It is fortunate that when the time came for the Burnetts to entertain guests, they were in Sicily. Sicily did not disappoint!
Without realizing it ahead of time, we all happened to be in Messina during its biggest festival of the year. This consisted of a combination of the “Parade of the Giants” (a celebration of the founding of the city,) “La Vara” (a Catholic procession,) and Ferragosto (some sort of Italian bank holiday.) Why have just one party, when you can have three? We are learning how Sicilians think.
We missed the actual parade, but we saw “The Giants” positioned outside of city hall. These statues reflect the history of Sicily, being built as early as the eighth century and then being restored numerous times as different natural disasters partially destroyed them. In fact, everything in Sicily has a remarkable resilience this way, with three-foot long placards outside of each building detailing what parts were reconstructed after this or that raid, earthquake, or fire. In other words, nothing seems to completely destroy things here, and nothing seems to stop people from rebuilding. Just ask the people who live in the bustling town at the base of Stromboli, an active volcano that erupts every ten minutes.
The story of “The Giants” is quite a progressive one, we thought, with a woman and a Moor founding the town. In contrast, the “La Vara” procession clearly reflects ancient traditions, requiring men (and women, likely a recent modification) to pull this giant, clearly heavy, sculpture on a sled through the town by rope, in the middle of August. Of course, as non-Catholic Americans we heard the word “procession” and instantly equated it with “parade,” explaining our utter surprise when we saw a giant float show up without a full marching band preceding it.
The Burnetts entertained their guests with a trip to Taormina, the Sicilian seaside resort town. We snapped our pics of the amazing views from the Greek theater and got out of there quickly, as August is the worst month to be there if you don’t like throngs of people. We found solace in the quirky mountain town of Savoca, watching a Sicilian funeral procession through the hills and noting the lemon trees, fig trees, prickly pears, and grape vines all included in a few city blocks. We found our way to some catacombs which featured see-through coffins of people buried in the 18th and 19th centuries, but they unfortunately banned pictures. Greg and Mel’s favorite was the guy from the 1800’s buried in his best pin-striped suit. Allie liked the guy with the partially-intact, rotting ear, and Tommy liked the guy dressed as a vampire. Oh yes, Allie will do something medical.
We took our guests for a sail their last day in Sicily, and after being hosts ourselves we had the pleasure of enjoying some Sicilian hospitality. For those not in the know, Sicilian hospitality is American hospitality times ten. The Burnetts met up with the parents of a colleague of Mel’s who happened to be physicians in Messina, and even though we had never met each other before, we were shown a great night on the town. And all while our hosts were jetlagged from a trip to America!
Currently the Burnetts are floating next to Panarea, an Aeolian island with a personality all of its own. More on that later!