Welcome to the homeland. 

If it wasn’t already obvious, I’m very Italian. My parents were both born in Sicily, and I’m incredibly tied to my Italian culture. It was clearly a simple choice when choosing where to study abroad. And unlike a lot of students coming abroad, I can really relate to being in this country, and it’s given me a very important opportunity to see where I come from. My parents came to visit me in Rome last week (which was surprisingly a blast), and we took off for Sicily where I got the chance to see the house where my dad was born in and the house he spent his summers in growing up in the mountains of Palermo.

My dad outside of the house he was born in!

My dad outside of the house he was born in!

This was the first time I have been able to visit his home with him, and it was incredibly special for me. My dad hasn’t been back to Palermo in 20 years, and seeing the connection he has with his roots was amazing. I really enjoyed getting to meet a lot of my dad’s cousins, and especially his last living uncle, Zio Pinuzzu. He was the sweetest, kindest old man, and when he saw my dad he started crying because he was happy. I really did feel so lucky to be there with my dad, seeing him so happy to be reunited with his family he’s been waiting so long to see.

I also got to celebrate a really amazing weekend in my mom’s town of Porticello.

The Madonna Del Lume is an incredibly important part of my family’s culture. The celebration of the patron saint of my mom’s town of Porticello, was something that I could have never imagined. We’ve always celebrated this weekend in San Francisco, but obviously on a much smaller, somewhat mediocre scale. My mom always told me about how amazing the actual celebration in Porticello was, and I finally got to experience it. My dad’s good friends from California were in Europe, and they joined us for a day as well! It was really great to share such a unique, local experience with friends. The small, boring town I always knew became alive with performers, carnival rides, food vendors, and more. Firework shows, canons going off, and marching bands were the soundtrack for the weekend. One of the festivities of the weekend is a game called “La Cantina” where young men compete by walking on a plank over the water, which is covered in soap, to grab the flag hanging off at the end! The crowd was huge, and it was a really fun spectacle.

The big feast day starting when they bring down the picture of the Madonna in the church, and thousands of people are trying to touch and kiss it, while it makes its way outside to be mounted on the platform it will be carried on during the procession. I was

The men carrying the Madonna during a 6 hour procession through the town.

The men carrying the Madonna during a 6 hour procession through the town.

right at the bottom of the big stairs leading up to the painting, and I got to touch and kiss it multiple times. It was a really emotional moment, especially having my mom right next to me. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was watching the “Acchianta ru Zarcuni”. During the feast day procession, where almost 50 men who are barefoot, carry an incredible heavy float-like platform carrying the picture of the Madonna for 6 hours, they reach a point where they have to run up a hill. They run, because the piece they are carrying is so heavy that walking would result in gravity bringing them back down. It’s a really emotional moment of the procession. People have gotten hurt in past years, having tripped or being trampled. The moment gave me goosebumps. Check out the video:

           

The church of Madonna del Lume in Porticello.

The church of Madonna del Lume in Porticello.

And of course, a trip to Sicily is not complete with a Cassata Siciliana. My nickname for my family is Kassata or Kassatina, and this is my favorite dessert, so it’s a must every time I’m in the vicinity. Look at its beauty. Another popular food in these parts is “Pane con Meusa”, or a spleen sandwich. I’ll refrain from adding the picture

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Porticello is a beautiful town, and seeing it now that I’m older (I was 12 the last time I was there) and during a celebratory time made me appreciate where I come from a lot more. I hope to return back for the festa at some point in the future, and experience it all again.

It’s really amazing to find a piece of home while studying abroad. Sometimes this place can be feel almost too distant. The time difference, the way things work here… But having my parents in Rome for a few days, and getting to travel to Sicily with them was just what I needed. Now I’m back in Rome, and it’s midterm week! Back to reality until Friday, where I’ll be heading off to Amsterdam! xoxo

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