My mother was a full-blooded Sicilian on both her mother and father’s sides. I felt a tremendous urge to visit the “paesi” (towns) of my Mom’s parents, as I always felt closer to them, especially my grandmother, Graziella. She was born in Buccheri, Sicily, a small town and commune in the Province of Syracuse (Siracusa) with a population of about 2,187 inhabitants. Even though my grandfather had always promised her that he would bring her back to Buccheri one day to see her brothers, destiny had different plans for her. Both her mother and father had died young and she was raised by her brothers until my grandfather returned there from America, where he had started the first macaroni factory in Rhode Island. He didn’t want any wife; he wanted a Sicilian wife.
My grandmother often told me she had no desire to marry and wanted to continue living with the nuns where she had been teaching Italian. That was not to be and off to the United States she went, with her brothers’ prodding, never to return. After bearing six children, she knew her dream of seeing her last living brother, Francesco, back in Sicily would not come true. I promised my grandmother I would go back to her town of Buccheri for her and visit her homestead, which she had secretly bequeathed to her niece, Concetta (Francesco’s daughter) so she would have a dowry and be able to marry. When I was 21, my Aunt Cammie who really put the travel bug in my veins, decided to take a transatlantic trip on the big ocean liner, The Michelangelo, and asked if I would like to go to see Buccheri and Buscemi, my grandfather’s town which I’ll tell you about in my next blog. I had just graduated from College and was more than excited to fulfill my promise to my grandmother. I have since returned three more times to Buccheri and Concetta still resides in my grandmother’s former house with one of her 2 sons. The first trip I actually slept in the bedroom where my grandmother had slept. What a thrill for me!!! Concetta insisted on cooking all the meals in her rustic little kitchen.
Her father, Zio Francesco, had passed away, but she gave me a photo of him to bring to my grandmother. I liked to paint back then, so I took it upon myself to paint his portrait by looking at the photograph. I gifted it to my grandmother and she hung it in her dining room for many years until she died. Some years later Concetta was able to visit the States with her son. She came to Rhode Island first. My Aunt Cammie, without telling me, wrapped the painting of her father up for her to bring on the plane back to Sicily and when I arrived there the second time I saw it “back home” in its rightful place on her small dining room wall. Buccheri was now its home.
The last time I was in Buccheri was in 2013 when I was invited to my cousin Nella’s wedding. I had been to another wedding many years prior in the Tuscan Hills but never to a Sicilian wedding in a small mountain town. You cannot imagine how exciting that was. All of the guests waited in the church square for the bride to arrive in her gown and was escorted on foot by both of her parents. A little girl and boy strewing flower petals along the streets to the Church preceded them. Her husband–to-be, Salvatore, was waiting for her at the altar. The local younger family members who belonged to a musical group in the paese were playing the Ave Maria on their violins and harps.
When the ceremony was complete the bride and groom exited the church and fireworks were set off in the square accompanied by piped in music and a long table of appetizers and champagne.
The reception was held in a villa outside of town and was so eloquent and large (over 300 people) that we ate until 2am and danced until we could stand no longer.
I have never seen such an elaborate wedding in my life that had its origins in a tiny mountain town! Who would have thought!
When you leave Buccheri, you can’t help but pass by my cousin Vittorio Calisti’s family bakery.
Next Tuesday I will take you to my Grandpa Santoro’s town of Buscemi down the road a bit from Buccheri. There are still about only 1,100 inhabitants but you’re in for a rare treat.
Have a wonderful “Sweet Treat Saturday” weekend from our THASC blog preciousartbypreciouspeople.org.