Beyond the eclectic architecture, street food and the scintillating atmosphere, I and my friend found that shopping for souvenirs added to our knowledge about the charm of the Sicilian culture.
For example, we saw this ceramic Sicilian Trinacria, just about everywhere in various colors, sizes etc. It is the Sicilian symbol which has a gorgon head with hair intertwined with serpents and ears of corn or wheat. From this head, there are three legs bent at the knees which radiate from it. The three legs represent the three corners of Sicily, Messina in the northeast, Syracuse in the south, and Marsala in the west.
I learned that the many pottery pieces with the sun motif is meant to convey the importance of the Sicilian sun in the creation of the soil that produces the specific type of clay needed to make the famous Maiolica pottery.
In the windows, we kept noticing different versions of a man and a woman planter, frequently sold together. A shop owner explained why these women planters are all over, sometimes along with a white faced crowned prince with a mustache even though the main character in this maiden’s story is a dark, handsome moor.
Here is the legend: Over a 1000 years ago, the Moors were the wealthy conquerors of Sicily in the Arab quarter of Palermo. According to the tall tale, a rich Moor merchant observed a lovely young maiden taking care of her balcony garden. He fell in love to where he then proceeded to woo and seduce her. After she returned his affections, she somehow learned that the Moor planned to return to his home country to be reunited with his wife and children. The night before he was supposed to leave, she approached his bed with a butcher knife. While he was sleeping, she cut off his head and placed it on her balcony. She planted basil seeds in the skull and soon her lush basil plant was overflowing with growth that never ended. It became the envy of every woman in the area.
Everywhere that one looks, there are Italian glazed potteries of all types and styles such as dishes, plates, figurines, planters, and furniture made with various designs in stunning colors. I found out that this beautiful pottery is called maiolica. The method for creating this line of pottery was brought to Sicily by the Arabs of North Africa during medieval times. Today, the art of making Maiolica or Majolica pottery pieces is most active in the Sicilian towns of Santo Stefano di Camastro and Caltagirone.
Another item that we saw over and over again were the Sicilian (pupi) puppets. I read up on this subject to discover that since the 18th century, the Opera dei Pupi (the Sicilian puppet theater) has been the Sicilians’ version of the soap opera. These puppets can be the size as depicted in the picture or even that of an adult. These realistic looking characters are intricately carved from beach, lemon or olive trees. They are made with flexible joints so that they can move their swords, do battle, cut off heads, ride horses, etc. We were so enthralled by this cultural icon, that we purchased tickets to see a puppet show, Opera dei Pupi di Palermo at Via Bara All’Olivella, 95 Palermo, +39-091-323400.
The show that we saw had life sized puppets that interacted in their parts with very complicated movements manipulated by exceptionally skilled puppeteers. The speaking parts were delivered in Italian but we were able to follow the story line which had to do with the legend of King Charlemagne, his heroic knights of Orlando and Rinaldo who were vying for the attention of the beautiful Angelica. Some of the scenes involved the king’s knights in fights battling with Saracens over and over again as they toppled all opponents while demonstrating their prowess on the horse. They even saved Angelica from a sea monster. The dramatic themes involved a lot of stamping of feet, treachery, unrequited love, the search for justice, lots of sword fighting and cutting off of dragon heads.
During one of our strolls through the winding narrow Palermo streets, we came upon the Museo Internazionale delle Marionette at Piazzetta Antonio Pasqualino 5 which is a puppet museum that houses over 3500 marionettes/ puppets from Palermo, Catania in Sicily and Naples as well as from all over the world. We were able to sit along with an Italian classroom to watch a puppet show on the top floor in a beautiful traditional theater with a hand-cranked music machine.
One fruit product that we saw entire stores dedicated to was the lemon. We literally saw lemons the size of a soccer ball. There were numerous products made of this fruit but the most popular was the alcoholic beverage, limoncello.
Limoncello Lemoncello, Limoncella) Recipe – Food.comhttp://www.food.com › Recipes › Beverages Limoncello, Sicily’s signature liqueur, is easy to make at home. Perfect for those hot summer days… a cool explosion of the senses. This is the best Limoncello recipe I have come across, I think the secret that makes this one stand apart is the addition of the zest from one lime. Please use organic lemons and limes for this recipe. If they are not organic soak them in water for 1/2 an hour or so before zesting.
Sicily – Italian Pottery Outlet http://www.italianpottery.com › Paintings Giallo Girasole; San Lorenzo; Toscana Bees; … Home / Paintings / Sicily. Sicily. … The Italian Pottery Outlet is a direct importer of beautiful, …
Caravella limoncello – The Tasting Panel Magazine http://www.tastingpanelmag.com/Publication/SWS-NV/…/The-Perfume-of-the-Peel.aspx Lemons from Sicily are thought to be the best in the world, and even the L.A. Times has opined that “the very best limoncello is made in Sicily.”
Limoncello di Sicilia « Distillerie F.lli Russo http://www.russo.it › Home › Products › Typical liqueurs /The most typical liqueur of our beautiful Sicilian island, produced by Distilleria F.lli Russo s.n.c.at Santa Venerina, province of Catania, certainly is Limoncello…