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Living in the Shadow of My Ancestors: That’s Amore

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I awake to the startling sounds of Graniti’s roosters crowing loudly from varying locations in the Sicilian village of my ancestral family. The produce vendor’s voice shrieks at a high volume through the megaphone atop his rusty, archaic pickup truck. He yells to come get your frutta e verdura fresca (fresh fruit and vegetables). The cold but refreshing early-morning mountain air briskly hits my face. I can detect a slight whiff of salt from the nearby Mediterranean Sea permeating my nostrils. I arise and head off on foot to my cousin’s pasticceria (pastry shop).

I arrive at the pasticceria, and my mouth commences to salivate for un cornetto con cioccolato (a soft, crisp, chocolate-filled croissant) straight from the brick oven. As I bite into my fresh pastry, steam escapes the lightly golden baked dough that encompasses the delicious, sweet filling within. I sip a hot, tasty cappuccino, loaded with a generous amount of raw sugarcane dissolving in my “pick-me-up,” until I see the bottom of the cup. I then return home to put on my swimsuit, ready to go to la spiaggia (the beach) for the afternoon.

Hopping on my Vespa, a smaller version of a motorcycle, I speed off toward the resort town of Giardini-Naxos, up and down winding roads that cut through the mountains leading to the beaches below. Following a quick eight-kilometer (five-mile) ride from my parents’ house to the sea, I arrive at my destination. As far as my eyes can see, there’s a bevy of ragazze belle (beautiful girls) lying along the sea’s coastline. Their gorgeous, bronzed, smooth skin is glistening with tanning oil. Like me, they bathe in the brightness and warmth of the Sicilian sunrays. I enjoy a large glass or two of sangria, made with the ripest grapes, strawberries, peaches, apples, honeydew and cantaloupe the island has to offer.

Around three in the afternoon, I return to my ancestral village with a beautiful, young Italian woman that I’d struck up a conversation with while at the beach. During our conversation on the beach, she tells me that she has never visited the shrine to St. Sebastian, Graniti’s patron saint. After a visit to the shrine, we stroll around la piazza, otherwise referred to as the town’s center. By then, night has fallen. We socialize with others who are hanging out underneath the illumination of the stars and the moon.

Sadly, it is my last night. Tomorrow, I board a plane at the Catania-Fontanarossa Airport on the first leg of my journey back to my home in Swedesboro, N.J. I console myself by remembering that someday soon I will return to my ancestral village.

Guest writer Robert Cannavo grew up in Swedesboro, N.J., home to a large Sicilian-American community. He studied Italian in high school and college. Together with his parents and younger sister, he spent summers in Sicily with their extended family. He remains strong in his desire to foster the preservation of Italian heritage and culture for future Italian-Americans.

Greg Mathias
Author: Greg Mathias

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