The Old Country

I hadn’t given Sicily much thought before I arrived. I had been preoccupied with my post-vacation apartment search and I also didn’t want to set my expectations too high. When I got off the plane in Palermo and walked down the airport’s corridor, it hit me: “What the hell am I doing?! When did I turn into Balki Bartokomous?”

No seriously, I’m Balki. We wrote a letter to Marianna, the niece of my mother’s grandfather (it took me forever to wrap my mind around this family tree) and basically said, “Hey, can we come over?” Eventually her granddaughter, Anna, e-mailed me and said, “Sure, come over.”

(Nino greeting me at the airport)

We arrived in Palermo Thursday afternoon and Marianna’s husband Nino and son Salvatore picked us up at the airport (Nino holding a handmade ‘Faulisi’ sign) and drove us 1.5 hours to Tusa, where my great-grandparents left 100 or so years ago. How they ever made it out of Sicily, I will never understand. You drive through and around so many mountains before reaching this city in the sky, and, even with a car and a highway, the journey is miraculous.


(Me, Nino and Marianna at dinner. They don’t usually drink Coke, but thought we’d like it. Because we were in fact drinking soda more than usual when we met them).

Once we arrived at Marianna and Nino’s house, we ate dinner with them and then met other members of the family.

(Anna, Manuel and Valeria).

Around 10:30 p.m., Anna, her boyfriend Manuel and Anna’s sister Valeria and I went to the Sacra di Pesce, an annual festival with dancing, a big fish fry and flea market. I met their friends and we hung out and went to the beach and their local bar Il Punto.


The next day my mother, Anna, Manuel and I went to the beach, which, like most beaches in Italy, is stone not sand. I learned a new word: Scoglio, which refers to a giant boulder in the sea (only Italy would have a word just for this!). The water was very warm and I jumped right in. Later, we returned home for lunch, where Marianna had prepared homemade minestrone, eggplant, cucumber salad…everything comes from their garden or their place in the country—they even make their own cheese! For dessert, fresh figs from their tree. 

Sarah MikutelTusa, Sicily, figs, sea