To go to Monte Pellegrino, I drove towards Mondello and took the panoramic road that leads to the top of the mountain. The road was full of sharp U-bends.
“I feel dizzy if I look down,” Giuseppina said.
At the end of the winding road we arrived at a square. From there, a flight of steps led to the Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia, also called the Santuzza, who is the patron saint of Palermo.
It is said that in 1624, when the plague was causing many deaths in Palermo, Rosalia appeared to a shooter and led him to the cave on Mount Pellegrino, where her bones could be found. Then she asked him to take her bones to Palermo to be carried in a procession along the streets. The hunter did what Santa Rosalia wished and, after her remains were carried in procession three times, the plague ended. From then on, Santa Rosalia has been the patron saint of Palermo.
The sanctuary was inside the cave where Santa Rosalia’s remains were found. Entering the cave, I was enchanted by the silent atmosphere. The German poet Wolfgang Goethe, who visited the place, described Monte Pellegrino as the most beautiful promontory in the world.
Not far from the entrance of the cave were some votive offerings from people who had been granted a blessing. Going forward, my attention was attracted by the drops that came from the top of the cave. The drops were canalized on thin silvery metal sheets to a basin, and were used to fill the holy water stoup at the entrance of the church. I don’t know why, but I had the sensation that the dripping water was teardrops, as if that holy cave were shedding tears for me.
At the end of the cave was a marble statue portraying the Immaculate Conception. I genuflected and, watching Mary’s statue, asked her to lead us in the best way according to her will. Unfortunately, Giuseppina and I couldn’t escape our fate!
Before long, a thunderbolt would fall on us.
At that moment, I recalled one of my mother’s poems that I had read when I had found Vincenzo’s diary.
We were sitting on our stone staircase.
What is life? I asked my siblings.
“Life is breathing,” answered Biagio. “Even trees
“Life is a tiny bird on a small branch,” said Vincenzo.
“Unexpectedly the sprig snaps,
and the little bird flies away.”
“As for me,” replied Carolina, “life is a dream,
sometimes beautiful and often nightmarish.”
“Life is destiny!” I ended off. “It is a beautiful drawing
on the sand,
and the drawer already knows when the tide will
This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind