April 5, 2018
That’s the word that came to me as I stood on the rooftop terrace of our Airbnb in Taormina, Sicily the day we arrived. In the days that followed I got confirmation of that sense almost everywhere I went. Like this image of the Teatro Antico in Taormina, a Greco-Roman amphitheater where concerts are still performed today.
Or a terraced ravine to allow farmers to cultivate a land that is anything but flat.
We were very lucky to be in Sicily during wildflower season. Imagine bicycling down a country lane, with orange trees on the right, lemon trees on the left and wildflowers everywhere in between. In the southeastern corner of the island, fields, orchards and greenhouses stretched as far as the eye could see. We were told that Sicily provides 10% of all of the fruits and vegetables consumed in Europe, and grows them year-round. Based on what I saw, I can believe it.
But the wildflowers! Wildflowers and orange trees. Wildflowers and olive trees. Wildflowers and horses! Even the cactus were blooming.
In fact, a number of wars were fought over control of Sicily because of its fertile farmland. Starting with the arrival of the Greeks in 750 B.C., then the Romans in 500 A.D., the island changed hands a number of times until finally becoming a part of the Italian empire in the 1860’s. The legacy of Greek and Roman rule can be seen in the amphitheaters and temples build by those civilizations that remain today, particularly in Taormina, Syracuse and Agrigento.
Even the architecture has its own name - Sicilian Baroque. A massive earthquake in 1693 leveled many of the existing buildings. Local architects, trained in the Baroque style in vogue in Italy, adapted it primarily for cathedrals during a time when the Catholic Church was extending its power and reach. Baroque architecture is distinguished by its flourishes and flamboyance, interplay of light and shadow, and other theatrical effects that enhance a sense of size and grandeur. The Duomo di San Pietro in Modica is a good example of Sicilian Baroque architecture.
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