TThe winds of Sicily ruffled her hair while the sun warily kissed her forehead. Caltanissetta was there, in front of her, with all of its proud haughtiness: it had dominated the valley of the river Salso for centuries, after all.
She had been on a long journey that started ages before in the south of Spain, looking for a companion she had lost some time ago: inspiration.
@hyphen Signorina, if your goal is to find something that you’ve lost, there’s no better solution than to start searching for it.
Behind her was a man with deep eyes and wrinkles interwoven like wickerwork. He wasn’t old, he was something different. Ancient is more like it, possibly as ancient as the whole of Sicily. She’d been waiting for him.
My name isSalvatore
but you can call me Sasà. I’d have recognised you even in the dark: you’re so curious and hungry for art. Please come, follow me.
I am the guide you were looking for, after all.
She didn’t say a word and let him lead the way.
@hyphen Oh, the alicatadores carry on such an ancient and noble art, there’s no denying it. Iron discipline, a wise use of creativity and visual genius. I’ve met so many people like you from all around Europe: Spanish, Arab, Portuguese. Everyone looking for inspiration, everyone looking for something forgotten.
He began to guide her through the city’s alleyways.
@hyphen This is Caltanissetta, also known as Rocca delle Donne (the fortress of women). It was a virtuous example of the tenacity of the fairer sex. But let’s not get lost in chatter, we’ve arrived at our destination.
In a corner of the old town, what she was looking for materialised right in front of her. An ancient majolica piece, dotted with yellow, red and blue, finely decorated by perfect geometric figures.
@hyphen Here is the first tessera of your search. A vibrant, glowing sun illuminating Sicily, the cradle of the Mediterranean since the dawn of time. It’s to the sun that we owe these lush places full of life, splendour, and lively and blinding colours.
Taken by his speech, she didn’t say a word. She limited herself to replicating in her sketch book those perfect and mesmerising geometric shapes.
C’mon, let’s go. This is just the first stop. The journey is still very long.
Then they went to Agrigento, where they were welcomed by the marble stoicism of the Valley of the Temples.
@hyphen You see? It’s here that Sicily becomes fully accomplished. We show our heritage with pride. Can you feel it? The nobleness of Muslim sultans, the pride of tough Vikings, the enlightened wisdom of Greek philosophers: the spirit of Sicily is everywhere and it’s just waiting to be discovered.
She remained still, enraptured by the power of centuries-old vestiges.
@hyphen But let’s stop getting lost in chatter! You’re here for the azulejos, those stunning glazed tiles that the world will never stop admiring, and that’s what you’ll get. Come with me.
Among the ancient colonnades, two dots of colour caught her eyes.
It was two lovelymajolica pieces.
@hyphen I knew that you had a keen eye! Look up; there are two pieces that are complementary in terms of colour and essence. See those to the left? Formed by red concentric rings and surrounded by green streaks, that is the proudest child of Sicily: a pomegranate heart. It’s crowned by a selection of aromatic herbs, bitter roots and hot seeds that are needed to contrast and balance the sweetness of its fruit. And next to it, in the orange majolica that represents the unique creases of its rind, there is the queen of our beloved Sicily: bitter orange. It’s the most intense scent that you’ll ever happen to smell here. Its juice, refreshing and aromatic, is the Sicilian symbol of a generous and genuine nature.
In religious silence, the woman patiently recorded in her sketch book the shape, colours and scents, the way she perceived them. The mosaic was taking its shape.
The sea! The sea! was the call that echoed in the Mediterranean a few centuries before. She had a spontaneous urge to scream it while facing the endless blue that was placidly shining in the warm rays of light. Atop a cliff, Sasà pushed aside a thick barrier of shrubs, exposing the last tessera of her quest. A small mortar gem glazed with light blue waving streaks against a white background.
@hyphen We’re at the end of our journey, signorina. In front of us is the Mediterranean Sea or Mare Nostrum (Our Sea), as our forefathers called it. This expanse of water has nourished us with its fruits and seasoned our tables laid for festive days with its salt. We’ve always been wrapped in its arms: the loving hug of a father for his children, while he embraces his beloved wife, Sicily, all at the same time. The vibrations of the waves and the slow undertow of the sea come to fulfilment only here, on our coasts.
The young woman drew a replica of the last majolica in her sketch book, colouring it in the pastel blue shades of the sea and the white of the infinite.
@hyphen Finally, we made it, signorina, we did! Our journey was a long one, but the company was much appreciated. In your eyes I see the new-found inspiration that you had previously lost. And what have you found along with it? I’ll tell you: the soul of Sicily, a land of fusions of tastes, blends of essences, mixtures of scents. A land where no-one is a foreigner, a land that welcomes everyone with open arms and where the most precious gift is the difference that makes everyone so unique. The fair land in which the lively sun looks after the children of nature, pomegranate and bitter orange, washing them with a promise of freedom called the Mediterranean Sea. And it’s here that our destiny is finally fulfilled. It’s here that we’ll part ways.
Absorbed by the last brushes in her sketch book, the young woman looked up to thank Sasà. But there was no trace of him.
Surprised, she looked back at that sheet of paper on which she had drawn, engraved, painted, grasping the very soul of her experience. The majolica tiles had finally found a shape, merged and fit together to form the picture of a tapestry with well-defined contours and a clear essence: