On social media, I've gotten a lot of reactions to Part 1 of the Sicily trip. Believe me, our trip was well worth it, despite the long journey to get here. Today, I share with you the first part of our trip...where we find FAMILY! We start in the beautiful seaside town of Terrasini...
It's really close to the Palermo Airport, so if you have some time on your trip to Sicily, it's worth it to make a quick stop. Michael's Grandma Pinta is from this town. Here's a photo of us, in front of the main church where she attended services... (Remember we had just traveled and been up for more than 24 hours, so excuse our tiredness.)
Michael's dad, sister, uncle and cousin arrived hours earlier and had lunch and walked around town already. So, by the time Michael and I showed up, we were all tired and ready to get back to our hotel in Trapani. As mentioned in last week's blog, we stayed at Hotel San Michele in Trapani, which we really liked. That night, Michael, cousin Korrin and I had dinner at an awesome little place the hotel recommended and walked around the narrow, quaint town streets. We would totally go back to Trapani and explore more!
The next morning after breakfast, Michael and Christy searched for family records at the State Archives with our driver Giovanni, while Korrin and I wandered the streets looking for a sweater because I had forgotten to bring any covering for myself, so the warmest piece of clothing I brought is the flannel I'm wearing in the photo above. I couldn't find anything reasonably priced, so we headed up a mountain to get to the medieval town of Erice.
The first picture (above) is a Norman Castle, and the second is a photo taken from Mount Erice, looking at some of the other mountains and islands off of Sicily. The medieval town is still perfectly preserved and can be quite touristy, but it's well worth the trek up the mountain (by driving or by cable car, when it's not windy). Once there, you walk through small cobblestone streets lined with shops, cafes, restaurants and bakeries. It's another place I'd love to see again. After having lunch in Erice, we head off the mountain to the very small town of Blandano (pop. 12 maybe?), where Great Grandpa Pietro Mazzara came from.
We were trying to find a street Michael saw on Google Earth with the family name on it in Blandano, but this town really had more olive trees than people and no actual streets. But the ancestors were with us because in the next town of Ballata we found it...Via P. Mazzara...
It's spelled the same as our last name, and there are a lot of P's in the family. Above, next to Michael and me, there's Michael's dad - Peter Mazzara, and to the very right of Korrin and Christy, there's Paul Mazzara. Peter and Paul are brothers, and their grandfather was Pietro Mazzara (see photo below).
The next town was Chiesa Nuova, where we knew a cousin by the name of Antonella Mazzara lived, but when we first went to knock on the door, no one answered. So, Giovanni went next door to ask the neighbor, and she was Cousin Antonella's best friend of about 20 years! Pina Gervasi is her name, and she got on the phone with Antonella who asked us to come back the next day.
When we got to Antonella's house the next day, we looked through old photos and pinpointed who is who on the family tree...
She fed us ginormous cannoli, longer than a dollar bill! (So, here's the money part of today's blog post. LOL!) It was my favorite cannolo I've ever had in my life. The shell was perfectly crispy, and the filling was light, fluffy with chocolate chips. Oh so delicious!
Now, Antonella and her cousin (we found another cousin!) didn't speak English, and none of were really fluent in Italian, so with the help of Giovanni, we communicated the best we can. At the end of the day, Michael's father said it best...that we connected with our hearts.
(The background of this photo may look fake, but it's real! Antonella, her cousin, and her neighbor sure do live in beauty and it's so cool that those are the lands the Mazzaras farmed as far back as the 1600's.)
After laughing, eating, talking and taking photos, we headed to Mazara del Vallo, where Michael's grandma Pinta's side of the family is from. It may seem ironic that the Mazzaras are from Erice, while the Pintas are from Mazara del Vallo, but that's just what happened.
Mazara del Vallo has a very interesting history and culture. It's been ruled by Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and others, so it has all of these influences in its architecture and, I'm sure, in its food.
Before Mussolini in World War II, the town was spelled M-a-z-z-a-r-a del Vallo, and when Mussolini took over, most of the Sicilian names were changed to Roman spelling, making it M-a-z-a-r-a with one Z. But no matter if there are 2 Z's or just 1, it was cool to see our family name all over the place.
Mazara Del Vallo is one of the closest cities to Africa, so there's a big Tunisian population there. Being on the Mediterranean, it also has the largest fishing fleet in Italy. Most of the seafood that Italians eat come from Mazara del Vallo, and it even has a giant prawn called the Mazara Prawn, which I tried a few times in different places. Not in Mazara though.
Finding the Pintas was like finding Antonella Mazzara. They weren't home. at the address we had, but a neighbor wandered out and asked our driver what we were doing there. They could tell we weren't locals. That neighbor (of course) knew the family who owned the house at the address, called them at their "holiday" house, and before you could say cannoli three times fast, the Pintas were there! Here's our photo, crammed into a small living space...
Don't ask me who's who in this photo. The lady in the colorful printed dress, next to Christy, spoke super fast and loudly, so it was really challenging to keep up.
After meeting the Pintas, Christy and Korrin went to check out the Dancing Satyr, a Greek bronze sculpture bigger than life-sized dating back to anywhere from 2nd to 4th B.C., while Michael and I tried to find the Casbah, which we never found. We did find a Happy Days Paninoteca (Sandwich Shop), and since we know Mr. Henry Winkler, this pic is for him!
Next week, I promise I'll show you the Sicily South group tour trip. I just couldn't ignore one of the big reasons we came to Sicily -- family. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. What did you like from this part of the trip?
With so much Gratitude for Famiglia,
Now that I'm back from a long vacation, I'm really excited to work with you on getting your finances in order, so that you can take extended family vacations without worrying about the bills. If that sounds good, let's find a time to talk! Click HERE to sign up now.