|Voyages to Antiquity,“Sicily is the Key to Everything”, Athens-Rome, 20 May-3 June 2011.|
From the Island of the Knights Templar we sailed to Agrigento and the majestic UNESCO site of the Valley of the Temples. Here was an unexpected bonus - a temporary exhibition of magnificent classically inspired bronzes by the Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj - strategically placed around the ancient landscape. But this was only the beginning - there was still the unparalleled excitement of exploring more of the the wonderful temples of north western Sicily, Segesta and Selinunte and lunch in the 19th century wine cellars of Marsala.
"Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true"
Temple of Concordia & sculpture by Igor Mitoraj in Valley of the Temples, Agrigento,Sicily
From Palermo and Monreale we cruised the Tyrrhenian Sea through the Aeolian Islands - past dramatic Stromboli with its erupting volcano. Our destination was the south of Italy and the ancient Greek city of Paestum (Poseidonia) in the province of Salerno. Here in what the Romans referred to as Magna Graecia (Greater Greece) the delights of the ancient Doric temples awaited us. From Paestum we continued on to Sorrento to explore Pompeii and Herculaneum completing our cruise in Rome.
The Siren Call of Sicily: Bronzes from the Sea, Treasures from the Tombs
One of the many highlights of the cruise was a visit in Palermo to the splendid Palazzo Gangi. Here we were taken into the vanished world of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the Prince of Salina who wrote his posthumous masterpiece “The Leopard” at the time of Italy’s Risorgimento. This beautiful private residence with its Baroque ballroom, belongs now to the Principessa Carine Vanni Mantegna and her husband. On each visit the Principessa personally conducts a private tour of the Palazzo for guests of Voyages to Antiquity, followed by champagne and canapés.
|Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale dance in Luchino Visconti's 1963 film Il Gattopardo (The Leopard)|
|Ballroom Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi|
Sicily, Through the Eyes of the Leopard
Published: July 6, 2008
The New York Times
Published: July 6, 2008
The New York Times
Ask a roomful of readers about Lampedusa’s “Leopard” and more often than not you’ll find a few who will put hand to heart and say it’s their favorite book, and a few others who will simply shrug -never heard of it - or ask if it has anything to do with the Visconti movie starring Burt Lancaster (yes, it does). I suppose it’s a coincidence that a roomful of travelers will poll in a similar fashion if you ask them about Sicily, the marvelous, maddening island disparaged and adored in “The Leopard”: it’s either a favorite place, or they haven’t even thought of going there.
Sicily, Italy is the coincidence significant? I believe that if you love the novel (or the movie), you should start planning your trip right away, not because you’ll find Lampedusa’s Sicily waiting for you when you touch down (you won’t, believe me) but because the bitter, resigned romantic nostalgia that pervades “The Leopard” is also the sensibility that savors the decaying grandeur of an island burdened with layer upon layer of tragic history - and blessed also with startling beauty, much of it perpetually waning.
The test comes when you’re a little lost, nervously peering down a deserted backstreet in Palermo that’s crooked and gloomy, with litter strewn on the dusty pavement and a narrow slice of blue sky overhead. Right in front of you is the smudged and crumbling facade of a derelict Baroque palazzo, unheralded, or perhaps marked with only a tiny plaque bearing a forgotten name and a date (late 17th century, usually, or early 18th). The sight of this noble structure is dizzying, even if the ornate balconies are wrapped in netting to keep chunks of masonry from raining down, and there’s a scraggly shrub sprouting on the rooftop. You dream of what it once was and what it might be again, but mostly you like it just as it is, a glorious residence ravished by time and neglect, and probably still inhabited. Just imagine its fabulously tattered apartments, still clinging to the memory of vanished splendor! (Sicily does this, it inspires wildly impractical reveries.)
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1896-1957) inherited a palace in Palermo (he was an aristocrat - a prince, no less), and had it not been demolished by an Allied bomb on April 5, 1943, the Palazzo Lampedusa would probably be scrubbed clean today, assiduously restored in honor of an author whose only novel, published posthumously in 1958, is one of Italy’s best-loved books.