Today we bid farewell to lovely Cianciana and our radii familiari. It has been a wonderful three days in the village of my grandparents and I truly leave with a heavy heart. For those who want a truly authentic experience, Cianciana (population 3300) is the place to be. You can walk the streets at night filled with the sounds of children and men talking in coffee clutch circles. It is a different world that you can only see by traveling deep into Sicily and staying in one of these small villages.
We stayed in a perfectly wonderful guest house called the Villa Platani, run by Clive and Teresa Bullock. Both were born in England though Teresa is from a Sicilian family. They live in the house and make everyone feel like family. The house has its own interesting history. The house is next to the convent, which is one of the oldest buildings in the area. Prince Joppollo was sent by the king of Spain to rebuild the town after an earthquake and he built the Convent called S.Antonio di Pavada in 1690. In the mid 1700s, the royal Spadofora family faced a scandal. Their daughter eloped with a local man and became pregnant. The family solved the problem in vintage Sicilian fashion. She was made a nun at the convent, but they built the home next door for her family. A tunnel was built between the buildings to allow the daughter to live a a nun during the day and a wife during the night.
Teresa and Clive have done a magnificent job in restoring the house and converting the stables into a lovely eating and meeting space. The rooms are very comfortable and every morning Teresa has a great breakfast (and even better coffee) waiting for you. This is an ideal place to stay for anyone coming to this area. Teresa is a wealth of information on places to go and things to try in the Sicilian mountains.
Last night, we ate at one of the four restaurants in Cianciana and we were thrilled by the food and the ambience. The Cortile Halykos is on a side street and not easy to find. You go up an ancient passage way where the owner di Giannone Andrea has preserved this old courtyard with incredible detail. You sit next to a well that is hundreds of years old among arches of brick and sandstone. The pizza was the best that we have had in Italy and Sicily. It was a posciutto and mozzarella pizza that was incredible. I had the zucchini and shimp pasta which was also marvelous. While I am not a huge fan of Italian wine, we had a Sicilian Lamuri that was quite good. I cannot recommend this place more highly. If you are not staying in Cianciana, you would be well served to stop in for dinner. It is an authentic Sicilian meal. No pretense. No glitz. Just fresh, good food served in a quiet Sicilian courtyard.
We are off to Agrigento this morning, but I cannot wait to return to Cianciana. While I obviously have roots in this village, this is a very special place. The nights particularly are enchanting as you walk past men roasting chestnuts and children running about in the village square. Life is slower in Sicily and people live in the moment. The rest of the world seems a distant memory. These people enjoy the little things of life. Everyone knows each other. Everyone watches over the children who seem to be crawling and climbing on every surface. It is a place filled with life and joy. Here are a few pictures from Cianciana: