The story of Sicily told by the storyteller: from year Zero to nowaday
In this episode in Bisacquino: the American dream, the Saracens, the Grand Tours, tic tac tic tac, many many fava beans and pasta n’caciata
Here we are in the birthplace of Frank Capra
Bisacquino, western Sicily, a village of 5000 inhabitants, with a fascinating past.
Mount Triona dominates it, among the waving and relaxing hills of the Sicilian hinterland.
Here was born Frank Capra, the child who took the ship to America and who became a director and won three Academy Awards.
Here too Ray Barone had his descendants so much that a Bisacquino aunt goes to visit him in the episode My Family, remember?
I guess she never married and she lives in a little place called Bisacquino.
It’s in Sicily, near Palermo.
She’s got no phone, no address but you can write to her care of El Ufficiado Postale the village post office.
And today, visiting Bisacquino, we will follow in the footsteps of the relatives of Frank Capra and Raymond Barone.
We are just a few steps away from Palazzo Adriano and Corleone, two other Hollywood Oscar’s locations, Nuovo Cinema Paradiso and The God Father.
Capra was just 5 years old when his family embarked in search of a better future.
The child will never remember anything from Bisacquino and his most remote childhood memory is the water, the ocean.
He will dream about it repeatedly.
Frank Capra had an exciting life that took him literally from the stables to the stars, impersonating the “American dream” in the collective imagination, the emigrant who arrives to success.
Here we are today in Bisacquino, his small town, in a still ancient Sicily linked to traditions.
Ummm, let’s see what those elders tell us.
Nar: How does it feel to stay here in Bisacquino?
He: One who feels good, is always good.
Nar: Many are away?
He: Yes, many have emigrated, students and workers
Nar: Do you remember the story of Frank Capra?
He: Frank Capra was a villager, but he brought no wellness in town . Indeed he came, ate, drank and left.
Walking the past
Bisacquino is a village that has a strong Islamic imprint of alleys, courtyards, and lots of stone.
The Muslim domination of the 9th century left profound signs in Sicily.
It is always exciting to wander in the past and in Bisacquino it seems that time has really stopped in its historic center.
Circolo dei Civili 1842: uhmmmm let’s see who is in here.
Hey, is there anybodyyyyy ???
How nice, how romantic.
Perhaps us women in 1842 were not allowed to enter here!
These are photos of the ancient Bisacquino.
In this social club you play cards, you chat in the sofas, you read the newspaper and you play billiards.
It is still early and there are not many members inside.
In the third room we find a person sitting.
He: Good morning where are you from?
Nar: I am from Corleone, you?
He: I am the priest Ignazio Pizzitola of Bisacquino.
The historian Totuccio Selvaggio points out a precious seventeenth-century map of Bisacquino.
Let’s find out more.
We are now in Piazza Triona and the mind takes us back to the 18th century when the traveler Jean Houel arrived in Bisacquino.
We imagine him here, sitting on a stone to admire the façade of the Mother Church: “It is a Baroque more beautiful than that of the Val di Noto,” he even said it.
The inside of the church presents extraordinary work of art.
Irresistible, for the Smashing Sicily troupe, to climb the bell tower.
Hey, it’s all dark here!
Here we are finally at the top: hello bell, don’t ring now please!
We are back in the village.
Let’s see if we can have a chat with that lady who just bought bread.
Nar: Do you remember Frank Capra?
She: Not so much i’m from 1947
Nar: Do you have family members that emigrated?
She: Yes, my children are far away
And even today it is difficult to find work in the hinterland.
You may not be looking for the “American dream” like Frank Capra’s father, but you’re looking for the same luck elsewhere.
They ring the bells and I start to feel a bit hungry,
Who knows what the locals have prepared for us to eat!
Let’s see what those senior citizens tell me
Nar: Good morning, what were you talking about if I’m not too nosy …
He: Doctors, shots, diseases
Nar: Do you by chance know Aunt Sarina Barone?
He: No, we’re younger, ask the older ones.
Bisacquino in Everybody loves Raymond
Episode: My American family.
Who are you? – La signora Barone?
La signorina Barone.
I’m sorry, I don’t … This is the letter that we wrote.
Are you Aunt Sarina from Italy?
Aunt Sarina! What a beautiful child!
What did she say?
I don’t know. Just hug her.
Beans and clocks
We walk through the village and retrace the powerful past of Sicily that is Bisacquino, with its alleys and
courtyards, strongly evokes all the dominations that have taken place here.
Now I am an Arab peasant from the year 1000 who returns home after planting olive and orange trees in the countryside; or I could be a Norman of the year 1200s who has a jug of water on his head just taken in one of the many springs that flowed in the village; or perhaps I’m a rich Aragonese noblewoman of the 1500s who meets the population by bringing gifts to the children.
Nar: Good morning
She: What are you doing?
Nar: We are walking around … can I come up?
Nar: Good morning. What are you doing?
She: And what should I do, at a certain age …
Nar: I’m playing a game, I saw some hanging clothes and I have to guess who lives here … I think you’re two.
She: Yes, my daughter and I. Do you know her?
She: She was by the nuns, where there are the old ladies …
Nar: Can we go to the balcony?
She: For me you can look out
Nar: Ok … what are you preparing …
She: I am alone and I also can make myself muddica di pasta squarqta which is plain pasta with some bread crumbs
Nar: Of course, the important thing is that you eat … Here you have a nice balcony
She: Yes … I got married, then there was no work here. My husband went to Germany to work, he worked and sent something for the family
Nar: That’s how Frank Capra got rich …
She: Yes, yes. …. So we bought the houses to stay inside and not pay rent. We had a tough time .
Nar: Thank you, you were very kind and hospitable.
She: Can I offer you coffee …
Nar: Thank you, you are very kind, but we will continue our walk.
She: Goodbye and we wish you good health.
Here we go …
Hey, look how many beans!
Nar: Good morning … I’m taking a walk through Bisacqino, did you pick the beans for me? …. How does it feel to stay here?
Nar: Are you coming back from work? What do you do in life?
He: The farmer …
Nar: Is it time to eat already?
He: Almost … around noon, one … Goodbye
We are now in Corso Umberto I.
Uhmmm, how many clocks!
Nar: Good morning. Are these clocks still for sale?
He: No, no
He: These are the clockss that my grandfather, my father and my great-grandfather built.
This is the universal geographical clock, which was designed by my grandfather over 100 years ago and created by my father Instead this is the clock that we provided for the director Luchino Visconti in the movie “The Leopard”.
Here is the clock that we have in the square and is four times this. It has quarter and hour ring tones. Then he rings at Noon, Midnight, eight in the morning for us young people to go to school and eight in the evening was considered the Hail Mary.
This is the Archimedean wheel through which the Awakening and Retreat sounded.
Bisacquino was an oasis in a desert because there was this clock factory, the lock factory, the knife factory and the sickle factory …
My great-grandfather then also built the lock on the door and this is the key of the 1865 … the last words of his will were “all the goods I’m leaving as a legacy are worth nothing if a man is missing the first requirement that it is honor “.
How much ingenuity in this place!
The ingenuity of Sicilians from the hinterland, a forge of thought for thousands of years.
All these clocks made me hungry, more than the bells from before!
Let’s see what time is it?
Okay, it’s time to go eat.
But first let’s say hello to that gentleman on the tractor …
Nar: Good morning, you picked up the beans
He: If you want some please take them
Nar: Thank you very much … I was looking for relatives of Frank Capra and Raymond Barone …
He: I don’t know what to say, I don’t think there are relatives … Who is Raymond Barone? … Then take a seat
Nar: Thanks … I’ll take some … thank you but that’s enough
He: I picked them up a little while ago
Nar: Thank you very much
He: Good bye
A gorgeous meal
Ok, now enough with the beans and we think of something more substantial to put in the belly.
I’m a woman but I’m hungry now like a Sicilian farmer who spent the day planting beans, of course!
We arrive in a very welcoming farmhouse, we breathe scents that you can only feel in this land.
It looks like a museum
Many, many objects of rural culture have been collected by the owners…
But let’s sit at the table … you can’t resist at the Sicilian cuisine …
Tommaso Di Giorgio, Mayor of Bisacquino
Bisacquino is a village that has a thousand-three hundred years of history, with a medieval shape, very beautiful, well cared for and with a warm welcome from the peolple that you will never forget. We are waiting for you in our village.
What a nice meal and hospitable people.
Nar: What is this?
He: Pasta incaciata … fryed meat, boiled eggs, grated and chopped cheese, traditional dish … a complete lunch
Even the dog is nice even if he thinks he is a snake!
The very nice Anita makes us visit this fascinating farmhouse
Here you will be struck and intrigued by the many frills, by carriages, by the mysterious stories of the Saracens who lived there.
This wonderful estate of King Ferdinand I of the Bourbons was purchased by the owners in 1817.
He: the door was made in 1848 before there was none … here there is the cobblestone because the animals entered even with the irons … and from here they entered in the stable. Since there were both cows and goats, if the cows entered before the goats, they ate the food of the goats … thast why the goats came in here and ate … then afterwards the door was opened and the cows came in … ..
Okay, with a full belly, I’m going back to my walk to Bisacquino.
A woman should always take care of her shape but here in Sicily it is impossible.
At least for me.
Look at this street: it’s named after Frank Capra because his family lived there before they emigrated, in 1903, when Holliwood’s most famous director of all time was only 5 years old.
He, Mamma Rosaria and Salvatore the father, who was a fruit vendor, and his other 6 brothers.
John Ford said of him: an inspiration for those who believe in the American dream.
Certainly, the bisacquinese Francesco really was a parable of a crazy life.
Here we are at the museum. Let’s see.
It is a beautiful museum that collects the history of Bisacquino from prehistory to the present day.
There is also a room dedicated to Capra that also recalls the welcoming to the city dedicated to him when he returned 74 years later: the band, the memorial plaque, the keys to the city, the speeches and lots of newspaper articles. That day there were also 46 relatives waiting for Frank Capra and one of them had a partition wall of his house torn down to make a living room where to host the Italian-American director for dinner with his relatives. This is Sicilian hospitality!
Bisacquino, what a beautiful name!
It comes from the Arabic Busackuin which means rich in water.
And rich in ingenuity, a millennial ingenuity.
Betty Scaglione Cimò: “Today I am in an old farmhouse from the 1600s. Bisacquino is full of artists and artisans who work with ceramics, who reproduce ancient Sicilian knives, who paint, who embroidered. Come and you will meet them all “
Unfortunately our day is ending.
Jack Jackfly, our 4-legged drone, gives himself the last flight over the marvelous sanctuary of the Madonna del Balzo, from the 1600s just behind the village.
An enchanting jewel of the Sicilian hinterland.
Here we are again in the square.
The previously empty social club are now crowded.
The elders play cards and look curiously at this woman who enters their kingdom.
Meanwhile, a lady became aware of our presence and shows us her beautiful house for sale for just 36 thousand euros.
These are the prices in inland Sicily!
The afternoon is also the time to get the chairs out of the house and form the famous Sicilian outdoor lounges.
They all chat and get together.
All you need is a chair and you’re set.
Oh yes … here in Sicily it is as if time never passed …
The mild climate, the blue sky, the cheerful companies keep us young, playful and always lively, as at an early age.
Goodbye Bisacquino and thanks for the wonderful day you gave me.