Casa Nostra: A Home in Sicily

Casa Nostra: A Home in Sicily

Caroline Seller Manzo

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0061189219

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this enchanting memoir about food, family, culture, and culture shock, an Englishwoman shares the unpredictable adventures of her Sicilian family and the renovation of their villa

At a mid-seventies Halloween party in London, Caroline Seller stumbled across a man in a lion mask. Although she spoke little Italian and he practically no English, both were undeniably smitten. After only a few more meetings, Caroline was invited to stay with Marcello's family in Mazara del Vallo, Sicily, where she was introduced to the eccentric Manzo clan—including Marcello's larger-than-life mother Maria—who lived in a magnificent but crumbling villa, Santa Maria.

Soon afterward Caroline and Marcello married, set out on an expatriate life together around the world, and started their own family, but Santa Maria was never far from their thoughts. After much debate over the fate of the deteriorating villa, Marcello and his brothers united to save it. Determined in their mission—but not entirely prepared for what they were getting into!—Marcello and Caroline embarked on a restoration process full of disconcerting setbacks, demoralizing mishaps, and ultimately breathtaking results.

Through amusing anecdotes, stunning photography, and inspired observations of Sicilian culture, Casa Nostra shows not only the renovation of the villa, but also the unique beauty and history of western Sicily and its people, as seen through the eyes of Caroline Seller Manzo—an outsider who is often surprised, and always delighted, by her family and adopted hometown.

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developed into full-blown love letters. I responded in my best Italian, my efforts expressed and polished up with the expertise of an Italian girlfriend. Although Marcello and I managed to get together for a glorious summer holiday in Mexico and a week in London to celebrate our Halloween anniversary, the frustration of living so far apart was mounting, and it was becoming all too clear that a love affair fragmented by long separations and conducted at a distance of six thousand miles would be

exceeded the incomings. Without a major injection of capital now, the dilapidation will continue unchecked, and the mounting debts will force the three brothers to sell. If that happens, this could turn out to be our last summer at Santa Maria. “Yes, but why does the initiative have to come from Marcello? What about the other two brothers? Silvio lives here all the yearround, doesn’t he?” Silvio is indeed the only brother to actually live here. And of the three he is the most deeply attached to

Frequently during his aristocratic reflections, the Prince admits he is courting death. From his dressing room he muses on the theme. From the Mother Church next door rang a lugubrious funeral knell. Someone had died at Donna Fugata; some tired body unable to withstand the deep gloom of Sicilian summer had lacked the stamina to await the rains.“Lucky person,” thought the Prince, as he rubbed lotion on his whiskers. “Lucky person with no worries about daughters, dowries and political careers.” This

sleigh is a bizarre mode of transport in the Sicilian context. For those of us who cherish history and tradition, within one generation globalization has brought Father Christmas to Sicily as major bearer of gifts so that Sicilian children have lost a precious local tradition and adopted the culture of children the world over from Sidney to Sarasota. More recently, Halloween has also arrived, completely upstaging what was left of I Morti. ALTHOUGH THE CUSTOM OF THE DEAD BRINGING PRESENTS TO the

children is virtually extinct, the feast day itself still remains one of the most important in a culture that reveres their dead ancestors even more than their saints. In Sicilian tradition we will be paying respect to the recently dead close members of the family. Our first visit today will be to Goffredo. Until some years ago he had been interred in the Vaccara chapel. By tradition he should have gone straight to the Manzo vault in Trapani when he died, but Maria always maintained that she

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