Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sicily ~ The Oldest Kid in Italy

Of all the places in Italy, Sicily is the one that scares me the most. I have cancelled trips to Sicily because I was afraid something was going to happen. I have gone to Sicily when my bones were sore from a car wreck. I have driven a car in the streets of Palermo and Catania, which is questionable for an able bodied person. I have stared at dead people, their skin dry, their eyes missing, their bones falling off their skeletons. I have walked on mosaic floors that were laid thousands of years ago. I have gazed up at ancient temples, the sun glaring back. I have walked the streets in the heat in the dark with a bum leg, with the legs of youth and with the gait of one who is no longer young. And all through it ancient Sicily kept getting younger.

There are books about the carousel around Sicily. I have done it time after time. This time, carefully planned, we went from Palermo to Partinico to Segesta to Sambuca di Sicilia. After that we went to Licata, to Butera and then to Piazza Armerina. Then we climbed the road to Etna, in time for a storm of biblical proportions. We were in places with names like Linguaglossa, Passopisciaro and Randazzo. After the sun came back out, we headed to the center of Sicily to Sclafani Bagni and then to Campofelice Fitalia. We saw relatives and then we climbed the hills of Corleone before heading to Camporeale. We finished up at Isola delle Femmine and Sferracavallo before our group disbanded.

We saw temples where we picked up pieces of painted shards the size of a little fingernail, made thousands of years ago, discarded with so many other pieces of unrecycled history. We peered into ancient trash heaps and saw old glass, old bones and older dirt. And all along the way I kept thinking how young Sicily has become in the 40 years I have been going.

We visited wineries that make millions of bottles a year and we visited wineries that make a barrel. And each and every one of the winemakers exhibited a deep commitment to making the best wine they could for the mission they had set. Whether it was a wine that had been sitting in a barrel for 20 years or a wine that was fermenting and would be bottled in three months.

That’s what wine is to me. Not just the peak moments. But also the moments in between, when a soul is simply looking to quench their thirst.

Will Sicily ever satisfy her thirst? I don’t know what I will see in my lifetime. But I do know this. Sicily has been doing this a long, long time. I am here for a brief moment, like all of us. Sicily may seem old to many who visit, what with all the antiquities scattered like so many discarded dreams. But Sicily is an adolescent who is testing its limits. Twenty years ago it might have been with Code di Volpe. Ten years ago it might have been with Chardonnay. Today it might be with Nerello Mascalese. It doesn’t matter. It’s the process. And for anyone who had ever been in a hill town in Sicily during Easter, Sicily is all about the procession.

It’s a long walk. I’ve been lucky to walk along that wine trail in Sicily. The roads are not always paved and sometimes they just end, like that. But there is always a way around, a way to get to the mountain top, to see the sunrise or the sunset and to be part of something wonderful. Sicily may seem old, but it’s the oldest kid in Italy and it’s just getting started. And that’s just fine by me.

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