I wrote this journal entry on my first visit to Sicily, March 2007, attempting to capture the arrival experience in this first entry.
As we approach our landing at Palermo airport, we look out our window and suddenly a sharp, steep, white rock face ascends out of the crystalline blue of theMediterranean Sea. Sunlight has a special quality in late afternoon and the light on the Mediterranean looks as I had always dreamt it would. I have never seen such a shade of blue anywhere else. My eyes follow the craggy rock face down to the sea where a small village appears on a narrow strip of flat land . . . where men go down to the sea in ships . . . where they continue to fish as they have for centuries. Then the limestone rock gives way to darker shades of jagged ridges that continue along the shore in majestic succession. We had not expected this. The view is spectacular.
As we descend the stairs from the plane, a broad sign greets us: “Un Dolce Benvenuto a Sicilia” (A Sweet Welcome to Sicily). Deep breath, big smile. I can hardly believe we are here. At the exit from the airport, our driver meets us with a sign that says “Welcome Mrs. Geromina Courtney.” I swallow hard, and we follow him. At last I step on the soil of the homeland!
Our car takes us along the sea to Palermo and everywhere I look I see tall, leafy palms. Larry notices aloe and cactus and my eye catches a lemon tree and rooftop garden terraces. I hear the melody of the language again, the rhythmic rise and fall of the words.
I think, no wonder Nana didn’t want to leave and come to America. No wonder my relatives moved to places like Florida, California, and Arizona, looking for a similar environment.
The people on the street look like all of my relatives.
After a short nap at our hotel, we meet our group at the usual welcome cocktail reception. We drive through the city and see ancient buildings and many people strolling around the open places. Soon we are eating dinner at a small restaurant called Trattoria Primavera. The traditional courses are served. The servers bring plate after plate of antipasti—olives, artichoke hearts, pumpkin slices, fried cheese, and most interesting, tiny whole octopi. Naturally pasta is the first course, followed by spiedini—my favorite as a child—and salad and a wonderful sweet desert. I am engulfed in the smells of my childhood and Nana’s kitchen.