Saturday, September 29, 2012

Knights of Malta

The Grand Master of the Order of Malta was in Palermo today, where he visited Steri Castle. Until they were expelled from Malta in 1798, the knights held the Maltese islands as a fief from the King of Sicily. This is just one tiny fragment in the complex mosaic of Sicilian heritage, but a fascinating one.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sicilian Wines for Export

While we were updating our Sicily wine page the other day, somebody suggested that perhaps we should mention that one of our advertisers now exports wines from Sicily. Read about Gorgo del Drago.

Of course, numerous Sicilian wine producers export to the United States, Canada and elsewhere. What's different about Gorgo del Drago is that Count Testa's family-run company has been in business for generations and produces exceptional wines, typically using such popular grapes as like Syrah and Chardonnay with Sicilian varietals - red Nero d'Avola and white Zibibbo (shown here). The result is something very different from what most wine makers around Europe are making and selling.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

September Heat Wave!!!

Yes, we're in the middle of another heat wave, with hot African winds bringing us temperatures up to around 34 degrees (around 92 F). Highs this time of year are usually closer to 25 (77 F), still warm but at least bearable.

How long will it last? Probably until Monday, which happens to be the first day of October, but perhaps into the middle of next week. Nights are relatively cool, though.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sicilian Genealogy

We get a lot of requests from people interested in family history, and Rosy Bartolotta (see the Sicily tour guide page) takes visitors to ancestral towns to consult records.

Sicily has the world's best genealogical records, and we've published an article describing them. This introduction links to our more detailed Sicily genealogy page, which describes some of the sources and records available here in Sicily.

Useful as this information is, it does presume a knowledge of Italian. In most cases it's a good idea to hire a genealogical researcher.

Monday, September 17, 2012

October Magazine: Reality Checks

If there's one Sicilian publication - or one Italian travel/culture website - that doesn't insult your intelligence, this is it! In this month's magazine:

Was Frederick II an Atheist? He was certainly a complex ruler.

The Sicilian Diaspora and its identity.

The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (That's its coat of arms on the left.)

You're one of the web's most sophisticated readers. Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Crowned Heads of Sicily

In the That's Nice department, a Sicilian girl, 19 year-old Giusy Buscemi from Menfi, was crowned Miss Italia on Monday evening. Her name, incidentally, is pronounced like "Juicy." Congratulations, Giusy!

Moving on to more historical crowns, our article on the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies discusses the kings who ruled almost half of Italy from 1734 until 1860, with a glance toward the prosperity of the places they ruled - including Sicily. Even outside Italy, this topic is more important than it may seem because the end of the kingdom spelled the beginning of the "Sicilian Diaspora," the mass emigration of Sicilians and other Italians over several decades.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Grape Harvest 2012

This year's harvest has produced about 10% more grapes than last year, so there'll be plenty of Sicilian wine this year. What sometimes happens is that a rain storm or other fickle weather conditions in early September ruin part of the crop. This Summer was as sunny as ever, and hotter than usual, with little wind. It's still hot, but the nights are cooler than a month ago.

Though grapes were grown here in Greek times, Sicily's oeniculture was expanded further by the British around 1800 during the Bourbon period, when Marsala wine augmented the supply of Port and Sherry. Today most of the wines are estate-bottled varietals.

A bizarre problem this year is that grape thieves are stealing from some vineyards. These thieves are at least wine lovers!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Trinacria - by Anthony Di Renzo

American-born Anthony Di Renzo has written a novel that casts a sober glance toward the unification of Italy circa 1860. Like Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel, The Leopard, published a half-century ago, Trinacria - A Tale of Bourbon Sicily paints the Risorgimento - Italy's bloody unification movement - in its true colors.

Trinacria is not "ethnic" or nationalist niche literature. It's an overdue reality check.

We've seen an advance (digital) copy of the book. Essentially, the story is told as a series of memories by a noblewoman present in Sicily in 1860.

(This isn't as esoteric as it may seem; Best of Sicily's publisher vividly remembers his own grandmother, who was related to the aristocratic Lanza di Trabia family, "setting the record straight" about the unification movement - a familial memory transmitted to the lady, born in 1904, by her father and grandfather. The result was a Sicilian identity rooted in fact rather than fantasy.)

Unfortunately, most of our Italo-American friends have swallowed the revisionist version of Italian unification history hook, line and sinker. Here in Italy, however, last year's celebrations marking 150 years of Italian unification were met with cynicism by northern ("Padanian") and southern Italians alike. Few challenged the idea of a united Italy in some form as a matter of principle, but a spate of books and conferences brought attention to the bloodbath and pillage that accompanied the unification in 1860.

In America, the only "Italian-American" organization intellectual and courageous enough to present this information accurately was the Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere (New York), which sponsored a conference with Pino Aprile, author of Terroni (now available in English) and is supporting publication of Trinacria.

Publishing is always a financial challenge, and a fund drive is under way to bring Trinacria to print in November. To make a contribution, follow this link, where you can also read about the novel and its author.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

End-of-Summer Rain

Sicily weather.
Following the long, dry, hot, sunny Summer, Sicily usually gets its first real rain right around September 1st. It's almost like magical clockwork, and this year was no exception.

This morning around 4:15 a 20-minute thunder shower rumbled northward from Agrigento across the Sicanian Mountains to Palermo. After Italy's driest Summer in fifty years, the rain was a pleasure to behold. If anything, it didn't last long enough! But it was sufficient to clean the heavy air a bit, and there was more rain throughout the morning. It was also nice that the temperature dropped by a few degrees, at least for a while. For Sicily weather forecasts and climate information - with a chart showing annual rainfall - check out our dedicated page.

Incidentally, the leaf shown here is from a plane tree, European kin of the American sycamore.