Photos, Thoughts, and Stories
From My Trip to Sicily
September 17 - October 12


Sicily is a land of contrasts. It is both violent and gentle. The land, formed by fire, earthquake and volcano is pushed up, broken off, its crust thrust in all angles and its mountains are eroded and bare in places. Stones are exposed. Hills are sharp and jagged, all showing an ancient upheaval of earth and land. And, yet there is a tranquil nature to this island. Waves of wheat and wildflowers sway in the Sirocco breeze and race up the graceful slopes and over the hills. Villages cling to mountain tops, walls washed white, exposed to the burning sun. Aqua blue waters surround white beaches. The land is dry and parched from May to October as the unending sun changes green to brown. Winters bring rain from the west across the island causing streams to appear and rush to the sea. The earth absorbs the showers creating mud and clay which clings to everything. And through it all are the people; the Sicilians. I was told that the Sicilian language has no future tense. I was struck by this and didn't understand why until I read the history of Sicily. Now I understand.

" Be patient now, Chevalley, I'll explain in a moment; we Sicilians have become accustomed, by a long, a very long hegemony of rulers who were not of our religion and who did not speak our language...

In Sicily it doesn't matter whether things are done well or done badly; the sin which we Sicilians never forgive is simply that of 'doing' at all. We are old Chevalley, very old. For more than twenty-five centuries we've been bearing the weight of a superb and heterogeneous civilization, all from the outside, none made by ourselves, none that we could call our own. We're as white as you are Chevalley, and as the Queen of England; and yet for two thousand and five hundred years we've been a colony. I don't say that as a complaint; it's our fault. But even so we're worn out and exhausted...

This violence of landscape, this cruelty of climate, this continual tension in everything, and these monuments, even, of the past, magnificent yet incomprehensible because not built by us and yet standing around like lovely mute ghosts; all those rulers who landed by main force from every direction, who were at once obeyed, soon detested, and always misunderstood, their only expressions works of art we couldn't understand and taxes which we understood only too well and which they spent elsewhere; all these things have formed our character, which is thus conditioned by events outside our control as well as by a terrifying insularity of mind."

Prince Don Fabrizio Salina

'The Leopard" by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa


I spent the first night of this trip in the mountain town of Erice. Located just east of the port city of Trapani, last year I was given a tour of Erice by my friend Giovanni Montanti. His father was mayor of Erice when Giovanni was a boy. Erice is a mystical village, first founded by Phoenician priests and later conquered by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Normans. Each civilization dedicated the town to their priests and mystics. Erice is nothing short of a magical stone fortress town on Sicily's west coast.

Trapani from Erice Trapani from my Hotel Trapani at Night Dawn in Erice Dawn Looking North Morning on Erice


On my first full day I traveled south along SS115 through the towns of Marsala and Mazara to the ancient Greek [Doric] ruins at Selinunte. These ruins mark the westward extent of the Greek influence on the island of Sicily. It was also the hardest settlement to defend from the Carthageans and it changed hands many times until it was finally conquered by Carthage. Selinunte has some of the best preserved Greek ruins in the world.

Selinunte The Doric Ruins Sicily's Temples at the Sea Selinunte Inside the Temple Classic Greek Temple

Agrigento to Siracusa

On my second day I traveled from San Leone and Agrigento east to Siracusa on SS115. In Licata I took photos of the terminus of the river Salso. The origins of this river start on my cousin's land: Santa Caterina LoDico in the Madonie mountains. In mid September the area is still hot. Temperatures this day reached 85F and scattered thunderclouds threatened rain, but some of the most beautiful countryside was between Vittoria and Avola where farms were lined with white stone walls and everywhere were lush gardens of fruits, cactus, olives and grapes.

Licata and the Sea The River Salso Licata Looking North Avola Avola Looking North Ortega Island, Siracusa Siracusa

Siracusa -Ortega Island

Ever since my first visit to Sicily I was asked if I had visited Siracusa yet. This trip I stayed two days and two nights in this beautiful ancient town in the Ionian Sea. Siracusa is one of the most ancient of settlements and the third sister city of the Greek Empire after Athens and Sparta. This is the birthplace of Archimedes. I stayed on the island of Ortega which juts out into the sea. To the north is Mt. Etna. The beauty of Siracusa lies in its narrow stone streets, broad piazzas, wonderful restaurants, spectacular courtyards, and countless excavated ruins, statues and monuments.

Ortega Island Siracusa's Sea Wall Looking West Siracusa Fortress Walls
A Courtyard A Siracusa Piazza Statue to Diana Diana Courtyard Gate
My Hotel Museum Courtyard Greek Ruins Side Streets Main Piazza

Siracusa -Mainland

On my last day in Siracusa I traveled off the island and went west to the main part of the city. I toured the Roman and Greek amphitheaters and most of the statues and monuments. The ancient Greek stadium is one of the most impressive in Sicily.

Siracusa Art Roman Theater Theater Greek Amphitheater Amphitheater Amphitheater Amphitheater View from My Hotel

Southeastern Sicily

On the fifth day I rose early and drove inland on SS124 through Florida and Vizzini to Caltagrione and then northward on SS117 to Piazza Armerina. In Piazza Armerina are some of the best examples of mosaic works in Sicily. From there, SS117 winds north through Enna and then across the autostrada and up into the Madonie mountains. This is the lands of my LoDico ancestry. On no less than three occasions I was asked if I was Sicilian on this trip. Each time when I said yes, I was asked where. When I responded: The Madonie and Petralia Soprana, I received the same comment by Sicilians: "The people there are very kind".

Vizzini Piazza Armerina Teatro Garibaldi Piazza Armerina Duomo Church Enna

Santa Caterina LoDico

Located just 2 km north of Petralia Soprana is the frazione known as Santa Caterina LoDico. Most of my relatives live here and the rest have a second home here or live quite close by. I lost track of the size of this land. Over the next three weeks I was taken to many tracts of land belonging to my LoDico relatives. Some were up in the mountains, accessible only by four-wheel-drive. Some were to the north or east and were filled with vineyards, fruit orchards or cow pastures. For the next three weeks I lived here, I ate here, and I worked here. Not once did I eat in a restaurant and the only food I ate that was store bought was the pasta, the pastries, and a few breakfast biscotti. These photos are views of the various homes and structures in Santa Caterina LoDico.

Santa Caterina LoDico Church Homes Newer Home Main House Stone Road Santa Caterina

The true beauty of this land lies in the views. All the homes are surrounded by a beautiful vista of gently sloping hills and fields. From the mountains in the northwest, the land runs down to SS120 and then down past the homes to the beginning of the river Salso. Then the land slopes up again, rising to the other side of SS120 towards Gangi. In April and May these hills are green and lush. Now in September and October they are shades of brown. The following photos are taken from just outside the front doors of the homes. These views are what you would see while standing next to the houses. Just about all the land is within Santa Caterina LoDico.

The View South Looking East East Southeast Future Golf Green Santa Caterina LoDico Rainbow

Petralia Soprana

I don't think there is a more beautiful, untouched mountain town in all of Sicily quite like Petralia Soprana. For those Sicilians, who know their island and know their people, to continually say "The people of Petralia Soprana are very kind" is a very special tribute. The great Roman philosopher Cicero wrote, around 100 BC, that the people of Petra Heliae, who had sided with the Romans against the Carthageans in the First Punic War, were a gentle people who deserved the protection of Rome. Now that I have spent time in Petralia Soprana, a month in 2005 and again for almost a month in 2006, I am struck by the closeness of all the people to each other. Everyone, from the oldest citizen to the youngest child interacts with each other. One cannot walk down a street or pass a person without being greeted with a 'Giorno'. This is the town of my ancestry. This is where my LoDico ancestors lived and walked on the same cobblestones streets as I do now. This is Petralia Soprana.

Petralia Soprana City of Two Castles A Madonie Jewel View from the East View from South Petralia Soprana Panorama

Festival of San Cosimo & Damiano

On September 27th I went to Petralia Soprana with my cousins to celebrate the Festival of Saints Cosimo and Damiano. My cousin Pietro was dressed in a suit and took me into town. There was a large open market set up in town with food, clothing, household goods, and many other products. The highlight for my cousins was the 'Americano' food offered by some catering vans. There were greasy hamburgers, and fried foods of all kinds. My cousins were surprised I passed on all of it. For them it was a treat. For me, I had visions of the next home cooked meal awaiting me that night back in Santa Caterina LoDico. We walked to the S. Maria di Loreto Church and awaited the town band and procession. This was the first time I saw the entire town band in full uniform. In this town of 3200 people about 200 were involved in the musical band. I saw many now familiar faces: the local butcher, the man who kept the church keys, a banker, a baker. There were very old men, young girls, all ages. I was struck by the thought of how close the lives of these people, these Sopranesi, are to each other. Here, they practice in the band, they rely on each other to produce a musical score; just as in life, they rely on each other to produce a close knit community. I have four cousins in the band, two play instruments and two are in the color guard. As the doors opened to the church, the statues of the saints were brought out and the band followed the statue bearers through the streets of the town. My cousin Pietro grabbed my arm and indicated for me to get in line and I joined the procession.

San Cosimo & Damiano The Procession Color Guard Musical Band

The Sopranesi

My first visit to Petralia Soprana in April / May 2005 was, in many ways, a life changing experience. After almost six years of genealogy research on my LoDico ancestry, to be able to spend a month in a small village of stone, perched on a mountain top, in the Madonie and find my relatives, to have them open their homes, their hearts, and their lives to me and my brother was truly an overwhelming experience. But, the people of the town of Petralia Soprana, the Sopranesi, as they call themselves (just like a person from Boston would call themselves a Bostonian) also accepted me. Not once in a month did I ever get a sideways glance, or a curious stare. Not once did I not receive a greeting from a person who passed me by. From the oldest woman or man to the youngest child, I always was greeted with a 'Giorno' or 'Sera' and 'Tutto a Posto" (you ok?or all in place?). In a way, I was the first returning person from America to come back and search for my roots. I met the mayor, and many people knew me as the American who returned.

I met a few townspeople back in 2005. Here is a story or two about some of them.

Signore Antonino Albanese
I met Antonino Albanese where one would meet most Sopranesi, in the town piazza. He sought me out one morning, came and sat beside me and told me the story of his life. He opened his wallet and showed me his photo ID from 1940. He was a sailor, a submariner, in the Italian Navy and on September 14, 1944 (yes he knew the exact date and time) his submarine was sunk by the Germans. This was 2005. On my visit in 2006 I saw Antonino one day and called out to him by name. We reintroduced ourselves to each other. I asked him how he was. He looked at me. He was a tall thin man, always well dressed in a suit and tie. He drew himself up, tucked his thumbs behind his suit lapel and said "I am 88 years old" and then smiled and did a little jig of a dance.

Signore Vaccarella
In 2005, almost every day I spent on the main square (Piazza del Popolo) I would see and talk with Signore Vaccarella. He did not speak one word of English and I didn't speak much Italian, but we always greeted each other and through gestures and simple words, we had a conversation. Mostly it was just about the weather or temperature. I would guess he was 75 years old, and like most older Sicilian men, the piazza was a meeting place. As my time in Petralia grew short, I saw him one day just before I was to leave. He came up to me, smiled and said (in perfect English): "Hello Michael, how are you today?" I was shocked and touched. Somehow, somewhere, he had learned to say this, for me.

Leonardo Cancillari
Before I even went to Petralia Soprana in 2005 I began an email correspondence with a Leonardo Cancillari from Petralia Soprana. He wrote and understood English and helped me get lodging in town for my 2005 visit. He was disappointed that he would miss me for the first 2 weeks of my visit. He would be in Germany, but he offered to let me stay with him during the last 2 weeks. This was perfect timing since my brother would be leaving to return to America the same day Leonardo would return to Petralia. One day, just before I was to leave on my trip to Sicily in 2005 I found Petralia's musical band web site and notice Leonardo Cancillari played a clarinet in the band. So, when the day came to go to Leonardo's I asked my cousin Mimma to take me. She asked me, "Do you mean Leonardo Cancillari who plays in the band?" 'Yes" , I said, making a playing the clarinet gesture (my Italian was nonexistent in 2005, now it is just very bad). So off we went to Leonardo's house. He greeted me with open arms. We hugged, he offered me food and wine, he played the clarinet, the accordion, and hooked his computer up to an electric organ and he sand me songs. I even sang 'House of the Rising Sun' for him. It was the only song he had in English. Hours passed but I had some concerns. Leonardo did not speak any English. Not a word. Finally I asked Mimma, almost in desperation, "Are there two Leonardo Cancillari?" She said "Yes, the other, his cousin, is in Germany"
Here was a total stranger who opened his door to me and entertained me for hours, just like I was a long time friend. Such is the way with these Sopranesi.
The story of this Leonardo Cancillari continued when I returned in 2006. One day while in town with my 16 year old cousin Rossella, I heard my name being called and I turned around to see Leonard. He remembered my name. he came up to me and hugged me, asked me how I was. He said, as my cousin Rossella help translate, "I knew you would return!" He smiled and said, what I clearly understood without any need for a translation: "You feel it Michele, don't you? When you walk the street, where your ancestors walked. You feel it. It is in your blood, no? You had to return, yes? And do you know why?" I looked at him and asked, "why?" He grabbed my arms and looked at me and said, "Because you are a Sopranesi" I hugged him back. I had tears in my eyes. I looked at Rossella and she was crying, then Leonardo had tears in his eyes.

Making Wine

I told my cousins Pietro & Leonardo in a letter back in November 2005 that I would return to Santa Caterina LoDico in October 2006 to pick grapes and learn how to make wine from the Sicilian Masters: Don Pietro and Don Leonardo. What I didn't know that we would wind up picking 83 crates of wine and making 1000 liters [500 gallons] of wine. Here are the photos to prove it.

Grapes on the Vine Pietro's Harvest Wine Crates Tractor & Crates Grapes The Grinder
Grinding Grapes The First Crush More Grinding All 1000 liters The Grape Press Hard Work
Pietro & Graziella Removing Stems Final Press Pour & Store The Last Drop New Barrels

Picking Almonds

Santa Caterina LoDico has two large almond orchards. Back in May 2005 I help plant three new almond trees in one of the orchards. Right after the first rain in late September 2006 we picked the harvest. large nets were placed under each tree and then we used large sticks to knock off the almonds. After gathering them in sacks, we took them back to the main house. A separator was used to remove the almond nut from the husk. The separator was hooked up to a tractor drive shaft which spun a wire coil inside a barrel. The almonds were fed in one end and out the other end came the cleaned nuts. Here is a look at the harvest.

Nets Orchard Sacks Knocking Gathering Separator Pietro, Carmelo, Maria Santa Finished Nuts Drying

In the Madonie Mountains

Some of the best times I had in Santa Caterina LoDico was when Pietro and I went into the mountains. My cousin Pietro is quite a character. At age 64 he always has something to say, always there to make a joke. Of all my cousins I found Pietro the hardest to understand. I am not sure if it was how he spoke (Italian or Sicilian) or what he said, but it was difficult for me to understand him. Until we were in the mountains. Then for some reason I understood what he was saying. Maybe it was because he spoke slower. Maybe it was because the words were simpler. Maybe it was because he spoke from his heart. In those Madonie mountains, in his mountains, on the land of his grand father and grand mother, he spoke clearly and I understood him. One time we searched for some stray cows. Another time we watered and weeded a garden. Once we went mushroom hunting. While yet another time we went hunting for rabbit with the dogs. Here is a photo collection of those times.

Pietro's Melons Pietro's Squash Always Joking Beans Weeding Tomato Sauce Sauce
Rosario's Press Squeezing Grapes Table Grapes A BBQ The Family Sandro's Clarinet The 3 Cuginos
Get that Rabbit Wild Mushrooms Pietro's Fungi Lilly Into The Hills Parco Madonie Mountain View
  The Madonie Alpine View   Panorama Madonie Park Sicily's Park


My great grandfather Francesco Paolo LoDico settled in the village of Bompietro around 1855. This is the town where my grandfather Ignazio LoDico was born. Bompietro is about a 25 minute drive south of Petralia Soprana. On the outskirts of the village is a street named Via LoDico. It borders a large field and garden. My great grandfather only lived in Bompietro for about 20 years and by 1870 he had relocated to Marianopoli. Here are some photos of Via LoDico in Bompietro.

Cactus Our House Via LoDico Street Sign Home View South Gardens Cactus Fruit Bompietro

Sclafani Bagni

One Sunday my cousin Leonardo, his wife Franca, and two daughters Mariella and Rossella took me to the town of Sclafani Bagni. This is where Franca was born and we visited her family. The village of Sclafani Bagni sits on top of a large rock. It is a beautiful mountain top community with the ruins of a large stone castle at the top. I spent almost the entire day and evening with Franca's parents, five brothers and sisters and their family. Here is the beauty of another one of the jewels of the Madonie: Sclafani Bagni

Caltavuturo Mariella & Rossella Franca's Family View South Ancient Piazza
Sclafani Bagni The Church Stone Houses Streets of Stone View East
From Castle Top The Village Below Castle View Down View North Sclafani Crest
Chiesa Madre Stone Cliffs South San Filippo Church San Giacomo Church Castle on Hilltop

San Mauro Castelverde

One small village of stone, nestled high in the Madonie range is San Mauro Castelverde. One rainy afternoon I drove past Gangi and went to see this village. I spent about four hours in this village, taking photographs and taking in the views. This is San Mauro.

San Mauro Looking Northwest Small Piazza Borrello North Alley View Church Gangi

Termini Imerese

On October 3rd I drove to Termini Imerese to meet with a genealogy research group. The group has one thing in common: we are all Americans with our ancestors from Termini Imerese. My mother's side of the family all came from Termini Imerese. The family names are Mormino, Gentile, Sansone, and Scarpaci. Here are a few photos from Termini Imerese.

View from my Hotel Termini Imerese View from Church Chiesa Madre Statue Aqueduct Mormino Street

Feudo Tudia

Located about an hour south of Petralia Soprana, on the way to Marianopoli and Villalba, is the Feudo know as Tudia. This large farm was, many years ago, owned by rich land barons who employed many peasants and sharecroppers. One of my oldest LoDico ancestors served as a 'campiere' [armed field guard] for the Marchese of Tudia. These photos were taken of the surrounding farmland and the main house.

Feudo Tudia The Road to Tudia Signs to Tudia Main House Front View Front Gate The Farmland Farm


The town of Blufi is and will always be very special to me. This is where the origins of my LoDico ancestry began. My first recorded ancestor: Cristofaro LoDico was a 'campiere', employed by the Marchese Pottino in Blufi. In return for his service, Cristofaro was given the land know as Malpasso. If you haven't noticed by now, I am rather fond of cactus. Don't ask me why but ever since I was a child I liked cactus. When I moved to California in 1973 I took my old van, a box of clothes, my motorcycle and my cactus plant. Blufi probably has more cactus plants than any other town in Sicily. There are cacti everywhere used as hedges, road markers, fences, and decorations.  Located in Blufi is the Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Oils, built by the Templar Knights around the first century. On the Sanctuary grounds is a 'sacred zone' and a cemetery. There is one large stone crypt in this cemetery and it bears the names of my LoDico ancestors. Here are the photos of that Sanctuary and cemetery, taken in 2006.

Sanctuary Rectory Door & Cactus Front Door Sacred Zone Cemetery Entrance
Cemetery Stone Crypt LoDico Crypt Crypt Names LoDico Ancestors


NOTE: All photos on this page were taken using my Pentax Optio 50 digital camera and saved at 1.5MB - 3.5MB file size. If you wish a copy of the original photo, please contact me by email. Original photos are suitable for enlargements and desktop backgrounds.