Our friend SUNSHINE LICHAUCO DE LEON, journalist and producer, after having visited us numerous times has send us this lovely story.
Follow Sunshine on www. sunshinedeleon.com
There is nothing like exploring Sicily through the eyes of a Sicilian. They know and love their beautiful island with a passion that is contagious and admirable. Sicilians and southern Italians do everything with extreme passion whether hate or love, and Sicilians love their home.
What we saw, tasted, felt and experienced in just a few days lingers in etched into my sense memory so deeply that if I close my eyes, I am in fact still there.
I remember driving through the countryside- I don’t remember where we were but I remember my wide-eyed excitement at everything I was seeing- as I pointed out the window to the abundance of flowers, trees, fruit, colors and nature around me. Everywhere I looked- to the left, the right and everywhere in between, there were shades of green! I remember blurting out “wow I did not realize – everything grows in Sicily.”
There are certain moments of your life you can never forget because you felt unquestionably, completely “ lost in –the moment” free.
Driving an ATV through the twists and turns of the dirt paths along Mt. Etna was one of these.
My best friend was sitting behind me, silently wondering (but not really worried) if I knew how to drive an ATV on these curvy and sometimes sharp roads- and as the refreshing wind whipped through our hair and we became covered in dust and dirt, I decided it was the perfect moment to sing!
We sang and giggled through every song we could think of with the word “wind” or mountain” in the title or lyrics- neither of us could hear each other but we were sure Etna could. My favorite off course was Christopher Cross’ ’ “I’ve got to ride, Ride like the wind, to be free again”. Feeling a special kind of alive, we were driving to nowhere and everywhere- smiling from the inside, and knowing that the volcano was smiling with us.
There is a time and place for eating everything and it turns out that homemade pizza is the best way to end a day exploring a volcano. I can still remember the warm welcoming glow of the quaint, cozy restaurant we ate at and that every bite just made me want to eat more – and I did. And then there was the wine, the wine from Etna..
I learned that the people of Sicily are a blend of opposites – very open to other cultures and hospitable and integrate easily, but they protect each other fiercely because everyone always wanted to conquer Sicily. Oh and they also don’t take any rules or government too seriously. The Sicilian language is also very different- I learned that grammatically- the male sex organ is “feminine” and the female’s is masculine.
“Backyard gardens” that grow wine and every fruit tree you can imagine. Olive trees that are so old they look like the origins of time itself.
Plants such as Bella di Notte- originally from Peru, that come alive with flowers only at night, only to hide their beauty by dawn. Fruits that come with a light warning -if you eat mature Gelsi, be careful or they stain your hands with a purple color that can be removed by washing your hands with a young version of the same fruit. Sicilian almond milk, and a man who comes daily to deliver home made granita ice cream, eaten with a brioche- dream your flavor and its there- peace, lemon, gelso..
Roses with a purpose- wondering about the rows of grapes protected by a rose bush- I will never forget learning that roses are essential because they are so sensitive to disease that they serve as the ‘alarm bell’ for anything that might threaten the grape harvest.
And after such important discoveries, an afternoon in a hammock followed by floating in the refreshing sea..
How can you not love an island that shows you so much?
Sunshine Lichauco de Leon has been a freelance journalist based in Manila Philippines for the past 7 years.
She has contributed print stories to international media such as The Guardian, Forbes Asia, CNN.com, Globalpost,com, Time.com, USA Today, NBCnews.com and the LA Times.
Sunshine has also done radio reporting for public radio programs such as PRI/BBC’s “The World” and BBC’s Outlook.When not doing reporting work, she works as a fixer for foreign TV news media, including CNN or NBC news and as a local producer for foreign documentary teams on projects for BBC Radio, Australia’s SBS, Europe’s Arte Channel, and Public Broadcasting Station in the U.S.A.