The Short Read: Sicily – a Ball, November 1862

Noto, interior of Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata, Noto, Sicily, Italy, Europe

The ballroom was all golden; smoothed on cornices, stippled on door-frames, damascened pale, almost silvery, over darker gold on door panels and on the shutters which covered and annulled the windows, conferring on the room the look of some superb jewel-case shut off from an unworthy world.

It was not the flashy gilding which decorators slap on nowadays, but a faded gold, pale as the hair of certain Nordic children, determinedly hiding its value under a muted use of precious material intended to let beauty be seen and cost forgotten. Here and there on the panels were knots of rococo flowers in a colour so faint as to seem just an ephemeral pink reflected from the chandeliers.

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Sunday Poem: For Midas of Akragas Flute-Playing Contest 490 BC

Agrigento

O splendour-loving city, most beautiful on earth, home of Persephone; you who inhabit the hill of well-built dwellings above the banks of sheep-pasturing Akragas: be propitious, and with the goodwill of gods and men, mistress, receive this victory garland from Pytho in honor of renowned Midas.

The remains of the ‘splendour-loving city’ of 2,500 years ago can today be visited at the Valle dei Templi, a archaeological site in Agrigento, Sicily. It is one of the most outstanding remaining examples of Greater Grecian (Magna Graecia) art and architecture, and is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Poem by the Greek Pindar.  Pythian Ode XII 1 – 6.

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The wildflowers of the Sicilian Spring

‘Where are you going on holiday?’ asked an Italian friend. ‘Sicily at the end of April and the beginning of May’.  ‘Ah, just the right time for the wild flowers’.

He was right.  Before the arrival of the suffocating, ‘tyrannous‘ summer heat, Spring in Sicily is when ‘the climate’s delicate; the air most sweet‘. The local ancient Greeks believed that Persephone, queen of the underworld, emerged in Spring from her Sicilian captivity at the hands of Hades, bringing new life and the renewal of nature.

At this time of year, Sicily is carpeted from end to end with beautiful swathes of wild flowers that line the roads and country lanes, cling to the walls of Greek ruins or deserted farm houses, spread across untended fields or sit underneath groves of olive, almond and orange trees.  When driving you glimpse the blue of borage and echium, the pink of valerian, the blood red of roadside poppies, the yellow of broom, corn marigold, mimosa and wild fennel, the lilac of wisteria, the creamy white of snapdragons and other flashes of orange, purple, scarlet and magenta. Everywhere the air is heady with the ‘erotic waft‘ of citrus blossom, referred to as zagara, an word passed from Arabic into Sicilian and then Italian.

The Sicilians say ‘Aprili fa li ciuri e le biddizzi, l’onuri l’havi lu misi di maju‘ — April makes the flowers and the beauty, but May gets all the credit — making this a perfect time to visit this enchanting island as shown below.