The Stone Boudoir: Travels Through the Hidden Villages of Sicily
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A remarkable collection of intertwined stories about the unknown hill towns and villages of Sicily, from the acclaimed author of Mattanza.
In this sparkling book, Theresa Maggio takes us on a journey in search of Sicily's most remote and least explored mountain towns. Using her grandparents' ancestral village of Santa Margherita Belice as her base camp, she pores over old maps to plot her adventure, selecting as her targets the smallest dots with the most appealing names. Her travels take her to the small towns surrounding Mount Etna, the volcanic islands of the Aeolian Sea, and the charming villages nestled in the Madonie Mountains. Whether she's writing about the unique pleasures of Sicilian street food, the damage wrought by molten lava, the ancient traditions of Sicilian bagpipers, or the religious processions that consume entire villages for days on end, Maggio succeeds in transporting readers to a wholly unfamiliar world, where almonds grow like weeds and the water tastes of stone. In the stark but evocative prose that is her hallmark, Maggio enters the hearts and heads of Sicilians, unlocking the secrets of a tantalizingly complex culture.
Although she makes frequent forays to villages near and far, she always returns to Santa Margherita, where she researches her family tree in the municipio, goes on adventures with her cousin Nella, and traces the town's past in history and literature. A beautifully wrought meditation on time and place, The Stone Boudoir will be treasured by all who love fine travel writing.
another five socks. That afternoon a neighbor lady she rarely spoke to hailed her in the street and said, “Oh, Rosa, I am so glad you found your husband’s other sock. I said a prayer that you would find it.” 8 THE SHEEP SLEEP IN PALACES ONE MORNING IN LATE WINTER, when life begins again in the Sicilian countryside, Nella’s uncle, Vito, brought me to the cliff at the highest and oldest part of Santa Margherita to look down on the green and brown hills, billowing like a sheet settling over a
businesses hang their store signs upside down. We drank our coffee, then the teachers went to work and I took a walk. The streets of Polizzi are narrow and nubby with cobblestones the color of old nickels. Walking is easy because horizontal streets terrace the town. Some of the vertical connecting lanes are stone staircases, some are thousand-year-old Arab tunnels. The Corso Garibaldi, Polizzi’s level main street, bisects the town into upper and lower. Its straight half-mile starts at the
walls with a tiled roof and an iron pot hung over a fire pit. Signora Maria had lived here without electricity or plumbing. There was the galvanized bucket she had used to haul water from the well; the tall terra-cotta amphora she had filled with oil, its pointed bottom snugged in a sand bed, as it would have been on a Phoenician trading ship; the white enameled bowl where she had bathed; the shard of mirror before which she had combed her hair; the fingernail brush on a hook. Niches carved in
grandfather made his grandson a sandwich of a roasted hazelnut slipped between two fig halves and handed it to the boy. “Once we used to eat dried figs on bread, like bread and onions, so as not to eat only bread,” he said. “These are things people don’t appreciate anymore,” Signore Sauza said. The children were getting restless and couldn’t sit still; all their cousins were there to play with. The lights went out and the people parted for the glow of candles on the birthday cake, frosted with
bread. She stashed the new loaves in the refrigerator or breadbox and always ate the day-old bread first. With a paring knife she cut a cross into the flat bottom of every new loaf, then wedged it in the crook of her left arm and hugged it while she carved off thick chunks. I feared for her left breast. The crust chipped and crackled like the glaze on a raku pot. In Sicily, after a meal, older women will gather up the pieces of uneaten bread and kiss them before drying them so they can be used