Sunday, 25 September 2011

Any Excuse for a 'Festa Siciliana'!

September is known to be a month full of festivals in the Italian calendar and most Sicilians have recently spent their summer celebrating occasions such as 'Ferragosto', therefore this seemed like the perfect opportunity to write about the festivals which form such an integral part of the Sicilian culture. These 'feste' provide the perfect occasion for Sicilian communities to come together, share news with family and friends and indulge in the vast variety of festival food on offer. Many merchants come together and set up stalls selling everything from jewellery and clothes to paintings and sculptures. The atmosphere is always full of anticipation and excitement as everybody joins in the 'passeggiata' along the promenade or through the streets dressed in their 'vestiti della Domenica' or Sunday best!

The main highlight of the summer for Italians is 'Ferragosto' which is celebrated on the 15th August. The majority of Italian workers are on holiday over this period and journey to seaside resorts for the festivities. In Sicily, many groups of friends and family spend the night of the 14th August sleeping on the beach, lighting bonfires and participating in a traditional midnight swim. Everybody then gathers together to watch the sunrise before heading to the local café for their espresso coffee and their granita & brioche. One of my most memorable summer moments was spent doing just this on the Giardini Naxos beach in Messina..........truly unforgettable!

The main religious festival during the summer is that of Santa Rosalia, the Patron Saint of Palermo. Thousands of visitors come to the city on the 15th July to see the statue of the saint being paraded through the streets and on the 4th September devotees walk barefoot from the city of Palermo to Mount Pellegrino in her honour. At the beginning of the twentieth century Sicilian immigrants took the tradition of the Feast of Santa Rosalia over to New York to the first Italian parish in Brooklyn - the Sacred Hearts and St. Stephen's Church in Carroll Gardens. The festival has since moved to the Bensonhurst neighbourhood.

My favourite summer festival in Sicily is that of San Pietro in the town of Adrano in Catania on the 1st August. I just love the intimate atmosphere in the small piazza where the statue of the saint is carried out of the church. When it comes to choosing my favourite festival food it would have to be 'zeppole di San Giuseppe',  also known as 'crespelle'. You can enjoy these filled with ricotta cheese or anchovies  or made with rice and covered with honey.......absolutely buonissimo! :-)

Be sure to get in touch with stories and photos about your favourite summer festival!

A presto!

Debra :-)

Monday, 19 September 2011

Dreaming of 'La Dolce Vita'

Buona Sera Amici!

Firstly, I would like to say a heartfelt ''mille grazie'' to all of you who have supported Sicilian Connections in our first week online. It was a big (& rather nerve-wrecking!) step for me to publish everything that I have been working on over the past months and it truly means a lot to me that so many people have got involved.

As a thank you for sharing your personal thoughts, stories and photos with us, I would like to write about a place that is very special to me - it is actually my favourite place on the island of Sicily. For me, it is the most magical place in the world and when I am here I feel completely removed from the worries of day to day life. Piazza IX Aprile in the hilltop town of Taormina, in the province of Messina, boasts the most breathtaking panorama that I have ever seen.

I just love to sit at a table at the Wunderbar Café with a glass of prosecco or a 'granita di mandorla' and look out across the baia and the seemingly infinite Ionian Sea. You can see the beach resort of Giardini Naxos from here and there is also a wonderful view of Mount Etna.

There are often mandolin players in the piazza which provide the perfect accompaniment for watching the many boats drifting along in the water far below. I could sit for hours with the sun shining on my face listening to the romantic music of the mandolins. It is easy to comprehend what inspired great authors such as D.H. Lawrence and Goethe to spend time here whilst working on their literature. Indeed, there are often artists in the piazza looking to capture the enchantment and beauty of this location.  Another reason to visit Piazza IX Aprile is to see the charming church of San Giuseppe which looks out over the piazza and the beautiful Ionian Sea.

I'm sure that many of you have visited this wonderful destination and can understand why it holds such a special place in my heart. For those of you who have not yet visited Taormina, I hope that one day you will be able to experience its magic!

Please keep in touch and continue to share your wonderful stories and photographs.

A presto!


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Benvenuti a tutti!

Benvenuti a tutti! The day has finally come that our website is up and running and we can interact with our Sicilian Connections friends around the globe! This is the beginning of an exciting journey for us and we really want you to get involved. We will constantly be adding to our website so please get in touch with your stories, information and photos about the island of Sicily or about Italian communities worldwide.

Our blog is our way of keeping in touch with you and we will be posting about a wide range of different topics relating to Sicily. These will include information on our favourite places on the island, interesting aspects of sicilian culture and of course our favourite sicilian delicacies.............cassata & cannoli anyone?!

There is also a forum on our site for you to share your knowledge on the island, interact with others within your 'little Italy' community or simply to discuss your passion for Sicily!

A presto!!

Debra - Sicilian Connections :-)