THE NOBLEMEN DISCUSS THE NATURE OF LOVE

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In The old Club of the Noblemen, lawyer Giovanni got up from his armchair and turned to Alberto.
“You are an old dreamer, Alberto! Youngsters look for pure and everlasting love, not old men like you! The love between a man and a woman doesn’t exist at all. It is just illusion. What happens between them is just sexual attraction. Many people think they have found their ideal partner. But then, being attracted by someone else, either younger or more beautiful, they end up leaving the former lover to join the new one! Love is not stable. It exists only in our dreams. True love should last forever. But what we call love vanishes sooner or later, and we move from one partner to another. Often, when a relationship ends, what seemed to be a great love turns into hatred. How many lovers swore eternal love first, and then it becomes eternal hatred! Is this love? I don’t think so! For me, love is just hormonal compatibility.”
“Sometimes,” said Uncle Salvatore, “love is more than hormonal attraction. It is also affection. First, we are attracted by the partner’s shape, but gradually, our love grows more and more. I don’t think that only affection or only sex exists. Love is a mixture of affection and sex. In human love, we need both of them.”
“What is love for you?” Mario asked Uncle Salvatore.
“For me, love is like two wings of an eagle.”
“What kind of answer is that?” said Judge Cangemi.
“An eagle can’t fly with only one wing, so unilateral love is not possible. Love needs two living beings who exchange their love each other. If only one person loves and the other is indifferent, love is not possible. Altruistic and unselfish love is platonic. Every love is a mixture of altruism and egoism. If love is only altruism, it is not love. It is like asking an eagle to fly with only one wing. It can’t do that. But with two wings, it can soar so high that no other birds can reach it. Love is like that, it requires two beings who love each other. I don’t believe in unreciprocated love. It is useless and a waste of energy.”
“There are some kinds of unilateral love!” said old Judge Cangemi, raising his index finger to give much solemnity to his assertion. “Try and imagine the love of Jesus for humankind. It is a typical example of unilateral love. Jesus loved human beings, and his love was repaid with flagellation, mockery, and crucifixion.”
“Objection!” said lawyer Giovanni, irritated and sure of himself. “Jesus’s love was altruistic, not unilateral. It was reciprocated and deeply returned. Think of the apostles or the women who cried desperately at the foot of the cross, or the many Christians who were martyred under Jesus’s name. If Jesus’s love had not been repaid, his death would have been nonsense. However, I don’t want to talk about mystic love, but about the love which happens between a man and a woman — conventional love. I want to know why almost always a man falls in love with a beautiful and pretty woman, not with an ugly one. Why is external appearance so important? Love should concern the soul, but it involves the body, the shape of the body. Why?”
“I can give you the proper answer,” said Lorenzo, the classic literature teacher. “In ancient Greece, love was called ‘the smile of life’ and beauty ‘the smile of the earth.’ Both smiles were embodied by Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty. She was born from the sea foam. Her beauty enchanted the gods of Olympus. We human beings are allured by the harmony of the forms like the ancient pagan gods. We don’t like ugliness. We are reluctant to fall in love with an ugly woman. But beauty and grace are not enough for the birth of love. It needs something more. Lovers should open their hearts to each other and enjoy staying together. If they can do so, they feel natural and comfortable. This feeling goes beyond physical appearance or sex. If you look for your partner only for sex, that is not love. It is the basis of love to feel joyful and grateful when you stay close to your beloved.
“In Greek mythology, Eros, Aphrodite’s son, symbolizes love. He embodies changeable, blind, and irrational love. Eros is blindfolded and winged. He shoots arrows into the hearts of humans to make them fall in love.
“The mystery of love is contained in the myth of Eros and Psyche. Psyche was a very beautiful girl. Eros fell in love with her. In the nighttime, he met her in a house in the middle of the forest, without ever revealing his appearance. ‘If you don’t see me,’ said Eros, ‘our love will last; otherwise, it will vanish like snow in the hot sun.’ But, Psyche couldn’t resist the temptation of seeing her lover. So, one night, while Eros was sleeping, she saw the extraordinary beauty of her man in the light of an oil lamp. Yet, a drop of hot oil from the lamp fell on Eros’s shoulder. Suddenly, he woke up and disappeared. Psyche
couldn’t see him anymore! The meaning of the myth is clear. You can’t understand love or observe it too closely. If you try to know what love is, it will vanish. You just have to live love without ever asking what it is. Love is a mystery! Just live the mystery!”
“For me,” said Mario, “there must be something rational in love. Someone says that love is an art that can be learned and understood.”
“I don’t think so,” replied Lorenzo. “If love were an art to be learned, lovers would have realized how to make their love last forever. Yet, it is not like that. Almost all loves end up extinguishing sooner or later, like fire that flames at first, but with time burns out.
“Someone thinks that it is possible to use some techniques to make a person fall in love. I don’t think so. Love is attraction and feeling. I think no technique can make a person love somebody. The biggest mistake one can make is to consider love as a safe haven to live happily and serenely for all life. Love is unstable!
“However things are, it is certain that you can’t buy love. Even the rich and the potent can’t buy it with their money and power. So, love is the peak of justice because it doesn’t make any distinction between the rich and the poor, the weak and the potent.”
“Nevertheless, I will keep traveling and looking for my ideal soul mate. I won’t give up, even if I can’t find her until the end of my life. I will always cherish in my mind the hope
that somewhere I will find a woman who suits me. Someday, my eternal love will appear to me definitely,” Alberto said sincerely.
“Don’t search for love outside yourself! You won’t find it!” said Judge Cangemi. “Love is a state of your being! If you become love, everything is love. If you are not love, you can’t find love outside. To find the real eternal love is illusion! You’d better try to become love yourself!”
“I agree with Judge Cangemi,” concluded Uncle Salvatore. “Yes, love is important in our life, but I think the most important journey is to search after the immortal soul and the source of our frail but precious life.”
For about fifteen minutes, the lounge of The old Club of the Noblemen fell silent. No one had any intention of standing up. The theme ‘love’ had stirred up their buried emotions.
They were all old men. Many years had gone by since the first date with the loved girlfriend, the first kiss to her. But, time couldn’t wither their hearts. Love has no age. It is timeless and boundless. Love is the source of life in the universe.
The keeper of the club came near the small group of members.
“Sorry to disturb you all. It’s time to close,” he said with
submissive voice.
“Yes, let’s go home!” said Uncle Salvatore.
Everybody stood up and headed for the exit of the club. The keeper lowered the shutter. The last part of the day was painted with a conversation about love. Tomorrow, another story of life would be continued.

Excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

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TRAVEL TO ROME

rome-night-14453025[1]I arrived at Termini Station in Rome. It was the year of the Jubilee. I wanted to follow the instructions that the Catholic Church imposes on the occasion of the Jubilee. Besides doing a good deed, like giving alms, a pilgrim is asked to visit the catacombs and all four patriarchal churches.
Leaving from the side exit of Termini Station, I walked to the Basilica of Saint Mary the Greatest, and then I kept walking on Merulana Street and visited the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran. From there, I took a bus to the catacombs. When I arrived at the Vatican, I headed for the basements. I meditated for a few minutes before the tomb of Pope John XXIII and made an offering for his beatification.
It was already late. To complete my Jubilee, I needed to visit the Church of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. I took the subway and got there in time, a few minutes before the basilica closed.
After having admired the harmonious and austere colonnade outside the church, I went in and stopped briefly to have a look at the splendid mosaics on the ceiling.
While I was admiring the drawings, a gray-haired guy about forty-five years old, with a southern Italian accent, came up to me.
“What about dividing the cost half and half?”
I was surprised by his asking and had a quick look at him to make sure he was a good guy. He wore casual clothes and looked very self-confident. Soon, I recovered from my astonishment.
“What cost?”
“If we insert some coins into the slot of this telescope, we can see the mosaics on the ceiling closer.”
“Yes, of course!”
We inserted the coins and admired those gorgeous mosaics. Then, the stranger told me something about the basilica.
“It stands on a place where it is believed that Saint Paul was buried. This basilica is the biggest after Saint Peter’s. The emperor Constantine erected a small building in this place, but the subsequent emperors demolished it to build a new basilica, which lasted until a disastrous fire. This basilica was rebuilt similar to the one before the fire. Under the altar, there is the tomb of Saint Paul.”
“I would like to confess. Have you seen any priests who hear confession?”
“Yes, I saw one near the door on the way out.”
We walked together toward the priest, but he refused to listen to me because it was too late, and the church was about to be closed. Actually, the priest was tired because he had heard confessions all day long, and for him it was enough! So, my new friend and I went out of the church and walked down the street.
On the way, we talked about the Jubilee, morals, and religions.
“There is too much theology in your mind. You should use your heart not your brain!” the stranger said.
“Maybe you are right.”
“Once, I knew two exceptional persons. One of them was Padre Pio, a Franciscan friar with the stigmata in his hands just like Jesus. He bore the signs of Jesus’s passion for fifty years until his death when the stigmata disappeared, and his hands returned to be normal. He had the ability to read people’s minds. He was able to be present simultaneously in two different, distant places. Another remarkable person is Natuzza Evolo. Like Padre Pio, she can read people’s minds. She lives in Paravati, Calabria.”
We said goodbye, and then, he headed for the subway station. I kept hanging about the area. After about half an hour, I saw him again, sitting on a bench, waiting for his train.
“You are here again! Well! Since we meet again and not by chance, I want to give you this gift.”
He took from his pocket a sheet of paper, a little bit crumpled, with writing on the front and back and handed it to me. Meanwhile, the train arrived. Getting on the train, he waved his hand to me and smiled from ear to ear.
The train left. I have never seen that man again in my life, but the precious sheet of paper is still with me. I sat on a bench and unfolded it. It contained a list of forty-four titles of books. Later, just to be on the safe side, I made some photocopies.
The first book in the list was, The Book of Mirdad; the last, Dogen and Soto Zen.
The listed books range over many subjects: literature, philosophy, meditation, cultures, and religions. There are books about Sufism, Gurdjieff, Saint Augustine, Plato, Osho, and so on. The titles are handwritten, so difficult to decipher. Some are almost impossible to read. Yet, there is a bookseller in my hometown who helped me to read the titles. Finally, we deciphered all the titles except two.
From time to time, I give a copy of the list to some friends of mine. So far, I have read more than half of the listed books. I hope to read all of them before the end of my life.
At Termini Station, I collected my baggage from the checkroom, and I then took a train to Paris.

Excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

TRAVEL TO TANZANIA – THE MASAI

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In the afternoon, I went for a walk along the same dusty sidewalk as the day before. The rain had compacted the dust. It seemed to follow a sandy riverbank. Here and there, there were puddles. While I was walking at a slow pace, two men of the Masai tribe came up to me. Once I had watched a documentary about the Masai on television. This time, I had the chance to be face-to-face with them. They were lean and taller than me. They didn’t wear the typical red attire. Their mantles had a bluish hue. One of them wore three or four anklets and some bracelets. They held in their hands sticks made of light-colored wood, but they were not long.
“What is the use of your stick?”
“It is a symbol.”
I guessed that a true Masai always brought his stick, even though he didn’t breed sheep or cows. They wore shoes made of pieces of tire, fastened around their big toes with a tire buckle. There was a small button on the buckle. I had seen a similar kind of tire shoe in my hometown a long time ago. Usually, the farmers wore them in the countryside. The Masai asked me to barter their shoes for mine and their bracelets for my watch. I answered no, because I needed them for walking. At the same time, my watch was my friend’s gift and was a reminder of that friend. We said goodbye to each other. They walked away along the sidewalk. I followed them with my eyes until they disappeared in the distance.
Later, in the dining room of the organization, I talked about the Masai with a German lady who came to Tanzania for three months every year.
“The Masai recycle the entire wheel of a car. Besides making their shoes, they make ropes for tying up their animals from the tires. Moreover, since they have no bells, they hang a rim on a tree or on a wall and strike it with a piece of iron as if it were a gong. In this way, they inform the community whenever an event begins or ends,” she said.

Excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

IN THE MOSQUE

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When I returned to my hometown, I went to my colleague’s house to give him the gift of the picture I had bought at Amman Airport. My colleague was fond of me. As soon as he saw me, he hugged me with his long arms so tightly that I felt like disappearing within his arms. He unwrapped my gift hurriedly, as if it contained a precious pearl. But as soon as he saw the painting with the words written in Arabic, his countenance changed.
“What do these words in Arabic mean?”
“I don’t know. I just bought this picture because it looked quite artistic to my eyes. It is not important to know the meaning of the words in an artistic work. Don’t you think so?”
His facial expression was ambiguous. He didn’t answer my question. Apparently, he didn’t seem to like my gift.
Hearing my voice, his wife, who was busy preparing a delicious dinner for me, came out of the kitchen. She smiled with happiness and thrust out her hand, still smelling of garlic, to shake hands. But on seeing my gift, her broad smile faded. I noticed, although they were smiling, an expression of disappointment in their faces.
When I met my colleague at school, he told me that his wife wanted to know the meaning of the Arabic words in the painting. I had the address and telephone number of the imam of the mosque. I called him to arrange an appointment. He said that we could meet him at the mosque before or after the Friday prayer.
My colleague and I arrived at the mosque almost one hour before the beginning of the Friday prayer. It was not easy to find the place, but in the end, everything was okay. The mosque was on the ground floor of an old building. My colleague took out the picture from his backpack. While waiting for the imam, we asked one of the persons in the mosque to translate the words in the painting into Italian.
“It is a sura,” said the man, whose features were markedly Arab.
“What is a sura?” asked my colleague.
“It is a chapter of the Koran.”
“How is it possible that a chapter is so short?”
“There are some suras that take many pages in the Koran and others with a few lines. The sura painted in the picture is the last of the Koran whose title is ‘Humans.’ Here is the translation: ‘In the name of compassionate and merciful God, say I seek refuge in the Lord of humans, the King of humans, the God of humans; from the evil of the whisperer, who slinks off, who whispers into the hearts of humans; from jinn and men!’”
In the meanwhile, the mosque was getting more and more crowded with people different in color. At two o’clock, the imam came in. He greeted us with great warmth and asked us to enter the prayer room. There were no chairs. We were standing, but from time to time we sat on the floor. At the beginning of the function, a man close to the imam announced the prayer with Arabic words that sounded like a melodious chant. Then, the imam began to talk. At the beginning, he spoke Arabic, but later, he continued to talk in Italian. It seemed to me that his speech was a comment on a sura from the Koran. After the function was over, we asked the imam to translate the words in the painting into Italian. He confirmed the translation done by the person we had met in the mosque before.
“Always remember the last sura of the Koran!” he told me in a warm and sincere voice. “Seek refuge in God whenever the devil comes into your heart and pushes you to be a bad man. When the devil blandishes you to go in the wrong direction, invoke Allah, and the devil will become smaller and smaller.”
We said goodbye to the imam. I promised him to come back again for the Friday prayer.
My colleague and I headed for our car parked nearby. When I was about to open the door, three men stopped us and asked for our identification cards. Then they showed us their policeman identifications. They were policemen wearing civilian clothes. They searched our car to find something. I didn’t know why. Then they called their operations room to report our names. They told us that it was a normal control, but they asked us too many questions. It made me suspect that our visit to the mosque was the cause of those controls. Never in my life had I been checked by the police. Despite my promise to the imam, I didn’t go to the mosque for the prayers anymore. I didn’t want other checks by the police and run the risk that my passport would not be renewed. I thought that I would return to that mosque when religious intolerance disappeared on Earth.

Excerpt from Travels of the Mind

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

TRAVELS OF THE MIND (second edition)

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Mindful Travel Book Inspires Personal Growth & Happiness

World traveler Ettore Grillo remembers a special conversation at a noblemen’s club in Sicily, where members relate their travel stories. He records their talks, and the result is Travels of the Mind, a mind-expanding book with travel tips, stories, and deep conversations.

Adding his own travel experiences, the author’s Travels of the Mind becomes a spiritual inner journey as well as a self-help book. These discussions are helpful for getting over anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. The author overcame his own anxiety and panic attacks by undertaking meditation and travel, and by opening his heart to God.

Travel along to such widespread places as Tanzania, Medugorje, London, Paravati (Calabria), Rome, Paris, Tokyo, New York, and small towns in Germany and Switzerland. But travel is not the only thing discussed. The men speak openly of love, spirituality, mind, life, and death. They debate the biggest puzzles of life: What is love, can people control their minds, and is there life after death?

About the Author: Ettore Grillo is a retired criminal attorney from Enna, Sicily, who spends his time writing and traveling. This is the second edition of his first book. He calls himself a citizen of the world. “All people are my friends, whatever race and social class they belong to.” He adds that “readers can see something of themselves in the pages of this unique book.” See his blog at ettoregrillo.wordpress.com.

“This book goes where no other travel book has gone before. Full of philosophy, meaningful discussions, as well as travel tips for the discerning traveler. Travels of the Mind is not only fascinating, but journeys deep into cultures around the world. Don’t leave home without it!” said Robert Fletcher, CEO of Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency.

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

 

MOSTAR AND KOTOR

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While we were staying in Medugorje, we visited the old city of Mostar not far from there.

Mostar deserves to be a UNESCO heritage site. It is really a beautiful city. The river Neretva with its emerald hue crosses the old city. Mosques, minarets and the artistic bridge called Stari Most adorn the Muslim quarters. These days the atrocities of the ethnic war between Serbs, Muslims and Croats are over and the citizens coexist peacefully regardless of the religion each professes.

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From Medugorje we traveled to Montenegro and had a stop in the old city of Kotor which is a UNESCO heritage site as well. Walking on the squares and narrow alleys, I had a feeling of being in Venice. Apparently, the Venetians who ruled this city for more than three centuries left the imprint of their presence. They also built the impressive fortifications that surround the old city. Climbing the 1600 stairs through the fortifications is the best way to admire a breathtaking landscape. But, what impressed me the most was the view of the huge rock mountains that surround the Bay of Kotor. They seem to rise from the water and touch the sky.
Mostar and Kotor are two special cities. Actually, every city, town, and village in the world has its uniqueness. All of them make up that fantastic colorful mosaic called planet Earth.
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

DUBROVNIK FIFTY YEARS LATER

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I came to Dubrovnik fifty years ago on a cruise ship. At that time I traveled with my uncle Salvatore and his wife. Now I am in Dubrovnik again with my love on my way to Medugorje.
Walking around the old city, my attention was caught by the artistic Onofrio’s fountain. It is near the gate to the old city. There is an inscription on the top of the fountain. It is written in Latin that it was built by a Neapolitan architect called Onofrio to supply water to the whole city.
Yesterday I visited the small Isle of Locrum which is very near Dubrovnik. Its Latin name means bitter fruit. It was very beautiful. The island is linked to the history of the crusades. Legend says that Richard the Lion-Heart was shipwrecked on this small island on the way back from the crusades.
Fifty years later Dubrovnik is still the same. Nothing has changed: the same alleys, the same walls, the same squares and churches. As for me, I have changed a lot. I am not the same person as I was fifty years ago. My soul has grown. I wonder whether everybody changes in the course of their life or most people remain the same from birth to death.
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

SANTA CROCE CHURCH

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SANTA CROCE CHURCH

The atmosphere in Santa Croce Church warmed up. Now there were two opposing parties: the spiritualists and the materialists.
A young man from the spiritualist party raised his hand and asked to talk. Paolo nodded and asked him to introduce himself. He was a player on Enna’s rugby team. He was curly haired, tall, and stout. As soon as he got up, the girls in the audience turned towards him, mesmerized by his figure.
“My name is Giuliano, and I have something to say about the subject matter.”
“You are allowed to talk as long as you like!” answered Paolo.
“Whenever I want to discover something new and never unveiled before, I picture a man who is wandering in the desert,” the young man said. “He is thirsty and walks along the dunes. He needs some water to survive, and hopes to find an oasis. Suddenly, he sees a pond in the distance. He quickens his pace to get to the oasis as soon as possible, but once he gets close, it disappears because it was just a mirage and not a real oasis.
“He sees more mirages as he continues walking. What to do? He is tempted to give up and surrender to his ill luck, but he is a man of faith. He has faith in good luck, and is sure that sooner or later he will find real water not just a mirage. He walks and walks, dune after dune, until, in the end, he finds a
real oasis. His faith has saved him.”…
Excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE HOLY WEEK IN ENNA

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THE HOLY WEEK IN ENNA

In Enna, on the occasion of the Holy Week, the Church of Saint Michael has been reopened to the public for a few days. It was a mosque until a few centuries ago. Later, it was converted into a Catholic church.

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During the Arab rule, which lasted about two centuries, Sicily was full of mosques. According to a historian, at that time there were more mosques in Palermo than in Istanbul.
Later, although there were many Catholics and also a few Muslim families, Enna was essentially pagan. The cult of the mother goddess Demeter and her daughter Kore was deep rooted in the hearts of the townspeople.
In 1412 the statue of the patron saint, Maria Santissima della Visitazione, came to Enna. Since then, the whole population has been Catholic.

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Although the Holy Week is a legacy of the Spanish rule in Sicily, some brotherhoods date back to the Nights Templar. One of these is the brotherhood of the Most Holy Savior, which was founded in 1261, before the Spaniards conquered Sicily.
The brethren who belong to the brotherhood of the Holy Savior have the privilege of carrying in procession on their shoulders the glass sarcophagus containing the wooden statue of dead Jesus.
In Enna, during the Holy Week, folklore and religiosity intertwine. It is a unique event that is worth seeing.
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind

amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

PALM SUNDAY IN ENNA

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PALM SUNDAY IN ENNA

The very bad weather didn’t prevent the townspeople from pouring into the streets. Everybody followed the procession despite the intense cold.
On Palm Sunday, the brethren take in procession the wooden statue of Jesus.
The procession moves from the Church of San Leonardo to the cathedral church.
After mass in the cathedral, the procession goes back to the Church of San Leonardo.
The brethren who have the privilege of carrying the statue of Jesus on their shoulders are those who belong to the Confraternity of Passion. This brotherhood is one of the sixteen brotherhoods of Enna. It was established in the seventeenth century under the Spanish viceroy. In fact, Sicily was Spanish possession.
The rites of the Holy Week date back to the period of Spanish domination, but some brotherhoods are very old and claim to have been founded by the Knights Templar.
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind

amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo