We arrived in Sicily this afternoon from Rome. Our excitement was dampened when we discovered a two-hour delay in people waiting at Hertz to rent cars. The scene was a madhouse, including two men who came close to blows after one picked up a low-numbered ticket off the ground to skip ahead in line. Hertz left dozens of travelers in total chaos with only two people working the desk for much of the time. Once we got our car from Hertz, we discovered that Auto Europe had sent us a GPS with only North American maps. I kid you not. I spent an hour on the phone only to get Auto Europe to confirm what I already knew: their GPS would only take us to locations in North America because no one at Auto Europe loaded European maps. We ended up having to rent a GPS at the Catania airport and set out almost 4 hours late.
The problem is that the delay meant crossing Sicily in the dark. Cianciana (where my grandparents were born) is in the mountains. The final stretch is a harrowing 17 mile road with sharp curves along the side of a steep market in the total darkness. The road was built for carts so there is not enough room for two cars. However, the added space is found over a cliff on a Sicilian mountainside. Suffice it to say, we were in great need of a meal and a bottle of wine.
We pulled in the Villa Platani and set out to find a place to eat. We ended up in the Canadian Pizzeria run by Maddalena Chiazza (a name close to my family name, Piazza). Maddalena was born in Canada but returned to the town of her family’s roots in Cianciana. Her father, Vincenzo, was a barber in Canada and named the restaurant in honor of the country that welcomed him as a young man. I was able to speak to Maddalena and, despite two delicious pizzas, two beers, and a bottle of wine, she would not allow us to pay for dinner. I was a paisan returning to the village of my family.
We sat outside of the church in the center of this town of roughly 3000. It is the same church that baptized both of my grandparents and we sat next to the fountain where my grandmother would get water as a little girl. At ten, the families of Cianciana ended into the streets, strolling and greeting each other. Teenagers sat and talked on the steps of the church while men gathered on door stoops and corners. It is an evening like most in this town going back hundreds of years. As I sat by the fountain in front of the church, I could easily see my grandparents running around much like the children of Cianciana today. It was a genuine and a true moment in a world that has become far to artificial and affected.
Tonight I will got to sleep in Cianciana, the village of my grandparents. Or, as Maddalena made so clear to me, my village.