Monday, 26 September 2022
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Literary Parks Itinerary

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Literature is a veritable island of happiness for personal fantasy and creativity, but it is also the result of the fascination exerted by the language, history, art, tradition, and culture of a place on the genes from which it springs. A system for preserving, reappraising, and recovering Sicily's vast literary heritage - the heritage of a land of storytellers and poets - has been provided by the creation of the Literary Parks - geographical areas corresponding to authors and their works, intended to be seen as a journey of human and literary experience, a space of the mind before that of the body. The Literary Parks enable us to discover the places that inspired the authors of the finest pages that tell the tale of Sicily.

The Literary Park named after Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1896-1957) covers a part of western Sicily stretching from Palermo, where the writer was born and wrote The Leopard, to Santa Margherita di Belice, with Palazzo Filangeri Cutò where he spent his childhood, and Palma di Montechiaro, the family fief - three places that are at one and the same time scenarios from the pages of his most celebrated novel and important tesserae in the formation of his literary sensitivity. Published posthumously in 1958 and the inspirational source of Luchino Visconti's film with Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale, and Alain Delon, The Leopard tells the story of the Prince of Salina and his family in the days of the landing of Garibaldi's Thousand and of the end of a regime, in a novel that was to become a clamorous literary event. A man of great contradictions, an aristocrat and a Sicilian through and through, Tomasi could be pitilessly critical of his own social class and the land he was born in. The Park is a series of evocations and of localities. In particular, the fascinating and enigmatic city of Palermo is described by "the Leopard" in one of those oft-recurring moments of transition, of great change, which with a magic that is truly Sicilian are absorbed in a state of absolute immobility. The Itineraries of the Literary Park pass through a large part of the old city, including the Tomasi family residence and Villa Boscogrande, used as a set for some scenes in Visconti's film. The Palermo seat of the Literary Park is located just behind the historical Piazza Marina, close to the palace where Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa spent the last part of his life.
"let the funerary urn be taken to Sicily and be walled into some rough stone in the country around Girgenti, where I was born." These were the testamentary instructions of Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936), who rests today close to the house he was born in and to what he called the "African sea". The house, in a country area known as Caos ("Chaos") in the territory of Agrigento and now transformed into a museum, constitutes the pulsating heart of the Park named after the illustrious author, the 1934 Nobel prize-winner for literature. Our memory of the writer - and indeed the Park itself - extend to the quayside at Girgenti, now renamed Porto Empedocle, where Pirandello's father, a wealthy sulphur merchant, had his warehouses. Here the writer spent his childhood, and when an older man he never missed an opportunity of returning to the little seaside village, in order to watch life go by, sitting at a table in a coffee-house in the main street of the village, and in this way fill his mind with memories. The surrounding area, with the sulphur mines and above all the valley of the ancient city of Akragas with its rich historical associations, also influenced the creative vein of the author of such celebrated works as The Late Mattia Pascal, Six Characters in Search of an Author, and One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand. The places in the Park testify to the close bond between Pirandello and his surroundings, for his characters represent the typologies and behaviour patterns of people belonging to the Sicilian folk and peasant world - the human universe making up the social context from which he himself had come and in which he immersed himself after his move to Rome.
The world of sulphur mines and fumaroles, the world of peasants with its farmsteads and villages in the heart of an arid and sunscorched land, the Sicily of the Mafia, of problems of justice and civil commitment - these faces of the island's culture relive in the Park named after Leonardo Sciascia (1921-1989), the unforgotten author of The Day of the Owl and To Each His Own. Regalpetra, the Park's symbol and its ideal crossroads, is the "imaginary" town that provides the scenario for the happenings in The Parishes of Regalpetra (1956), a work that contains all the themes so dear to Sciascia. The Literary Park can be divided into various itineraries, starting from Racalmuto, the author's birthplace, where one can see his origins, and then on to Caltanissetta, where he spent his youth and had experiences that were fundamental for his literary and civil formation. Here in particular the atmosphere is dominated by the local sulphur mines, a theme that was dear to Sciascia, as can be seen in his tale Saturday Payday, dealing with the exploitation of the miners in a now declining industry. Other itineraries deal with the popular and religious festivities celebrated in various towns and villages near Sciascia's birthplace and with his train journeys when he was a child - magical places that create a journey in the memory to seek out the characteristic fascination of these Sicilian lands that so influenced the mind of that true Sicilian, Leonardo Sciascia.
The Salvatore Quasimodo Literary Park (1901-1968) - "The Incomparable Land" - came from an idea of Alessandro Quasimodo, the writer's only living heir, who in this way proposed to unite all those who have contributed to the dissemination of the celebrated Nobel prize-winner's works in Sicily. The specific purpose is to preserve this poetry in the places that inspired it: Modica, where Quasimodo was born, and Roccalumera, where his family came from, and which are connected by a thread of lyrical memory to Messina, Tindari, the Aeolian Islands, Syracuse, and the River Anapo, together with Pantalica and Agrigento. The atmosphere that we breathe in the Park takes us back to Quasimodo's roots, to the roots of a Sicily that in a celebrated collection of his writings he defined as an "incomparable land", a sort of Mediterranean Paradise Lost wrapped in an aura of myth where we can still hear the verses of the ancient poets of whom Quasimodo was an unsurpassed translator. The Park's main base is at Modica, in the museum house named after Quasimodo, now further enriched by a "Quasimodoteque" in the town's main square - a spectacularly documented exhibition with panels that offer the visitor a virtual immersion in poetry. From the multimedia systems now available in the "Quasimodoteque" - see for example the www.quasimodo.it site - it is possible to access all works by and about Quasimodo. A further way of extending our knowledge and appreciation of Quasimodo is to be found in the other permanent facility located in the Torre Saracena site at Roccalumera, near Taormina.
The Riviera of the Cyclops, along which stretches the Literary Park named after Giovanni Verga (1840-1922), is well known thanks to the mythological tales handed down to us by the great poets of antiquity, Homer and Virgil. Legend has it that the three faraglioni, or rock stacks, on the coast of Acitrezza are the great rocks hurled down by Polyphemus after Ulysses as he fled in his ship. "The Cyclops' Archipelago" has become the picturesque scenario of a rite known in Sicilian dialect as "U pisci a mari" ("The fish in the sea"), a popular tradition linked to the celebrations in honour of St John the Baptist, the patron saint of Acitrezza, which are held every year on 24 June. A pageant is performed representing the ancient art of swordfishing. This re-enactment reflects the culture of a population that is indissolubly tied to the sea, in a glimpse of daily life that in years gone by inspired the verism of Verga's novels. The visit to places recalling the author continues through other localities he described, including the Norman castle, which figures in the plot of the tale Stories of Trezza Castle, and goes on to Acitrezza, where one can visit the scenes of the gradual decline of the family described in I Malavoglia, a novel known in English as The House by the Medlar Tree: the actual house by the medlar tree, the little lanes, the square, the fountain, and the church. One can also visit locations where scenes were shot for Luchino Visconti's celebrated film La terra trema (The Earth Trembles), made with local actors - the fishermen of Trezza. There is no explicit reference in the credits to Verga or I Malavoglia, but the film is clearly inspired by the places and characters of Verga's novel.
Since March 2003 Elio Vittorini (1908-1966) has been for Syracuse something more than the great writer who was born here. With the creation of the Literary Park named after this profound connoisseur of contemporary American literature, the writer has become an "ambassador", in the broadest sense of the word, for the cultural world of this province. And not only with reference to Vittorini's actual writings but also to everything that they tell us of Syracuse and this part of Sicily - the places of natural beauty and historical interest, the traditions, the people. The Syracusan scenes that form the background to Vittorini's life and works are stages in a sentimental journey that create an ideal Conversation in Sicily, as one of his works is entitled - Ortygia, with the treasures of the ancient city centre, the promenade along the Ponte Umbertino to the spectacular and elliptic Piazza Duomo, like a great eye with the splendid cathedral at the centre. The blend of architectural styles in the splendid palaces reflects the millenary history of Syracuse recounted by Vittorini. In the Cinema Museum in Palazzo Corpaci, it is possible to view films based on some of Vittorini's novels, such as Uomini e no, directed by Valentino Orsini in 1980, starring Flavio Bucci and Monica Guerritore. All this is to be found in the Elio Vittorini Literary Park: a journey traced through the life and works of the author, who becomes a precious guide for visitors as they discover Syracuse and its province, forming an itinerary in which the various places, described as the great writer saw and experienced them, become the protagonists of a story that leaves our senses spellbound.

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