Conversations in Sicily

Conversations in Sicily

Conversations in Sicily
by Elio Vittorini, Alane Salierno Mason (Translator), Ernest Hemingway (Foreword)

Conversations in SicilyIt stands as a modern classic not only for its powerful thematic resonance as one of the great novels of Italian anti-fascism but also as a trailblazer for its style, which blends literary modernism with the pre-modern fable in a prose of lyric beauty. Comparing Vittorini’s work to Picasso’s, Italo Calvino described Conversations as “the book-Guernica.”

The novel begins at a time in the narrator’s life when nothing seems to matter; whether he is reading newspaper posters blaring of wartime massacres, lying in bed with his wife or girlfriend, or flipping through the pages of a dictionary it is all the same to him—until he embarks on a journey back to Sicily, the home he has not seen in some fifteen years. In traveling through the Sicilian countryside and in variously hilarious and tragic conversations with its people—his indomitable mother in particular—he reconnects with his roots and rediscovers some basic human values.

In the introduction Hemingway wrote for the American debut of Conversations (published as In Sicily by New Directions in 1949) he remarked: “I care very much about Vittorini’s ability to bring rain with him when he comes, if the earth is dry and that is what you need.” More recently, American critic Donald Heiney wrote that in this one book, Vittorini “like Rabelais and Cervantes…adds a new artistic dimension to the history of literature.”

Conversations in Sicilyoriginal title: Conversazione in Sicilia
ISBN: 0811214559 (ISBN13: 9780811214551)
edition language: English
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Taormina, most celebrated tourist resort in Sicily

taormina teatro - Taormina, most celebrated tourist resort in Sicily

Modern Taormina is a refined centre built on Monte Tauro and sits snugly between rocky slopes and the smooth Ionian Sea, not forgetting the lush beaches of Mazzarò, Lido Spisone and Mazzeo. Taormina can claim to be the most celebrated tourist resort in the whole of Sicily. It first attracted travelers in the 18th century by offering accommodation following the suppression of the religious guilds in 1866. But its name really took off in 1868 when Prussian Baron Ottone Geleng was inspired by Goethe to see this corner of Italy for himself. The Baron spent his time painting and his work was soon exhibited in Paris. Taormina then became a magnet for Europe’s elite. Another stroke of good fortune was an outbreak of cholera in Palermo which encouraged the nobility of the city to take refuge in 1875. The sumptuous villas are a result of this period. Read more>>

Isola Bella in front of Taormina, Sicily

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Trapani, most strategic spot in the west of Sicily

Accommodation in Trapani, Sicily

Trapani is getting more and more attention as a low budget holiday destination and as a starting point for a tour around Sicily. This is mainly because Ryanair offers cheap flights from different parts in Europe. A beautiful historic centre, gateway to the Egadi Islands and having hosted the 8th and 9th acts of the Louis Vuitton Cup, part of the Americas Cup, made Trapani become famous in recent times. The nearby island of Pantelleria, and the Aegadian Islands are also administratively a part of Trapani province. The province of Trapani alone produces more wine than the entire regions of Tuscany or Piedmont or such nations as Hungary, Austria or Chile. Find more about Trapani here>>

Sicily News from Trapani

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At the foot of Mount Etna – Catania

At the foot of Mount Etna - Catania

Catania is the second largest city of Sicily and is the capital of the province which bears its name. With some 350,000 inhabitants (750,000 in the metropolitan area) it has the second highest population density on the island. The city’s patron saint is Saint Agatha. Catania is located on the east coast of the island, half way between Messina and Siracusa and is at the foot of the active volcano Mount Etna. It was founded in the 8th century BC by Greek colonizers from Chalcis in Euboea led by Euarchos.  It was extensively destroyed by earthquakes in 1169 and 1693 and by lava flows which ran over and around it into the sea. The first Sicilian university was founded there in 1434.

At the foot of Mount Etna - Catania

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Palermo, Capital of Sicily

GdS - Edizione di Palermo

Palermo is the principal city and administrative seat of the autonomous region of Sicily, Italy as well as the capital of the Province of Palermo. Inhabitants of Palermo in Italian are referred to as Palermitani or poetically Panormiti. Palermo was founded in the 8th century BC by Phoenician tradesmen around a natural harbor on the north-western coast of Sicily. The Phoenician name for the city may have been Zîz, but Greeks called it Panormus, meaning all-port, because of its fine natural harbor. It should be noted however that the city was never a Greek city-state, but was later part of the Greek speaking Eastern Roman Empire. Palermo is widely considered to be the most conquered city in the world. read more>>

Giornale di Sicilia

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Siracusa – Beautiful with Sadness

Ortigia in Siracusa, Sicily

Siracusa, SicilyMaybe for my knowledge about Siracusa, a small town, I learn in advance, I notice a gentle and cultivated feeling when I step onto the old city area of Ortiga Island.

This small town, with a population of less than thirty thousand, is located in the southeast of Sicily in Italy. It is divided into two parts of which the old part is on Ortiga Island and the other part is in the peninsula area. Ortiga Island has appealing history and myths although it is small like a sparrow. I wonder where my gentle and cultivated feeling about the town comes from. I walk along the east coast of the matronly Ortiga Island. In the road junction, it is the “Archimedes Street” when turn right.

GdS - Edizione di Siracusa

Over two thousand years ago, Siracusa, as one of city-states of the ancient Greece, was determined to replace Greece which was a culture city then. As a matter of fact, not only did it defeat Greece in military affairs, but also it applied itself to build an elegant society. As a result, you can hear some stories here about Plato and so on. The native-born Archimedes ran in the street, naked and shouting out with “Eureka”, after he found the physics law. As time flies, the street pattern today is so different from that of the age-old Greece.

Going ahead to the south, I want to visit a beautiful and sad legend. The Aretusa spring and the green and lush pond are by the blue Mediterranean Sea. The fairy of Aretusa in the legend is a maid who serves the hunt goddess of Artemis. She is loved by Achelous strongly. Aretusa flees to Ortiga and requests Artemission to turn her into this pond in order to dodge the Achelous. The Achelous is unwilling to give up and changes the course of the river and immit the pond from the underground. From then on, they two are with each other.

After saying goodbye to Aretusa, I turn in an alleyway for the first time and go towards the Piazza Duomo. The most important Catholic Church of Ortiga and a museum are on the piazza. The vision before me reminds me of a woman–Monica Bellucci who becomes well known for the film <<Malena>>. This film is shot on the Piazza. The film director shows people the life rhythm of this Piazza by fluent switches of camera lens. Also, the beautiful and sad legends are connected by this film. For more information about traveling; please have a look at [].

Un Gran Bel…Vedere a Siracusa

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Il Principe di Lo Zucco

Il Principe di Lo Zucco

Lo Zucco è una località agricola situata fra i comuni di Montelepre, Terrasini e Partinico. La località dello Zucco è stata protagonista di vicende storiche importanti dal punto di vista dell’innovazione economica e dei movimenti positivisti degli aristocratici illuminati dell’800.

LO ZUCCO. Il vino del figlio del Re dei Francesi un film documentario di LIDIA RIZZO una produzione BLUE FILM realizzato in collaborazione con SICILIA FILM COMMISSION


Il Principe di Lo Zucco della Sicilia
Pietro Galioto, il Principe di Lo Zucco della Sicilia.


La Storia e il duca D’Aumale

Colui che fu a capo dell’accennata innovazione fu il duca Henry D’Aumale, appartenente ad un ramo della famiglia di Orlèans di Francia. Nell’800 decise di acquisire da don Vincenzo Grifeo Duca di Floridia e principe di Partanna circa 6000 ettari di terreno, ecco che fra vallate, sorgenti, vecchi percorsi sterrati sorgeva la tenuta dello Zucco.

Dai documenti disponibili, quali la Rivista industriale, commerciale ed agricola della Sicilia, è possibile individuare l’idea del duca D’Aumale: creare una forte attività imprenditoriale ricca d’innovazione, rendendo quel povero centro siciliano un ricco centro produttivo, di stampo autarchico. Oltre le vallate, nel cuore del feudo, nascosto fra la vegetazione si trovava l’abitazione del duca: un borgo, che racchiudeva in sé un frantoio, cantine, scuderie e alloggi.

Dai documenti provenienti dall’Archivio di Parigi “Branche d’Orléans”, è possibile osservare una serie di progetti, disegni, carteggi ed altro, risalenti all’Ottocento, che ci permettono di conoscere con precisione il patrimonio siciliano degli Orlèans, la loro attività in Sicilia era basata essenzialmente sulla coltivazione e lavorazione dell’uva e dell’ulivo.

L’innovazione del duca portò alla realizzazione di un vino, chiamato “Lo Zucco” che gli assicurò un successo invidiabile, fu presentato anche all’esposizione nazionale di Palermo del 1891-92

Le innovazioni apportate dal duca furono presto diffuse negli altri feudi, dando vita ad un processo di miglioramento di tecniche e colture in una zona prevalentemente caratterizzata dall’arretratezza.

Lo Zucco
Lo Zucco, Sicilia

La mattanza di tonno a Favignana

Mattanza di tonno

Mattanza. The ritual of killing tuna in Sicily. In Sicily they catch Bluefin tuna in a traditional festival known as the mattanza which takes place in May and June each year. A huge trap (called the tonnara) leads the fish into a chamber, called la “camera della morte”, which has a net floor that can be raised. The fish are then brought to the surface and killed. During this festival, while the tuna are being caught, “Tonnarotti” sing special songs called “scialome” which have been passed down for so long that much of the meaning has now been lost. The term ‘mattanza’ comes from the old Spanish word, “matar”, while other words, such as “rais” (the head fisherman of the mattanza), are of Arabic origin. There are only a few genuine mattanzas left now, and these are all to be found to the west of Sicily, among the Egadi Islands.

Fotografie di Peppino Pippitone

Bicycle Rental in Sicily

sicily on a bicycle - Bicycle Rental in Sicily


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Sicily on a bike

Flavors of Sicily

Drying tomatoes in Sicily

La ZagaraThe flavors of Sicily are as vivid as the colors of Sicily; the fiery reds of the shades of tomato or the peperocini, the hot red pepper that the Sicilians prefer to black peppercorns. Memories of the Arabs still live on in the air smelling of golden sultanas, and pine nuts, actually a seed harvested from the large cones. The yellows are the bright saffron brought from Ancient Greece, the unique lemons, and precious honey an ancient Roman sweetener. The colors and fragrances of Italy overwhelm the senses yet the Italians are masters at culinary simplicity.

Each wave of conquest by the Romans has shaped the Italian table The culinary traditions of Italy began with the Etruscan, and was later developed by the Greeks and Saracens or the non Arab Muslims who settled in the South and Sicily, they treasured rice, the citrus fruits and used dried fruit such as figs and dates to stuff pastries and they brought the aubergine to Italy. Both history climate and geography has shaped the region, Northern Italy so close to the Austria Hungarian empire has completely different tastes than the South.
Whether North or south all Italians love pasta, sometimes served with a simple home made cheese and fresh tomato sauce served with fresh herbs, basil or wild marjoram or oregano. In Piedmont the pasta sauces are richer creamier and loaded with butter and cheese. Sicily is renowned for its olive groves, citrus trees and vineyards. Sicily has been ravages by unemployment, foreign rule, corruption, immense feudal estates, piracy and the casa nostra. The Greeks came with their olives, ricotta, wine and honey. Its land was later colonized by the Romans who needed the vast tracts of land for wheat, grains and pulses. The monasteries developed tangy biscuits and also sharp cheeses.

Flavors of Sicily

Ancient Rome gave western civilizations the fundamentals of sophisticated elegant cuisine, that would take centuries to be known as fine dining. The Roman empire brought new products and recipes back to Rome.

Mediterranean peoples including the Etruscan’s already knew the skills of milling, they made flour to produce fresh bread. They crushed olives to extract the precious olive oil the liquid gold of ancient Italy, they used the grapes to make wine and vinegar and transformed the creamy full fat milk into fresh cheeses.

Olive oil is fundamental to the southern cooking but, curiously enough, came from four hundred years of Aragon rule in Sicily, the Spanish conquistadors brought tomatoes, potatoes and peppers and chocolate. The pomodoro found a promised land alongside the eggplant or aubergine, the melanzane that distinguishes the “parmigiana” classics of the Sicily.

Sicilian food is a tutti frutti all of its own, in fact it should be totally overwhelmed, but it is vigorous and robust the staple tastes of the Mediterranean, the tomatoes, pasta, fish, fruit, bread and oil fired by peppers, basil, almonds and pistachios, pine nuts, vinegar and golden raisins. Even some of the names of the dishes are over the top in Sicily, as Pasta ‘cchi sardi a ‘mmari, which translates as pasta served with fish still in the sea. More prosaically they have lasagna cacati, a broad wavy pasta with minced meat often served at the New Year.

Whatever your choice of area there is a recipe that is sublime and even the most jaded palate will appreciate Sicilian recipes.
About the Author

Sebastiano comes from Sicily where he worked for 10 years as Medical Representative in pharmaceuticals. He is now living in London where he import fine food from his beloved island. He is the Author of 101 Sicilian Recipes, History, Legends and Food from Sicily. []