The story of Sicily told by the storyteller: from year Zero to nowaday
In this episode: Gina the mule; blond mustache; the groom on the motor scooter; stairs, priests, fava beans and lawyers
Demetra and the Thesmophoria
The Sicilian sun shines high between the prickly pears and the wheat fields of the inland.
There is Leonforte, down there: another Sicilian village with miles of history ink.
Greeks, Arabs, Normans, etc., etc. in this Sicily of a thousand fathers and a thousand mothers.
Around here Apollo drew his chariot and grazed his flock.
In these parts were celebrated the Tesmophores, a festival for women only, based on sacrifices and various rituals in honor of Demetra and her daughter Kore who, always near here and near Pergusa, was kidnapped by Hades and taken underground, in the underworld.
You understand where we are now!
Today, 2500 years later, there is a tractor that makes us understand that here we are definitely in the countryside.
Here the soil has a particular humus and some products have a different flavor, known all over the world, among which stand out the fava beans and peaches.
Of course: the sacred cows grazed here!
And even their poop wasn’t supposed to be bad, apparently!
Jack Jackfly, our four-legged drone, flies high above the stone roofs of Leonforte, trying to peek something through the hundreds windows of the houses.
You can see alleys and courtyards, trees sprung up casually among the houses, and people who go up and down the narrow streets of this village wrapped in the most authentic Sicily.
Here we are.
Hey, look over there!
There is a gentleman with a horse.
Let’s catch him!
Nar Hallo you got me curious, where are you going?”
He “I’m going home”
Nar “Do you live here?”
He “No, in Nissoria. I came here to buy the food for the animals in the countryside and I’m going back to Nissori”
Nar “Mamma mia, but they are over five kilometers”
He “I do it almost every day”
Nar “What is the name of the horse”
He “It’s a mule: it’s called Gina”
OK let’s go
The man who smoked too much!
Come on Jack, fly over Leonforte and let us know if there is any place we have to catch.
We continue from down here.
Ummm … what a narrow street.
According to me, looking at the clothes hanging , a man and three women live here.
Let’s see a minute and ask the owner.
Ma’m … Ma’m …
No one is here, maybe she went shopping.
Peace and quiet.
In these inland villages every twenty houses, nineteen are not inhabited.
But if you are looking for peace and quiet … well, then you are in the right place.
There is a beautiful carved stone that adorns several houses in Leonforte.
It often dates back to the 1800s, when everything was different here.
We arrived in Piazza Branciforti and that is Palazzo Branciforti, the lords of the town, the famous Sicilian nobility, that of the Leopard.
When it was no longer the foreign populations who divided Sicily, the Sicilians themselves, the aristocracy, dominated the people.
Here the Branciforti family founded Leonforte, in 1610.
This was their palace.
And this was the stable, another splendid construction where the prince bred horses.
His bust remained above the beautiful door.
Both buildings are now reduced to shreds, divided between different families.
In this square the aristocracy of the town gathered between sumptuous carriages and elegant dresses.
Just a few steps away from the civil power was the religious power, the Mother Church commissioned by the Branciforti family of course, by the elegant and simple Baroque.
There is a gentleman sitting in front of the church.
He got me curious.
Nar Listen, hi, I was impressed by your blond mustache. Why are they blond?
He I smoke, smoke …
Nar What did you do for a living?
He The barber.
Among narrow alleys
This is Via Torrione, right next to the Branciforti palace.
We are in the Leonforte of the past, where the stone has taken inharmonious geometries created by centuries of wind and water.
The houses are next to each other, the streets are very narrow, all the doors are open, the calm is absolute.
Narrow aisles of life, like in a casbah, the smells of one house penetrating the other, the moods of a house that spreads in the next one.
The very Sicilian religious of the hinterland build shrines near the houses, like this one here.
The via Torrione continues its zigzag descent.
A stone snake and low houses.
Many houses are not inhabited, in these parts with not even 20 thousand euros you can buy one
Look how nice!
Clothes hanging from one side of the street to the other.
Ummmmm … let’s see if this time we guess how many people live in this house.
Nar Goodmorning M’am according to me, besides mom and dad, there are two boys
She No, it’s just one. But makes a mess for ten.
Nar How is it living here?
She It’s great, it is absolute serenity. This is the old part of the village and we are just a few that live here .
We continue our walk.
A staircase after another, lower and lower, with the view of the valley that opens up more and more.
Below was the reign of Apollo with his lyre and his flock.
Uhmmm what a beautiful balcony.
And what a lovely little square.
And how I like the stone with the grass growing on it.
It takes you back to the past … who knows how it should have been in these parts
Can someone decides whether or not to invent the time machine !!!
Broom broom Vespa!
We continue to go down and finally here it is, one of the great masterpieces of Leonforte: the Granfonte, a spectacular fountain with twenty-four mouths from which the water comes out copiously.
Built in the 1600s, it welcomed the people from Leonforte who returned from the countryside.
And right in front of it, up high, the palace of Prince Branciforte, both undisputed symbols of Leonforte.
Nar Is this water good
In these parts today there is also a marriage.
The groom arrived on a Vespa!
There he is!
Nar Hello, excuse me, are you the groom?
Nar You are marrying a Leonfortese
He That’s right
Nar “Moglie e buoi dei paesi tuoi” which is wife and oxen from your same town and it means that it is better to choose one’s partner among the people who live in the same place.
He We’ve known each other since we were young
He Today’s lunch is all Sicilian, based on local fresh produce.
Here is the bride, here is the bride !!!
But what is she doing she’s leaving?
The motor scooter remained alone with the Branciforti palace to keep an eye on her, from up there
Nar Ma’m you got married here in Leonforte?
He Yes, but not in this church
Nar Did you elope?
Here here, is the bride that returns
The father hands her over to the groom, and a new Sicilian family is about to be born.
La pasta col macco: buonissima!
The wedding made us hungry.
We were invited by our guide’s house, Irene Varveri, a sort of writer, painter and tourist promoter of Leonforte.
Ennio cooked, her husband, who for the occasion baked focaccia, cookies and Leonforte’s main dish, known throughout the world: pasta with macco, a sort of fava bean sauce.
He it’s fried and then slowly brought to a boil with the fava beans, until it becomes a sort of velvety. And then it all comes together, but the bean must be Leonforte’s, otherwise will not come out right.
And certainly, we have already said it: we thank the humus of the sacred poop of Apollo’s sacred cows!
Before sitting down at the table, Irene shows us around the house and shows us her Sicily made by a book and by a painting.
The air of the hinterland has inspired and continues to inspire the Sicilians.
The pasta is delicious and Marcello, our operator, has eaten three dishes!
Irene Varveri, Touristic office and Cultural Department of Splendid Sicily
Coming to Leonforte it’s worth it, it’s an ispiration. It is the Sicily of the hinterland, Sicily without the sea, Sicily of the hills, of wheat. It is the Sicily of fava beans and lentils. Come and discover our traditions and our hospitality.
Stairs and Saints
Fly high Jack over the heart of Leonforte.
Be careful Jack, you have a full stomach with all that food at Irene’s house!
Here we are in Piazza Margherita, with its typical four cantons.
Here is one of the most curious and photographed images of Sicily: this staircase
A zigzag of stone and iron that joins the lower part with the upper part.
One of those works that only after having created them do you realize that they have an aura of magic and the result of no one knows what.
They are alchemical and nothing else.
This has inspired artists from all over the world.
Nar Goodmorning, feel this staircase is beautiful
He There is one here too, and one over there
Nar What do you do in this social club?
Nar What did you do for a living?
He The farmer
Nar What class are you?
He From 1935, I am 84 years old
Nar Listen but is it true that once there were bandits?
He Once upon a time, there were
Nar And what did they do?
He They robbed
There are those who are playing cards.
Let’s go bust their chops, come on!
Nar Hello whose winning here
He One wins and one loses
Let’s go up the magical staircase.
Every landing you find a little door.
The usual curiosity assails us.
And we ring.
The lady, after some quick preamble, as a good Sicilian is convinced to show us her home.
We are fortunate to catch an important house.
This show, is totally based on a sort of continuous improvisation, and lives on these unexpected fortunes.
The lady tells us that this was an inn that gave refreshment and accommodation to travelers.
Here came a very popular man of 1800: Cardinal-traveler John Henry Newman.
In this inn he fell ill and found a certain spirituality following a vision or something like that.
Priests stuff, you know.
Nar Put yourself in pose and I’ll take a beautiful photo.
With these blue eyes what did you do to women?
Ahhh … what a beautiful day here in Leonforte
Just two steps away from the square there is another historical place, often inevitable in the Sicilian villages: the social club.
Here are some of the most bizarre and intellectual characters of Leonforte.
The figure of the lawyer stands out among all
He I’m approaching the 90 years of age , despite the jings that are out there
He I was born in April in spring
Nar With these blue eyes what did you do to women?
He You’ll see that when you are my age, the desire of women continues, but then if the woman is interested, how will that make you look?
The President, who is also the doctor of the lawyer, and who also tells us that the lawyer has never had a disease and even smokes like a Turk and makes us go around the beautiful halls of the Lyberty-style social club with prestigious furniture among which some chairs of the legendary Ducrot furniture factory in Palermo.
Before leaving, the lawyer gives us a book of his with an autograph.
Now it’s time to go.
We have known wonderful people as usual and we have been greeted worthily by the descendants of Apollo.
Only Sicily can give you these emotions: simple emotions but never banal