Sunday, April 13, 2008

Love, Sex & Death in Sicily

Una Favola

Quali volti nell’aria?
Pirati o mercanti, maghi o scienziati
con formule e amuleti scendono sulla riva?
Quale incantesimo ferma a Mozia
il fluire del tempo?
Forse un vento del Libano
senza memoria ridesta visioni
di un sogno d’Oriente.

Nel Tofet bruciano incenso e timo.
Tanit splende con vesti di porpora
e seni di lino.
Caste fanciulle danzano sulle brezze del mare.
Pan ha sepolto il passato con vigne, alberi e capre.
Nelle luci, nelle ombre tra vasi, anfore e steli
riaffiorano sempre canti orientali.

Oh tu,
feniceo o plebeo, che adagi i tuoi passi
nella piccola isola sospesa e sognante
in remoti millenni,
volgi il pensiero a Colei, fanciulla,
che forse bruciĆ² per te in sacrificio a Tanit.
- Vittorio Cimiotta

“Don’t go to Mozia looking for answers,” my Sicilian friend advised, “You’ll only find more questions. But by all means, go.” Those were her parting comments to me as we hugged goodbye. It would be a world far from the hazy blur of Vinitaly. But it was a must see.

I am an island lover. So to go visit an island one can walk over the water to see, was like something out of an ancient fantasy. That they had vineyards there was lagniappe to me. It being light wine was even better.

Looking back now, the only lightness on this visit would be with the wine.

Flying over the country in the late afternoon, in a small plane, as one approaches the island, the handiwork of the Phoenicians is still evident. At the South gate was the Cothon, a small rectangular harbor with an outlet to the great sea. At the North gate, the ancient causeway over the water from Mozia to Sicily still remains.

On landing in Marsala, the way to Mozia was hindered by haze over a waxing moon. “Walk to Mozia,” was the suggestion. Fortunately the tide was low, this being the Mediterranean, which had long been banished of any emotional swells. The humans were in complete control of those urges.

“You will love this island,” she told me. “At one time over 40,000 people lived on it in ancient times.” The Phoenicians chiseled this little plot of 40 hectares with ten times the population, per square meter, of modern day New York City.

Now it is empty and solemn, an urn for the lives of those who struggled for their daily bread thousand of years ago.

As an island one can walk to, there is a sense of something once forbidden now available. Some of my married friends talk about this to me, often. In the wine sense, it is more of a surprise, in that this land, over-farmed for hundreds of years, is now once again fertile and capable of producing a delicate and sensual wine. The grape is Grillo, but not in a steely, nervous high pitched manner. This first release, the union of the Whitaker estate and the Tasca D’Almerita dynasty, is an oboe in a sea of piccolos.

Am I awake or still dreaming? So close to Sicily, actually protected in a harbor, but Mozia is a universe away from my daily concerns.

Yes, it is a dark jungle, but womblike. A sense of shelter, of safety, of illusion.

The rhythm between ancient and present is hard to grasp, this island has its own magnetism, drawn from a core other than the earth. Perhaps it is the collective energy of all those followers of Tanit. The wine takes its cues from these messengers. I go back to the wine; it grows deep in the glass. Music seems to emanate from the wine, along with dense fruit and a splash of salt. There is no intervention by the winemakers in this instance. None necessary, or possible. I am smitten by this wine; I am 20 years old once more, first time in Sicily, again. This wine is a time capsule and this island is another world.

Unlash me from the mast. I must probe the abyss.

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