Good Friday

(Click thumbnail photos, to enlarge)

I’d seen photos and a short video Elizabeth had taken of Good Friday in Cianciana: stark, passionate, foreign,  familiar — it encapsulated & encompassed all those contradictions. It still does.

At first, it was just great fun. Outside the town’s biggest market, I finally saw the drummer I’d been hearing for a couple weeks. A few locals started lining  up, and cars (and the recycling truck) rushed to get down Corso Vittorio Emanuale  before everything began in earnest.

I followed the soldiers down to the clocktower, but they disappeared, so I ran back to the piazza, arriving  just in time for the “Jesus or Barabbas” scene (below). The townspeople, some in costume, many not, began to get into it, and so did I,  as an Observer, although here is the truth: by the time Pilate got his answer  from the crowd that third time, I was starting to feel like a guilty bystander.

Later, from the 3rd-floor terrace of Daffodils (“Best seat in town!”),  I looked down on robed  townspeople  (singing a Lamentation), Roman soldiers, 2 thieves, and Jesus.

Gésu carrying his Cross up

Jesus carrying his Cross up the stairs, headed towards  Monte Calvario

The two prisoners, following Jesus up to Calvario.

The two other prisoners, following Jesus up to Monte Calvario.


Once up the stairs, it was just a matter of navigating the streets leading to up (way up) to Calvario.

There were moments of comic relief. In one, costumed kids who had been standing around for 30 minutes nearly missed their cue.

Kids, just in time.

Kids, just in time.

Safe, con il papa

Safe, con papa

At the top, we stood and watched, something I don’t have 1,000 words to describe, so will yield again to pictures (that’s Gaetano from Bar S. Antonio)

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Holy Thursday

(double-click thumbnails photos)

Holy Thursday morning,  I went to Savarino’s to recharge my  Internet chiavetta and found  Nino Savarino working on his choreography for the Solemn High Mass .

Studying choreography for Holy Thursday's Solemn HIgh Mass.

Studying choreography for Holy Thursday’s Solemn HIgh Mass.

 Later that day,  as I was sitting in the Chiesa Madre,  I counted  just 10 apostles, and then Father came up  to the woman next to me and whispered,   “We need two more boys…” She left, presumably drafting the two young men I saw 5 minutes later,  running toward  the altar carrying  apostle robes.

Processing up the aisle in this video: Nino holding the missal,   the priest wearing  his Thomas Merton wool cap .

Below the video: Leaving church last  night, I ran into the crew setting up a stage for “The Condemnation of Jesus ” station of the Good Friday experience here.  As I’m writing this, I’m just in from walking the 2.5-hr “Sacra Rappresentazione Vivente,”  and still trying to wrap my head around the experience, uncertain how one  writes  about such an amazing assault on the senses.



Cianciana Webcams

The Webcams  capture sites and sights just around the corner and down the street from Elizabeth’s studio (MacFlip4 required).

It’s been pouring for an hour, and either neighbors are slamming their doors in unison, or it’s thundering, too. Absent Kare 11 TV Weather,   I flipped on the village’s webcams to see if it were worth going out.  I found my answer: YES, but  I can expect my  umbrella to be whipped inside out.

The Cameras capture sites and sights just around the corner and down the street ( Flip4Mac may be required).

Anyhow, today is a far cry from recent days — (gallery below is a random sample from those  sunnier moments!)

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SETTIMANA SANTA: Biggest & Holiest Week of the Year

Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem -- VIVENTE.

Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem — VIVENTE.

It began today, Palm Sunday, with the vivente  Entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. Having learned the route during last week’s 2-day San Giuseppe feast, I headed out for this morning’s procession.  

What I hadn’t known, however, was that it wasn’t just a Living Christ that I’d encounter, but many of  the Ciancianans, too,  dressed in the sort of costume which, in my tiny mind, has always been limited to grammar school Christmas pageants.  

Citizens of Cianciana

Citizens of Cianciana

As he blessed our olive branches, I heard the priest refer to them as “Olive Palms,” and I started to guffaw, but as nobody else was laughing, I did my best imitation of a stifled cough and returned to listening mode.

And then, as quickly as they had arrived, they were suddenly gone. It had been odd and awesome.


Somewhat awestruck after the Vivente and the Benedizione, I went where I go every morning — Bar San Antonio.                                                    

A.M. Crew, Bar S. Antonio

Olive Palm

Olive Palm

I set down my Olive Palm



…and listened to the ever-patient (with me) Gaetano

La Mia Vita Glamour in Sicilia:

…a number of you have written to say how enviably glamorous is my life in Sicily. I love it, but full of glam, it is not, and this post is meant to set the record straight.

Let’s consider a morning – THIS morning – for example…

A dear friend

Once I’ve had the courage to push off the heat-holding duvet, and the presence of mind to hit the red button, count to 15, while turning the dial once-twice-three times (highest flame power), The Bombola becomes my dear friend.

Actually, I realize for the purist, bombola simply refers to the canister of propane fueling the heater, but I love the sound of the word, and “bomb” is also what I hear as I hit that button first thing in the morning.


My day really begins with breakfast in front of the windows: except for the pigeons in the rooftiles outside, it’s quiet this time of day.

espmakerWithin an hour, the garbage truck arrives (no picture, b/c even I won’t hang over the balcony to snap a photo of that). Today being Thursday, it was the “humid” waste (coffee grounds, banana skins — compostable, I think – hope! – this means). Tomorrow it will be “undifferentiated”, and as examples, the instructions suggest “old shoes…nappies…toys”

Today's "humid" trash,  tied up and hung on the railing.

Today’s “humid” trash, tied up and ready for pickup.

The earliest Mass in town is at S. Antonio (“Il Convento”), and it’s not until 10 o’clock. I love Sicily!
Il Convento

Besides a statue of Padre Pio (who is actually everywhere, and I mean EVERYwhere: street signs, restaurants, side altars of every church), there is this one, which is San Calogero, patron saint of this area (Agrigento) of Sicily.

It’s now 10:30a.m. in my day, and I will leave you here, but not before sending along the men I see this morning and every morning, standing outside a bar up the street from Il Convento


Cianciana and the Glorious Patriarch, St Joseph


Yesterday, the Vigil of St Joseph, I walked past this man’s garden, talked to him about his  Prickly Pears and his oranges, then circled back to ask if I could take his photo – “Why not?” And, indeed, that seems to be everyone’s response here — “Go ahead, try out your Italian” or “Sure, I’ll tell you how to get to the Museo Civico


My street for awhile, as I’m staying in Elizabeth’s studio which stands here with its three proud, if improbable, blue doors. Via Catania has characters whose conversations (phone? balcone-to-balcone?) I’ve heard, but not met. Except for the neighbor who proudly sports two canes to my one.

I doubt any of them can compare with the person Elizabeth and I now call “The Bombola Man” — he delivered the propane can for the heater my first afternoon, but couldn’t stay to hook it up because he needed to go for his run. His spandex suggested he was not kidding, and, yes, he returned, as promised, a couple hours later

Yesterday at the Vigil of St Joseph, I saw him again. He waved, I waved, and then I gasped!

Finally, when I went to Savarino’s for a large espresso maker this morning, there he was yet again. With two of his children! Behind the counter, helping me every day since I’d arrived, was my new best friend, Fortunata — his wife! I had heard that this is one gloriously small(3k) town.


— this corner of the bedroom… Brm, Via Catania

— sometimes fixing lunch

— sometimes going out to dinner


I was carrying one of those 4-foot candles for last night’s vigil procession, so couldn’t get much photography done without dripping wax all over my jacket, purse, and boots, or bumping into the woman in front of me (I did all those things). However, I did snap this photo of the arched lights under which we were walking. I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but isn’t this close –?


Baroque Revisited

In Italian Days, Barbara Grizzuti-Harrison says that one doesn’t have to appreciate ruins to appreciate Rome, but the Baroque? She insists that there’s no loving Rome without loving this fluid, over-the-top period in Church and art history: “otherwise you will think Rome is florid and vulgar and recoil from its extravagance.”

In Trastevere, I visited the Baroque for Ceci
S. Cecilia

Around the corner from the Pantheon, I posed before Bernini’s elephant on Tommy’s birthday, and made some poor Englishman take my picture —
TJB's Bernini elephan

After that, I ran over to the Contarelli Chapel in S. Luigi dei Francesi to see this Caravaggio for Matthew:

Callinf of Matthew, SLuigiFrancese

Callinf of Matthew, SLuigiFrancese

However, it probably wasn’t until yesterday in Palermo that knew I was a convert — in the way I think Charles Ryder means, when he describes Brideshead as his “conversion to the Baroque.”

From this, and this…to this other

St Paul can be beautiful in winter


There is, though, nothing quite like a Tulip Tree in Northern CA this time of year (thanks for the Drive-by, Jans)

The conclave begins tomorrow, so as soon as I checked in at my convent, I took the #89 down to Piazza S. Pietro to see how things were getting on. Nobody seemed to need my help, so I settled for watching the scrambling and setting-up, the [loud] dropping of pieces of scaffolding…

The piazza is as full of jumbotrons as it is of pilgrims this afternoon, and inside the basilica, cameras and chairs are going up.
Cameras are ready

Some of the papers here are saying that if there is white smoke by Wednesday,it’s an INsider; if the smoke doesn’t turn white until Thursday or later, it will be an OUTsider. On RAI 1, I just heard “Scola then Dolan.” In Montreal, the media today suggests that it could be Oeullet, because he would be the compromise candidate. Who knows? As they say,”HE WHO ENTERS THE CONCLAVE AS POPE, LEAVES AS CARDINAL”