La Bedda Sicilia

December 8, 2010
By fmacaluso BRONZE, Decatur, Georgia
fmacaluso BRONZE, Decatur, Georgia
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

One of the things I take the most pride in is my heritage. My father was born and raised in Palermo, Sicily, which is the large island that makes up most of Southern Italy. My whole life has been immersed in this beautiful culture, from the food we eat at home, to the ways we celebrate holidays, to little Italian sayings we commonly use around the house ('bedda' is the Sicilian word meaning beautiful). Possibly the biggest perk of all has been the many trips I've been fortunate to take to Sicily and parts of Italy to see my dad's friends and family.

This past summer I visited Rome, Pompeii, Naples, and many different Sicilian towns including Palermo and Caltanissetta with my family. Though this is the fifth or sixth time I've visited Sicily (the third or fourth time I've been to Rome), the wonders of these truly beautiful places had a greater impact on me because this is the first visit over which I've been old enough to really absorb everything. We saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, and the Vatican to name a few. We spent extra time in places such as the Sistine Chapel and the Trevi Fountain. I've seen these incredible architectural feats in books and pictures, some even with a younger me propped up on a parent's shoulders, smiling at the camera. Yet never before have I truly felt such a heart-wrenching sense of appreciation. I can recall the trip like it was just yesterday; hear the splashing of water as it tumbles out of a stone fish's mouth; hear the pitter-patter of feet running up and down the Spanish Steps. Though I'd love to go back and visit the same places again, as well as visit many that I missed on the trip (there are countless small churches, each holding small secrets from the ancient times), there is one monument which I'd pick over all the rest: Saint Peter's Basilica.

I first stepped into Saint Peter's around five in the afternoon (Central European Time) after a long day of touring the Vatican museum. I was tired and had recently suffered a severe back injury, so it was all I could do to stumble around Rome's cobblestone streets. After receiving approval from the “humility police” (church officials who check to make sure your attire is appropriate to enter a church), I stepped into the air-conditioned dome to witness a kind of beauty I never knew existed. I believe my first thoughts were centered around the sheer size of the place. I can't imagine being propelled up there for weeks upon weeks, chiseling away at the marble and stone or painting infinitesimally small details on religious figures. The richness of the bright reds, blues, and golds with which the walls and ceilings are painted paired with the grandeur of the statues is overwhelming. So much so that I made my parents accompany me to Saint Peter's a second time. I wasn't nearly satisfied with the mere hour we had on the first trip there. Though it's doubtful to me that I'll ever be so amazed by a building ever again, I did encounter countless more breath-taking views on my vacation to Italy. The next type of astounding beauty I'd see was in Sicily, and it was all natural.

Sicily is known for its beautiful women, decadent fine wines and desserts, lazy island culture, and unusual terrain. The many mountains of Sicily seem to instantly drop off into the ocean. Many of its beaches are completely free of sand until the water gets very deep. The rough, rocky coastlines may not be the most comfortable for suntanning or barefoot shoreline walks, but they do make the perfect environment for clear, deep blue waters that are teeming with wildlife (the kind that doesn't sting). One day just after we had arrived in Sicily, my family and I made the short car ride from my grandmother's stuffy apartment in Palermo to Capo Zafferano (Cape Saffron), a small beach town where one of my father's childhood friends lives. My brother and I, accompanied by two of our friends who live in Sicily, made the perilous trek down a steep mountain slope that drops into a paradise of a bay while our parents sat and chatted. The warm Mediterranean sea felt refreshing, as opposed to the frigid Atlantic Ocean that gives you goosebumps all over. We snorkeled through the waters, picking up sea shells, plants, and the occasional sea urchin. Every time we'd resurface for air, we'd hear the sound of laughter and music from people on boats echoing off the rocky walls. Scenes like this are not uncommon on a summer trip to Sicily; there are hundreds more places like this that we visited, and even more we did not, on Sicily's coast. It's the most beautiful place in the world to me.

Like every young person (and many of all other ages), I want to travel the world. But the place I wish to visit the most is my dear Sicily. I've grown comfortable in the sights and sounds of an ancient place with decades of stories to tell, in its museums filled with artifacts, and in its landscapes. Most importantly, I feel a strong tie to this place because that's where my father and his family are from. I've been so fortunate to travel there many times, and even more fortunate to be able to call this place, at least in part, my home. This summer's family vacation was an eye-opening experience for me and one I will never forget.

The author's comments:
Sicily is a truly magical place. It has awakened in me an appreciation for nature and ancient architecture, as well as a deep sense of pride in my Sicilian heritage.

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