiles, friendly faces, warm sun, flowers and plants everywhere resting against yellow stone buildings with crazy-gorgeous carvings dripping off the oddest places, and then there were the aromas swirling around every little corner because it was nearly noon.

Sicily.....Crazy Scicli Carvings

Sicily…..Crazy Scicli Carvings

It did not take long for us to settle in…..less than a day actually….and we spent the next 29 days being schooled in the art of living in simplicity with abundance.  Scicli is the kind of place that brings you to an abrupt halt….at least if you’re going to stay put for any length of time.

Sicily.....Scicli Street with Flowers

Sicily…..Scicli Street with Flowers

It’s not a big spread geographically and you can walk from one end of the old town to the other in less than fifteen minutes.  The town is so old that the paving stones are worn down.  And yet the old buildings still stand and are home to lots of people….many of them elderly.  By the end of our stay, however, we were happy to notice an influx of seasonal residents who

Sicily.....Scicli Maintenance

Sicily…..Scicli Maintenance

come to spend the summer.   We spent some time every day just walking through town, quietly taking in what we came to see was just everyday life….babies in strollers, elderly folks gathering together for cafe and conversation, smartly dressed workers of every stripe setting off or coming home, youngsters playing in the alleyways.  Clothes got washed and hung out to dry, shopping got carted along these tiny streets and into hushed and hurriedly opened doorways, pets waited impatiently for doors

Sicily.....Scicli Alley with Pale Door

Sicily…..Scicli Alley with Pale Door

to open and let them in to escape the heat, wooden chairs got set up in front of doorways and created social opportunities for their users and passersby.  It was beautiful.  It was moving.  We greeted everyone who made eye contact as we passed by……and that was just about everyone.  After a couple of days we became recognizable and no longer a novelty.  It was easy to forget about time and place and just wander around taking discreet photos.  Walking around these alleys and stone paths seemed like

Sicily.....Scicli Doorway

Sicily…..Scicli Doorway

a serious endeavor to me because I was in very close proximity to the living spaces that sat just on the other side of the doors that I passed.  I could hear the sounds of cooking, the sounds of silverware on plates, the voices chatting over dinner, and I did not want to intrude.  What I wanted was to experience the same pure and simple life that I saw all around me.  And I did.

Lunch at Home

Lunch at Home

We would go back to our apartment with the ingredients for the day’s meal and have some wine while we cooked and set the table out on our terrace.  Then we’d sit in the quiet and have our own little chat while others would pass by and nod in greeting.  This happened often because we lived next door to one of the finer restaurants in Scicli…a place that is known for its expertise in cooking fish.  The aromas drove us mad.  The kitchen staff would occasionally come out for a break and sit on the stairs to our stoop to make a phone call or smoke a bit of a cigarette.  It was always fun when we would show up as customers after they had witnessed so many of our own meals laid out on our outside table.  I wonder if our kitchen aromas wafted over to their workspace…….

Sicily.....Elegant Scicli Entry

Sicily…..Elegant Scicli Entry

Of course we went to the sea often (by bus) and we also took a few day trips to other places like Ragusa and Noto and Siracusa (by local one-car train), but it was Scicli where we were enchanted.  It was always Scicli.  Who would have thought that doorways could be works of art…..or that

Sicily.....Scicli Alley with Church

Sicily…..Scicli Alley with Church

magnificently grand churches could just blend right into neighborhood

Sicily.....Cathedral and Hill, Scicli

Sicily…..Cathedral and Hill, Scicli

streets, or that buying a few euros worth of vegetables from the vendor driving by in his three-wheeler truck could be such a sweet and comforting exchange of information and genuine caring?

Sicily.....Veggie Vendor, Scicli

Sicily…..Veggie Vendor, Scicli

As we were often told by other Italians, Sicilians are warm and very open-hearted people.  Their interest in you is genuine so it’s very easy to relax and feel that you are part of their everyday life.  Simple things…

Sicily.....Pause for Wine, Scicli

Sicily…..Pause for Wine, Scicli

enjoying a very good glass of wine while reading….take on special meaning because they are infused with pleasure.  Nothing seems to get in the way of pleasure here anyway…..every dinner out, fancy or not, is meant to be gratifying and lots of fun.  And every guest, single or part of

Sicily.....Sunset Dinner, Scicli

Sicily…..Sunset Dinner, Scicli

a group, is coddled and nurtured as a matter of course.  We noticed a din of commotion every night…..not from traffic or music, but from animated conversations and laughter.  There are small places that open only at night,

Sicily.....Nighttime Pizza Crowd, Scicli

Sicily…..Nighttime Pizza Crowd, Scicli

some that set up tables in alleyways and upon stairways, and they are all magnets of energy…..what a joy to go out at night in Scicli……perhaps this wine box message contains the secret of life in Scicli……… it is made with passion and emotion!

Wine Box Message

Wine Box Message

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