We are in Nicolosi, a small village in eastern Sicily about 700 meters above sea level, made of lava stone, pine trees,…
In this episode in Agira: sweaty Saints, a piece of bread, 8 days closed at home, werewolves and scented calendars!
Agira: The 12 labours to get to the Cassatelle!
Agira, Sicily interland, a village perched on a hill.
A hill that has seen the inhabitants of the stone man followed by about ten Sicilian dominations up to us, today, here, with a drone and a go-pro.
The history of this place is so ancient!
Here was born Diodorus Siculus, just before the year Zero, one of the most important historians of antiquity that traveled left and right arriving in Egypt.
Can you imagine starting from Agira, center of Sicily, riding a horse and arriving in Egypt?
Here in Agira, at the time of Diodorus, temples and shrines were mainly dedicated to the Invincible Heracles, the first Popeye in history, the hero who made his way to the cross ante Litteram through his memorable twelve labours that led him to conquer the Kingdom of God, or Zeus, or Olympus, or Cassatelle.
As a reward, in fact, had to have a cassatella of Agira, famous all over the world, with a unique flavour, from the recipe based on shortcrust pastry, cocoa, almonds, chickpea flour, cinnamon and other, practically mysterious and handed down from generations
It is a cassatella made from 3000 years of history, which mixes scents and flavors Mediterranean, Arab and also prehistoric!
As soon as we arrive they tell us there is a prodigy going on.
The statue of St. Philip Syriac, the patron saint, is sweating!
Well… if it’s not luck this.
Let’s run then and let’s see what happens.
Here it is: white tunic and black complexion.
We stand there for over half an hour…
Doesn’t sweat anymore
And then we go up to an ancient Agira , the one perched on the cliff, where surely there must be the great temple dedicated to the Cassatella!
That of Diodorus and Heracles, just to be clear.
Where house of Diodorus should stand?
We are in Piazza San Salvatore and from here you can see half central Sicily.
It is December and the coolness puts more appetite.
Let’s see if that guy with the bread will give me some.
Nar Can you give me some?
He: My sister makes it
Slurp Slurp… Good
I greet my benefactor just behind the beautiful façade of the church of the SS Salvatore, erected in the XII century,near the walls of the powerful and ancient Agira.
Within it, the latest chapter of a valuable book of history that is all Agira, an Aron of 1400, which is a cabinet sacred to the Jews that contained the scrolls of the Divine law.
We’re in the Santa Maria neighbourhood.
Right at the entrance there are the ruins of the Church of St. Nicholas: a magnificent panorama.
Here the newlyweds come and take their pictures.
From here Diodorus had to be inspired by this wonderful panorama.
From up here the view is amazing with the Pozzillo lake that acts as a shiny carpet to the majestic silhouette of Etna.
You can also see a particular place, just outside Agira: the Canadian cemetery.
Canadian war soldiers buried 10,000 and passed miles away from their homeland.
We are right in the Sicilian hinterland, 40 degrees in the summer, but this place of eternal rest certainly keeps its nordic fairytale appearance intact.
Now it’s time to sneak into the maze of the Santa Maria neighbourhood.
Jackjackfly, our drone, flies majestically over the roofs of the houses looking for some clues that will make us discover where Diodorus lived.
Every time I read a page of his encyclopedic Universal History, I can’t help but imagine him sitting by candlelight on his table, here in Agira, exactly in this area.
Can someone please invent this time machine?
We wander through a maze of stairs, alleys and silence.
Some local boys have renovated some houses and turned it into a small tourist village.
The pool overlooks an ocean, not of water but of wheat.
Some houses are inhabited, many are uninhabited and some are ruins
Like this one, that you can buy with even 20000 euros.
There are about 60 square meters to be restored.
A table and a chair are already there.
And you are in peace.
Museum, cassatelle and … a fuitina!
Uhmmm what is this?
An ethno-anthropological museum… Let’s see.
He: We represented the ancient trades. It is one of a kind because we put dummies that represent the Sicilians at work, as if they were still here with us “
It’s true: I’ve never seen anything like it!
There is the quartararo, that is the one that made the containers to take water.
He: That’s u cantaru, which is the toilet with the lid as they used it in ancient times … thats the way it was once !
This is the tinsmith with a beautiful black Coppola!
Here are some beautiful photos: The country school with the sheeps parked, the broom vendor, a farmer burned by the Sicilian sun!
Here are some beautiful photos: the school in the countryside with the parked sheeps, the broom vendor and a farmer burned by the Sicilian sun!
He: Here we have the woodshop
Look how nice, he really looks at work right now with his hair soiled with sawdust
This is the barber. Everything happened here. The guitar was played, he was also a dentist, he had leeches to pull the sick blood …
He: The barber at Christmas gave the scented calendar with the naked Ladies… So one could imagine what he wanted!
Can you believe these Sicilians!
They put perfumed essences on calendars with undressed women!
He: Look, this is the spittoon
Nar: Professor Torrisi This is an antique blender?
He: No, this was to get his enema! He put a liter of water and a little oil and put it in the butt.
Hey, what are these big underwear ?
He: They are the clothes of the first nights, luxury women’s clothes
I understand… How times just changes …
Then Professor Torrisi takes us into another room where we see a wonderful plastic model of Agira in cardboard and polystyrene.
We remain open-mouthed.
Then we close it, we thank and continue our journey.
A Sicilian out for a walk
It will be our prey
Nar: Hallo what did you eat today?
He: Pasta with tomato sause
Nar: What did you do in your life?
He: The Tramp
Nar: Is it is true that there was a werewolf here in the past, wandering around the village?
Nar: Do you believe in werewolves?
He: And why not!
Splendid Tip: Werewolves along with other mysterious characters, were part of the ancient beliefs of the Sicilians of the past, when there was no light and the night was all dark. Well then there were men who, with the full moon, turned into horrendous beasts and wandered through the streets of the cities. The nice thing about this story is that all the elders believed it even if no one said that they had ever seen one in person but only one: it was said that Mr. Mario was a werewolf etc etc.
Close to the museum, between one alley and another, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore appears.
Diodorus ghost has the keys and opens the door for us.
It is irresistible, as always, for the crew of Splendid Sicily, to climb to the bell tower.
The last step, my god or, for Heracles, is literally made of bird poop.
We gently put our foot careful not to sink and … zac, we made it again this time!
The view is marvelous dominated by that kind of abnormal Buddha sitting on the eastern side of Sicily and that is called Etna.
But now we are hungry!
The climb to the bell tower was a sort of twelve labours of Heracles, and therefore we deserve our prize: La Cassatella!!!!
The ghost of Diodorus leads us to the temple.
The two ministers are Mrs. Filippina and her husband Angelo.
At the entrance we are welcomed by a beautiful nativity scene made with Sicilian mandarins.
What we are witnessing is a real gem.
Mrs. Filippina prepares for us the recipe for the cassatelle from Agira, It’s s secret for a good part.
She: This is the conca to warm up and this is the stone oven where the cassatelle are prepared
We go inside and start a nice chat
Nar: How did you two meet?
She: I was 12 years old when he first proposed , but I was too young. It could not be
He: Yes, but I didn’t give up
Nar: And when did you give up Mrs. Filippina?
She: At 16, four years later!
Nar: She made you wait a good while dear Mr. Angelo!
She: The first wedding night the heart was beating very fast. They made 3 serenades before going to bed!
All right… Let’s go make the Cassatelle
The preparation is an art of Agira.
Mamma Miaaaaaaaaaaaaaa everyone: The Cassatelle of Agira just made!
Mrs. Filippina also makes us go around her home and shows us some photos
She: This is the picture after 8 days
Nar: What does this mean?
She: When you first got married for the first 8 days you didn’t go out, you stayed at home.
Nar: Let me see how you wore after 8 days closed at home with Angelo. Mamma mia!
Nar: Mr. Angelo I know everything
He: Not everything everything!
Thank you wonderful couple of Agira: you represent all the Sicilians.
The hospitality of this people is even more powerful than its temples and kings.
Splendid Local by Francesca Millauro of the Tourist Office
Towards Diodorus places
Now, with a full stomach, it’s time to go up to the castle.
The panorama as we go up opens onto the valley
Look at that nice chubby guy at the front door!
He rings the bells
He: Come ‘ll show you
He: I make bells for animals.
He: Even collars. This is for the cows.
Nar: All right we say goodbye now. What’s your name?
Here are the ruins of the castle of Agira!
Jackjackfly, our drone, flies over the cliff.
Here was the Acropolis of the Greek agyrion, in the fifth century B.C.
Here Diodorus and Heracles ate the cassatelle … no doubt they had to exist at that time, otherwise how would our illustrious historian be inspired?
We go back down towards the center and this time we dive into the Arab neighbourhood Delle Rocche.
An exceptional maze of alleys, arches, courtyards, stairways and clothes hanging
Ummm in this house lives a woman, a man and a little girl
This was the mosque!
Ok, now our time is over
A last jump to the solfatai circle that has no more solfatai but only the memory of this ancient Sicilian craft and a visit to the bar for two pizzas: one for me and one for Diodorus, of course.
Have a Splendid Sicily everyone!