Sicily with its high, rocky and dotted by large inlets and gulfs, northern coasts or with its sandy beaches and a southern coast generally uniform with extensive beaches, is the perfect example of the southern Italy naturalistic riches and landscape variety. The hinterland is an alternation of splendid and fertile hills with arid and barren areas. Sicily is a land of plains, such as Catania’s plain or Conca d’Oro’s plain where Palermo extends, and it is a land of volcanoes: the Stromboli, Vulcano and Etna, whose snowy top is also observable from the Aspromonte in Calabria. Its archipelagos and smaller islands also offer unspoiled nature and crystal waters.
Trinacria, the ancient name of the region linked to its triangular shape, witness with its history and architecture a past made of domination and cultural contamination. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Normans have left signs of their passage over the centuries, making Sicily a land to be discovered.
A Journey Into The Senses: Eastern Sicily
Clear Waters: Taormina and Isola Bella
Land full of suggestions, smells, flavors, changing and varied landscapes. The geographical and naturalistic Sicily’s conformation, made of sandy or high and rocky coasts, of hills and volcanoes, that make the land barren and clayey, makes it a fairytale setting for weddings.
Thanks to the Mediterranean climate Sicily has long and hot summers and mild winters. According with the tradition the rites doesn’t take place in May or August, this superstition is found in Ovid and its linked with the Roman’s dating system which devoted, first, the month of May and then August, at the commemoration of the deceased.
Now, this superstition is part of the traditions that still maintain an aura of ancient charm and suggestion. But Sicily’s temperature allows you to enjoy the sun and the scent of orange blossoms and citrus fruits in every season.
Eastern Sicily for its variety and natural contrasts, is perfect for those who dream of unique and exclusive scenarios.
Taormina, located on a hill, is known for its beauty and architecture. From the Monte Tauro’s Castle it is possible to embrace the Ionian coast up to the Strait of Messina, to the north, the valley and the slopes of Etna, until observe, in the distance, Catania.
The city, full of narrow streets and glimpses, testifies with its architecture the passage of the various peoples who have crossed and contaminated it, from the Greek-Roman Theater, to the San Pancrazio’s Domus, till the Sicilian Gothic art with Arab and Norman elements of the Palazzo Duchi di Santo Stefano, up to the example of Renaissance represented by Casa Cipolla.
Taormina, was the destination of the European aristocracy’s Grand Tour since the 17th century, has the reputation of being a crazy and cosmopolitan city thanks to the presence of artists and whimsical aristocrats who had chosen it to create “cenacles” and to have fun, and today, still exist different festivals, meetings and debates, with Italian and international guests linked to the world of literature, cinema, philosophy, art and music.
The city elegance, its natural and artistic wonders have made it a coveted set for national and international film productions. From Antonioni’s L’avventura who made a stop in Piazza San Domenico, to Pietro Germi’s Divorzio all’italiana for a scene shot in Sant’Andrea’s Capo with a view of Isola Bella, up to Besson’s Le grand bleu in the San Domenico’s Cloister or Woody Allen’s The Goddess of Love at the Ancient Theater.
Isola Bella, the “pearl of the Mediterranean”, is a suitable location for exclusive receptions by boat or on the beach, with its lush nature and the crystal sea, recognized as a natural monument, for its historical, naturalistic and cultural value. The Isola Bella’s beach, in the south of Taormina, is unique. The island or peninsula, depending on the tides, is connected to the coast by a thin strip of fine sand. The pearl of the Mediterranean is covered with lush and fragrant vegetation while starfish and corals inhabit its clear waters.
Val di Noto: Noto
Following by south you come across the Val di Noto and its late Baroque cities, declared by Unesco World Heritage Site.
The eight cities – Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa and Scicli – represent a synthesis of the late Baroque taste and elegance and the uniformity of the architectures, especially religious, determined the exclusivity of the entire Val di Noto.
Perfect setting for the ritual and reception is the the Baroque’s capital: Noto.
The entire historic center is crossed by a long artery, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which is accessible from one of the city gates, Porta Reale, a triumphal arch designed and built in occasion for the visit of Federico II, King of the Two Sicilies.
The beauty’s village must be discovered by getting lost among the small baroque streets that open onto palaces such as Palazzo Ducezio or the opulent Palazzo Nicolaci with its imposing portal, its two large Ionic columns and the balcony characterized by grotesque figures in carved stone, to then find oneself kidnapped observing the imposing Cathedral of San Nicolò, the main center of worship, an eighteenth century baroque jewel, that dominates the entire historic center.
Continuing towards the remains of ancient Eloro and the Vendicari’s wildlife oasis, the look will inevitably be lost on one of the most beautiful beaches in Italy: Calamosche Beach, with an unusual and wild charm. A small corner of paradise nestled between two rocky headlands dotted by caves and cavities, a bay with clear and calm water.
Michelangelo Antonioni chose Noto, and above all the San Carlo church’s bell tower thanks to the view on Piazza Municipio, for the set of L’avventura. But it is not the only production who choose Noto as the main set of a film: Vittorio De Sica shot in the streets of the village Il viaggio; between Noto, Catania and Etna was filmed Franco Zeffirelli’s Storia di una capinera, while Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Palazzo Giavanti were the scenarios for the Tornatore’s Malèna.
Customs Between Tradition and Superstition
In this land people have still kept the traditions concerning marriage and the days before. Some customs are present in a more widespread way, others, according to the areas.
In Noto, for example, it was the custom for the pretender’s mother to come to the girl’s mother with a loom comb. The woman borrowed another type of comb and, depending on the affirmative answer or not, the comb was different. In some areas, however, the approval of the wedding was linked to the custom of the serenade under the balcony of the girl’s home, if the father opened the windows, the wedding would have been celebrated. In others, a stump of prickly pear (called “zzuccu”) or a brush was placed in front of the girl house and the object would have been rolled on the street if the marriage proposal had been refused, in case the object had been brought into the house, then it was considered well received.
In Modica wine was poured in front of the spouses’ house, while, in Mazara del Vallo wheat was thrown instead of rice.
Sicilian traditions also concern clothes. In the nineteenth century the bride’s dress was not white but blue for Terrasini’s women, while those of Syracuse decorated the blue dress with a red coral necklace and a yellow gold crucifix. In Milazzo the dress was enriched with wide sleeves, ribbons, pearls and jewelry. Furthermore, the dress was left with a relative or to the bride’s best friend: only on the wedding day the woman will deliver the dress to the bride.
Before The Rite
In Sicily, as a sign of good omen, during the days preceding the rite are celebrating some marriage traditions, passed down through generations and still present in different areas of the region.
“A Sira re Letta” (The bed’s evening)
All lights are on in the wedding house and it is open to friends and relatives invited for the celebration. Guests are welcomed into the bedroom set up for the occasion. The sheets of the wedding bed are white and a pillow with wedding rings is placed in the center. Furthermore, gifts are exchanged in the room. However, this practice has been lost and today the wedding room is closed until the first night, as happens in the rest of Italy, and the spouses cannot see each other until the day of the rite.
The Gifts Table
Still alive the exchanging gifts custom before the ceremony. The gifts are placed on a table, next to the sweets to be offered to the guests.
The Vagghiata di li Robbi (the trousseau’s estimate)The custom consists of inviting the future groom to make an estimate of the outfit offered by the bride’s family. The dowry was composed of: the living room, favors, invitations, dress and the whole house outfit. The objects are placed on the bed and the groom is invited to verify that everything correspond to what was promised. If the expectations were not met, the marriage could be canceled. The rest of the furniture and the house, however, belonged to the groom’s family. In this case all the objects were already arranged inside the house.
During The Wedding Ceremony
Usually the rite is celebrated in the afternoon and to go to church a car is not used but instead a Sicilian chariot, which makes the wedding more rich in ancient charm.
The groom waits for his fiancée in the center of the nave and at the bride’s arrival he gives her the bouquet and then walks together towards the altar.
There are two bouquets, the first used by the bride at home for photos and for the small ritual forms preceding the real celebration, the second, the one offered by the groom, is “the bouquet”, it means, the one that will be tossed at the end of the ceremony.
Sicilian Traditions: Convenience and Fuitina
In the past, marriage in Sicily was not tied to sentimental and romantic reasons: families agreed on grounds of convenience and economic advantage. For this reason, was important the figure of the matchmaker or paraninfo (“paraninfu” or “u sinsali”), who, for a fee, took care of stipulating what were a real agreements.
The woman had to be honest and with a good dowry and, possibly, had to be from the same country.
Another way to get married was the fuitina, the escape. Men and women decided to run away if the origin’s families were against the marriage.
Sicily still testifies into its architecture an history made of contamination and domination, of rich culture and tradition. It was the region that saw the birth of the first Parliament through the work of the Normans, and in Sicily there was the most important popular revolt of Europe, that of Vespers (1282).
The history of Sicily is the history of the first Indo-European civilizations that inhabited it, the Sicilians or Sicans, and their contacts with the Mediterranean people thanks to Phoenicians who settled in western Sicily founding Palermo, Solunto and Mozia.
The central and eastern part of Sicily instead was characterized by the Greeks presence starting from the eighth century, whom founded cities like Taormina, Syracuse, Messina, Catania, Gela and Agrigento.
Remains of the Roman’s passage and culture, of which Sicily was a province in the third century, are found in the Roman Villa del Casale’s mosaics in Piazza Armerina, and in the Roman amphitheater in Catania. Moreover, the passage of the Byzantines and Arabs is testified in the architecture and in some naturalistic elements in Syracuse (Byzantine Baths) and Palermo (especially the so-called “Islamic gardens” of Palermo). The Arab domination is testified above all by the presence of different species of plants, citrus fruits, fragrant flowers, such as jasmine, and palm trees. The Arabs were succeeded by the Normans who created the first modern state on the island, very suggestive and splendid with the superb cathedrals of Monreale, Cefalù, Palermo.
After the Normans, the Swabians, under the Emperor Federico II, spread the Italian literature in Palermo with the Sicilian School.
The Swabians were succeeded by the Angevins and later by the Spaniards, with the Bourbons who remained in Sicily until 1860 when, with the Thousand enterprise, they joined to the other Italian regions.
Sicily is a land of history, perfumes, uncontaminated nature, culture and traditions … ideal setting for crowning your dream.