Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s library was beautiful—as was the rest of the mansion, which was quite aware of its own grandiosity. Three college girls from the UK on an internship program in Sicily gave us a tour of the house, giving a little background on certain elements of the house or portraits that featured descendants of Lampedusa, including the duchess, who still lives in the house and offers cooking lessons for nearly 200 euro. WWII bombing destroyed some of the house, but most of it was preserved (aside from the duchess’s private quarters). This whole idea of preservation takes on an ironic tone when considering Il Gattopardo—Lampedusa wrote about the dying aristocracy at the end of the 19th century, yet his ancestors are trying to hold on to the already-gone aristocracy years later.
A founding member of the grassroots group Addiopizzo spoke with us about the organization’s efforts to combat the mafia. Through convincing customers to shop only at establishments that don’t pay pizzo—“protection” money the mafia demands of shop owners that really only protects shops against the mafia—Addiopizzo has created a network of establishments that have taken a stance against paying pizzo. As the group’s motto states, “Un intero popolo che paga il pizzo è un popolo senza dignità.” By hindering the mafia economically, the group hopes to decrease not only the mafia’s political and social influences, but also Sicily’s association with the mafia. And so while I did send the photo above to my mom with the caption, “This is where Sofia died in the Godfather!!” I made sure to note after that we were on an “anti-mafia” tour and that, as our tour guide emphasized, this is the largest theater in Italy and the third largest in the world.
The architecture of the Palermo cathedral is one of the many visual examples of how Sicily has been conquered by so many groups over the years. Though beautiful, the cathedral is a mix of many different styles, each an effort of the newly powerful group to place their own mark on this land. Throughout the trip, in our visits to both ancient and modern sites, we noticed the way in which the island’s identity has been redefined over the centuries. Earlier that day, during our visit to a prison used during the Spanish Inquisition, we saw the way the prisoners from all different parts of the world wrote prayers and words in different languages on the walls, still preserved. This marriage—co-existence? conflict?—of various cultures perpetuates across Sicily.