La Vucciria and beyond...
I love the legend about the Sicilian philosopher Empedocles, who at the age of 60 leapt into the abyss of Etna. In the summer of '71, who knew a mere 40 years later one would find themselves standing on a similar precipice? A year later at the base of Mt. Shasta in Northern California in a Zen Monastery a retired restaurateur would repeat his favorite Zen koan, “Nothing above, nothing below, so I leap off.” Time is no longer linear, but stitched together perfectly for this traveler.
But rather than a plummet into the blazing fissure (there is time enough and all of eternity for that) I took one more walk around my beloved ancestral grounds and the market place, La Vucciria, for one more look before I headed away from this ancient island.
If one could say they remember their baptism, I would have to say it was on those blisteringly hot days where fish and vegetables danced their tango, where buttons and frying pans chased one another, where young women and young men courted, made love, married, had families and died in the torrent of life that is La Vucciria.
That's what was on my list of things to get at La Vucciria. No sword-fish this time, no anchovies, no ties, no pastries, no pre-artisanal heirloom DOP tomatoes. No consumables. My Marshall Plan focused on gathering memories and material for the future.
Funny, how those images are more important to me than a fast shiny car, or a carton of fresh burrata. Or a fancy Nero from Avola. The 20th century mystic Therese Neumann once said "I live by God's light." And while I am no Therese Neumann, or Empedocles, there is something wonderfully symmetrical, looking back 40 years, thrusting these images and memories into the future as if they were a guide post for something to come.
The light that I live by was once made up of silver halide crystals. Now the light is gathered by patterns of 1’s and 0’s. The brain and my soul feed upon these images. And I am kept, for a little while longer, from the flames of Etna.
In the morning, after the Sunday supper with the family, we said our farewells. Palermo, and Sicily, is my lapis philosophorum. But the train ticket says Palermo to Cosenza. So back on the (wine) trail to Italy. To Calabria. And right into the heart of a lusty, soulful, carnal, picante side that awaits this young summer traveler. Ciao, Sicilia. Alla prossima.
On to Calabria...
written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy