Friday, June 4, 2010
Today I left "la familia" in Sicily and I had a proper farewell. Cugini Vito and Dino along with wives Anna and Patricia and Vito's daughter Laura came together at the Baglio and we all shared our last coffee together and bid me farewell. It was so touching and the language simply is not there to express my gratitude for their generosity of spirit and more.
With no WiFi I was unable to maintain the blog and so I did send a few emails which I'll copy below and attempt to compress this experience into a sensible, entertaining post....not easy.
To quote myself from one of the emails, "this experience in Sicily was not about site-seeing or photographs but more about a soulful awakening". Pardon my choice of words as they are a bit lofty but my point is that relationship is pretty amazing stuff and, I also have to say, Sicilians are a pretty amazing people.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to exit the shuttle at the Baglio Calia and have two strangers approach me and instantaneously we are family?! The familiarity of these people was simply astounding. Is it possible that it's about blood -- I really don't know but we all obviously chose to make that the common bond. In fact, the more time that went by, the more we found other commonalities. With little English among the group, all did have an easy time saying, "it's in the blood!" each time we found another silly point in common.
Vito was my primary relationship, I think this was due to his decent command of English, our similar comedic characters and his ego which loved the attention. He is the owner, builder, designer, of the Baglio Calia which dates back to the XVIII century. It was his grandfather's horse ranch which over time and war was pretty much destroyed. Vito's father was a sailor (actually lived in San Diego for a while) and his passion was water and not "the land" and so he had no interest in preserving the property. In fact, Vito's father, Frank Calia (aka "chooch") brought the 1st fishing spear to Mazzaro del Vallo. Chooch was passionate about the sea and spent a lot of time in it! Vito, on the other hand, had no passion for the sea and so he promise his grandfather that he would reconstruct the Baglio and he did. It took him 15 years but it's quite a property. There is an olive grove and in October they will press and produce olive oil and fruit trees as well.
Vito's two daughters, Laura and Marina are going to take the Baglio through to another phase of constructing a spa, health club, swimming pool, massage, etc. This is all quite exciting for the family.
Vito's other passion besides the land is music. He plays 8 instruments (piano, guitar, bass, flute, trombone, accordion.... and some others???) and sings. For over 40 years he toured Europe with his group Il Dioscuri. He said he used the money from touring to reconstruct the Baglio. Today, there is a full on stage with all the band and sound equipment at the Baglio and on my first day of arrival, in typical "Vito" style, he encouraged Laura and I to join him on the stage and we all began to sing Beatle songs together. He played piano but had some kind of sophisticated sing-a-long gadget that accompanied his piano playing and, like karaoke, had all the words to the songs. Laura has a beautiful voice and I didn't sound so bad myself.
Singing and dancing is a major theme in the family. Everyone does it and it's natural at any point in time to break out into song!
I think I learned from my first trip to Italy in the 70s was that when you visit family, everything is out of your control. You really need to be ready to go with the flow. They have such a sense of responsibility to you that there is no reasoning with them and so it was a good exercise for someone like me to simply accept these days and how they played out. I figured I was not in danger, I had a beautiful bed to sleep in, I was well (well) fed and so what more does a human need.
Each day some plan would present itself and since it was discussed amongst all in Italian, I never really knew what the plan was and so on the 2nd day when I met my cousin Dino (Vito's brother) and was asked if I had my bathing costume, that was how I found out I was being taken with Vito and his family to the hot springs....okay! Now, I had just met Dino and from all accounts felt comfortable (but never quite as comfortable as I was with Vito). He drives up to the Baglio and there in his car is his curious wife and curious daughter....I hop in and sure enough Patricia turned out to be one of my favorite people! and she giggled the entire time as she attempted to speak English. Her 15 year old was a bit shy and so not much went on between us, but Patricia and I became buddies.
So, there I was among hundreds of Italians in a "Ojo Caliente meets Water World" environ. How funny is that....certainly not a place I would voluntarily spend my time at but I was fascinated by this experience.
Oh yeah, Vito is also the Police Captain of the town and so he walks around with a gun in a holster....and so anytime he and I went anywhere together (like on his "rounds"), everyone knew him and he proudly displayed his Cugina de America....
Another spontaneous day was when I was placed in Dino's car with Patricia and was told I was going to Salemi. Okay, this was good, this is where the Calia's originated. Challenge is Dino never gets off the telephone, he literally was taking on two phones while driving the car. Often, we would have to pull over while he finished his conversation. There was a point when Patricia was on one phone and Dino was on two and I was in the back seat with my eyes shut tight hoping this was not the day to die. Italian have a 6th sense when it comes to driving. I have witnessed the pure beauty and skill they posses and it simply can not be as successful as it is with only the sense of sight. no way. the drivers are communicating with each other telepathically, I'm sure of it!
So, hours later we pull up to what looks to me like a kitchen -- cabinet -- modern -- furniture store. Oh, that's what we're doing. We went to the place where Dino and Patricia have ordered their new cabinets for their kitchen renovation. It was in the coastal town of Trapani, which did look lovely. Again, after receiving and taking many telephone calls while the sales person was talking/working with Patricia, we wrap up business there and I'm so thirsty I can hardly handle it.
We go to a cafe in town, I have sworn off any food for the rest of the day and so just want water and lots of it.
Get back in the car and start driving somewhere when I realize it's like 9pm! I met them at 4:30pm....and we've yet to go to Salemi! Dino wants to go for Pizza at 9pm in Salemi....this I simply can not do! So, the two phrases that I've learned quite well as they have come in very handy are: Sonno fame (I am hungry) and Sonno stanca (I am tired)....guess which one I used! Yes, sonna stanca! We were on our way home at last!
Earlier that day, Vito, Laura and I walked through the old town of Mazzaro del vallo which still has a heavy Arab influence. We three had a great day, walking, talking getting some feel for this port city. It's the closest Italian city to Africa (Tunisia to be specific). This is a beautiful port town with so much history and so many conquerors. Talk about blood line....who knows???? What really constitutes Sicilian blood? We three walked for hours, took loads of photos all with the mission of getting to Vito's home by 1:30 where Anna was making lunch. My first home cooked meal, also first time at the private home.
Once on our way, we stopped for bread, I picked up a bunch of strawberries and a bouquet of flowers for Anna. She's trying to quit smoking (day 7) and is having a hard time and so I wanted to do "something" for her. By the way, let me mention right here that under no condition have I been allowed to place my hand in my pursue with the intention of pulling out money to make any kind of financial contribution. This is simply unheard of and not allowed and so I am trying to be really creative about how to show my appreciation and I'm hoping strawberries and flowers will do it, when really a cigarette would do the trick!
The lunch was simple yet so incredibly delicious...what is it over there with the food? We had spaghetti with a light tomato sauce, a fritatta of potato and onions, incredible bread, then came the sausage and peppers. See that belly in the photo of us singing, I was "molto contento" oh yeah! After that, little ice cream cones of various colors and flavors and a nice strong cup of espresso. This is why I could not eat a pizza at 9pm with Dino and Patricia. I was maxed out!
Well, this is a pretty long blog and so I both apologize and congratulate anyone who has stuck with me through these lengthy writings.
I'm in Rome now, just had a lovely meal of mixed green salad and a plate of proscuitto. Planning an early evening as I will re-pack in the morning for my next adventure to Bologna! Stay tuned....