THE LOST BEACH OF ERACLEA MINOA IN SICILY

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About fifteen years ago, I visited the beautiful beach of Eraclea Minoa. At that time, I was attracted by the broad sand beach and the pinewood by it.
Today, I came to Eraclea Minoa again, but to my surprise, the beautiful wide sand beach didn’t exist anymore.
It seems that the cause of the disappearance of the beach is just one: man’s greed for money. In fact, they took sand from the beach to build buildings and altered the natural course of the river.

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I think we’d better ponder on the lost beach of Eraclea Minoa. Now and then, beautiful nature disappears from Earth: a strip of rainforest, a glacier, a vegetable or animal species, and so on.
I don’t deny the importance of money. But I just want to say that the most important value is life on Earth and then money or other things.
While I was walking on the shore, I enjoyed what humans cannot destroy easily: The  unique Capo Bianco of Eraclea Minoa, a white promontory at the end of the pinewood.
I feel sorry for the disappearance of beautiful nature because of human greed.
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind

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

SUNSET AT SCALA DEI TURCHI, REALMONTE (SICILY)

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The name Scala dei Turchi comes from the Saracen pirates (by extension, Turks) who used to take refuge in this Sicilian stretch of sea sheltered from winds.
These days, Scala dei Turchi is a tourist attraction due to the unique white color of the rocks that comes from the peculiar marl which the cliff consists of.

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We arrived there at sunset. There were no words for me to express the magic of Scala dei Turchi while the sun was setting. Maybe the white cliff also bewitched the Saracen pirates as if it had been a magnet and it immortalized their name, Turchi (Turks).
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind

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

TRADITIONAL SICILIAN PRAYERS


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My grandma taught me some traditional prayers, which I still say every night before sleeping, even now that I am old.
One of these prayers is this:
I sleep in this bed
There is Mary over my chest
I sleep and she watches over me
If something bad is going to happen she will wake me.
The second prayer is:

I am with Jesus, I stay with Jesus.
As long as I am with Jesus I have no fears.
I know that I am going to sleep
But I don’t know if I’ll awake.
My soul be always commended (to Jesus).

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

 

LIFE IN AN ANCIENT WHOREHOUSE

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There was a public whorehouse in Enna until 1958. Afterwards, all brothels were suppressed throughout Italy by an act of the national parliament. Enna’s public whorehouse was located in the upper town, which looks onto the nearby town of Calascibetta, but it was not far from downtown. Of course, Enna is a small city lying on a plateau, and the distances between one side and another are not long.
To go to the public brothel from Saint Francis Square, which is the heart of the city, you had to go down the main street called Via Roma. When Mussolini came to power, he decreed that the main street in every Italian city, town, and village should be named Roma, which he considered not just the capital of Italy, but also the symbol of the Italian power, history, and traditions.
Walking a short distance down Via Roma, there is another small square called Piazza Balata, named by the Arabs who had conquered Sicily around the tenth century AD, and who remained here for two centuries until they were defeated by the Normans.
Four streets branch off from Piazza Balata. One of them that goes uphill is called Via Sant’Agata. The main business centers of Enna are on this street. The small Church of Santa Croce was located on Via Sant’Agata as well. The street that branches off downhill is called Via Pergusa. It leads towards mythological Lake Pergusa. Of the other two streets, one is the continuation of Via Roma, while the other leads to the area where the public whorehouse once was. That street is called Via Vittorio Emanuele II, who was the king when the unification of Italy took place.
Walking uphill on Via Vittorio Emanuele II, on the right there is a square that is raised about one meter above the street, which at harvest time once swarmed with folk from all
over Sicily. Those people were farm workers who hoped to get hired to reap the wheat, which is abundant in the fields around Enna.
Further on is the impressive Church of San Cataldo with its wooden-trussed roof. According to a friend of mine who is an archeologist, this church overlapped the old Temple of Persephone, named for Demeter’s daughter. He could be right, because through a glass floor inside the church it is possible to see old remains that likely denote a preexisting place of worship.
Walking along the external wall of the church, the street gets narrower for a few meters and then leads to the area called Popolo (the common people). In this area, the street takes the form of a backbone from where, like ribs, a series of alleyways branch off. As we keep walking, we find the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo (Saint Mary of the People) on the left, the origin of which was the chapel of a convent of cloistered nuns.
Long ago, a great part of the city of Enna consisted of churches, convents, and monasteries. After the unification of Italy, the convent attached to the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo shared the lot of much of the ecclesiastic real estate. It was expropriated by the Italian liberal government. The nuns were asked to leave, and the Italian army turned the convent into a military garrison.
The ex-convent, the square in front of it, and the bordering houses took the appellation of Colombaia (dovecote), due to the fact that, before the telegraph was invented, the military detachment used to communicate with other outposts by carrier pigeons that were kept in the state-owned dovecote. The carrier pigeons had the task of delivering messages from one place to another, and it seems that they never got lost. In fact, they were able to cover a distance of a thousand kilometers at the speed of 100 kilometers per hour, bearing the message to be delivered stuck on their claw.
If you keep walking uphill on Via Vittorio Emanuele II, it leads to another street called Via San Francesco d’Assisi. Almost at the end of Via Vittorio Emanuele II, on the right, there is Via Aspromonte, a narrow alley that just leads to the building that once was the public whorehouse.
The brothel was run by a brothel keeper, but the building belonged to a wealthy Enna family and had been leased to an ex-prostitute who had made enough money from her “work.”
Brothel keepers were often called queens, and were usually unmarried. If it happened that one of them was married, her husband was called the “king.”
One room of the whorehouse was left for a police officer, who had the task of keeping order and checking the personal documents, above all the ones regarding the customer’s age. In fact, entrance was forbidden to young men under eighteen years of age. Nevertheless, the brothel keeper controlled everything in advance and kept order. She was always present at the entrance, and was very strict with both the prostitutes and the customers.
The brothel’s main door was kept ajar till late into the night. A wide red curtain separated the entrance from the rest of the house. Over the curtain there was a hall. The queen’s room was on the right, and on the left two steps led to a corridor. At the bottom was the room for the policeman; on the left there were two wide bedrooms, and on the right two waiting rooms.
The bedrooms were equipped with a washbasin, a bidet, an irrigator, and a small closet where tubes containing calomel ointment, thymol, and silver mercury for the treatment that had to be done after every intercourse were kept, and obviously there was a bed. It was a big double bed covered with a bedspread and a simple white cotton sheet.
The whorehouse was not furnished with a heating system, so every room had a wood stove with a saucepan full of water on it, which served the purpose of keeping moisture in the air. The hot water was also used to fill hot-water bottles that warmed up the girls and also the chilly customers, who put them on their genitals. Some girls obliged their customers by taking a hip bath, using the bidet, before having sex.
In the waiting rooms, where the customers sat on wooden sofas, there were placards that listed the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, the preventive treatments to apply, the location of the prevention and treatment dispensaries, and where to go for clinical tests.
In one of the lounges that the girls used to talk with the customers, there was a desk where the queen kept the accounts. One drawer held the tokens and in the other she
stashed the money. After the customer had paid the fee, the girl got a token, which was the equivalent of a simple sexual intercourse, and at the end of the day the tokens that each girl collected were counted and exchanged into ready money by the brothel keeper.
Behind the desk, stuck on the wall, there was the price list pinned on a wooden board:
• Simple service £ 1
• Double £ 1.8
• Fifteen minutes £ 2.20
• Half an hour £ 3.50
• One hour £ 5
• Towel and soap £ 0.50
From the hall, a staircase led upstairs where there were three more rooms for the girls, the medical room, and another waiting room reserved only for high-class people or someone that wanted to hide his identity, like a priest, a monk, or a married person. The entrance to this waiting room was regulated by the queen, who ordered the doors to all rooms shut, except the one reserved for the police, in order to let in the person that had asked to remain anonymous. Another staircase led to the basement, which was comprised of the kitchen, the laundry, and the dining room.
The meeting between the girls and their customers took place in the waiting rooms. It was not as easy as you might imagine to find a mutual attraction, because everyone has different tastes. Some people liked a thin girl, and others a plump one, or one with a great pair of tits. Some preferred blondes and others the dark-haired ones. Once the choice had been made, the couple headed for the bedroom, and within about ten minutes the meeting was over. It was possible to stay in the bedroom for a longer time, but in that case the customer obviously had to pay more.
Before having intercourse, the girls examined their customers very carefully, and sometimes they were able to diagnose some of the sexually transmitted diseases.
Some customers used to take two girls, and sometimes a couple of men went into a bedroom with only one girl. Sexual activities varied widely. Some men liked to have anal
intercourse with the girl, some enjoyed the girl sucking or moving her tongue around his penis, while others preferred to move their tongue across the female sexual organs.
A friend of mine, who had been a great haunter of the brothel, told me that before having sex he used to lick the whore all over her body, from the tip of her toes to her crown. He told me that the time he spent there had been the most beautiful in his life. The charming atmosphere of the girls sitting in the lounge was unforgettable. He enjoyed talking and joking with them for long periods of time before going to the room to have sex. In 1958, when public whorehouses were suppressed by law, he stuck a death notice on the walls of the buildings in Enna: “The public whorehouse of Enna is dead and an era is ended. All the men who used to go to that house mourn the loss of their beloved meeting place.”
The prostitutes in the whorehouse shifted every fifteen days. The fortnight shift happened by bilateral agreement between the brothel keeper and the prostitutes. The girls were brought there by a recruiter. Once in the brothel they had to give half of their earnings to the queen. They also had to pay their board and lodging. Once in the brothel, the girls took nicknames, which usually reflected the place of their origin or the peculiar “skills” they had. For instance, if one was good at giving a man oral pleasure, she was called the blow jobber.
The girls used to be able to sleep or rest however they pleased in the mornings; only one of them was on duty and available in case a customer had the pressing need to have sex. In the evenings, all the girls sat scantily dressed in the lounge where the meetings with their customers took place.
Some men quite often went to the whorehouse just to chat with the girls. They didn’t want to have sex, but just to loaf about. In this case, the queen intervened and asked the person to leave. However, as Enna is a small town where almost everyone knows one another, the queen was able to spot the dawdlers in advance and wouldn’t allow them to enter.
The chat with the girls went on for a while in the lounge. Some people used to grope the girls before making their choice. Once the customer had opted for one of the girls, she couldn’t refuse, even if he was ugly, dirty, or had a penis out of proportion. She had to follow him to the room and satisfy him according to his will.
A friend of mine, who had lived in Enna during the Second World War, told me that when the American troops conquered the town, most of the soldiers were looking for brothels or prostitutes that ran their business at home.
One of the freelance whores lived in Colombaia Quarter not far from my friend’s home. He told me that whenever he passed by her house, he heard her crying out with pain. Obviously there were some problems with the penis size of those soldiers, or the way they wanted to have sex.
Whorehouses in Italy had different standards. There was a classification similar to that of hotels, ranging from five-star to one star. The whorehouse in Enna was listed at three-star. The difference of the standards of brothels was given not only by the more luxurious environment, but above all by the quality of the female “material.” Girls in a four- or five- star brothel had to meet certain criteria: beauty, age, and above all buxomness.
All girls in any brothel had to have their health certificate to work. Apparently, the society of that time was openly male chauvinist, because health certificates were required only for girls, not for men that entered the whorehouse. The fact is, that after one year of work, almost all prostitutes fell ill with a venereal disease, especially syphilis. When the queen had the tiniest suspicion that a girl had contracted a venereal disease, she asked her to leave the house right away.
In Enna’s whorehouse, the new girls all had to undergo health examinations. The outpatient clinic was on the other side of the city, so the new prostitutes were paraded by the queen through Via Vittorio Emanuele II, Saint Francis Square, and Via Roma to go to the doctor. It was a good opportunity for them to be seen by the townspeople and to publicize themselves.
The medical examination consisted of an overall body check-up, but above all genitals and mucosae needed to be examined. Then the doctor had to check if gonococcus, the
etiological agent of gonorrhea, was present. Even though the examination was very thorough, it didn’t guarantee with absolute certainty that the prostitute didn’t have a contagious venereal disease. In fact, all infectious diseases have an incubation period of a few days. During that time it is impossible to make an accurate diagnosis, and a sick prostitute could still infect her customers.
My friend who lived during the brothel era told me that an outstanding professional man, who was married to a noblewoman, once contracted syphilis when he had sex with a prostitute in a five-star brothel in Catania. Then he infected his wife, who was pregnant. The twins that she delivered were both born syphilitic. It was a real tragedy at that time. Syphilis could not be cured completely and it affected many organs like the liver, the kidneys, and the central nervous system.
Besides the activity that was run in public whorehouses, there was a kind of  underground prostitution. Those prostitutes used to take a seat in front of their homes—
usually located on the ground floor and looking onto the street—and lured passersby. Sometimes the oldest prostitutes took in some young girls.
Those whores were not as beautiful as the ones in public brothels. They were often getting on in years. Their average age was around forty or fifty, but they were the only way for teenagers to have sex. At that time, morals were very strict and it was even considered improper for unmarried couples to merely stroll on the street. Whenever two engaged people wanted to go together to some place, to the cinema for instance, or just wanted to take a walk, they needed to be escorted by another woman of the family, who remained stuck to them all the way.
For teenagers, there was no other opportunity to have sex except with a whore. Most of the teenagers in Enna had their entry into the sex world through prostitutes that ran their business at home. While whores in brothels didn’t need a pimp, for street prostitutes a kind of protection was necessary. Usually the pimp was her lover who had started her off on the career as a prostitute.
The greatest danger whenever a boy had sex with a whore was contracting a contagious disease. Some sexually transmitted diseases were not very serious, like pediculosis and candidiasis, while others like syphilis were very dangerous. Gonorrhea was considered much less serious than syphilis, and if no complications arose, it was cured without any lasting effects.

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
http://www.ettoregrillocom.wordpress.com
http://www.ettoregrillo.wordpress.com

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

SULFUR MINES IN SICILY

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October 26, 1933
It was 3:30 in the morning when my mother woke me up. “Get dressed within ten minutes, because your father is waiting for you!” she said.
I looked at my mother with my eyes wide open and obeyed her without saying any word. I got dressed and went down to my parents’ bedroom where my father was waiting for me. As soon as I entered the room he took his revolver from the closet and loaded it with six bullets. Then he fastened his cartridge belt around his waist. Then he put on his blue hooded cloak and buckled it near his neck. At last, he took his double-barreled gun from the closet and slung it over his shoulder.
“Now we are ready to go,” he said with his grim face.
I was breathless. I couldn’t imagine what was going to happen. I had a bad feeling, but I didn’t have the courage to ask my father what he was going to do with those arms. I followed him down the inner stairs that led to the stable. The light of the lamp was feeble, but here and there I saw some mice running though the straw. My father took the
packsaddle that was hung on the wall and put it on the mare, which was startled. Finally, he pulled the girth tightly.
“Take the reins and the saddlebags,” he said.
I did as he asked, and then he ordered me to get a small barrel of wine, a bottle of water, and an acetylene lantern. We would use the lamp on the road.
He lifted me with his strong arms and put me on the front of the packsaddle and walked the mare up to the exit of the vegetable garden. He closed the gate and leapt back into the saddle. Our mare walked briskly through the empty streets of Enna. The streets were illuminated until we reached the Janniscuru Gate, but little by little as we advanced along the country road it became darker and darker.
My father took the acetylene lamp and lit it. “Hold it!” he said.
I grabbed the lantern from the hook, and I have to say that it actually lit the road in front of us very well. It wasn’t very heavy, but the smell that it gave off was disgusting!
I had heard from my mother that there were bandits along the roads who mugged passersby, but I blindly trusted my father. He is very strong and nobody dared confront him. My only worry was what my father would do to me. I was sure that my mother had told him that I was a bad student, so I expected punishment, but I couldn’t figure out what kind. At last, I summoned up my courage to ask him.
“Where are we going, Father?”
“Shut up!” he said with a voice so firm that it made me shiver with fear. We kept going through the pitch-black night, while I kept holding the lantern.
After an hour of riding, I saw a long line of men, young men, boys, and ragged children walking slowly on the road with their lanterns in their hands. They looked as if they were souls that were heading for the Valley of Jehoshaphat near Jerusalem on the day of the Last Judgement.
Where are all those people going at night? I thought. I could never have imagined so eerie a scenario. It was as if I was dreaming, but the lantern in my hand, which was now getting heavy, dispelled all my doubts. I was awake, as were all those people walking along the edge of the road.
It was almost dawn when we arrived at a place with many cylinder-shaped stone mounds that gave off smoke on the top, while below a yellow liquid leaked through a crack in the stones. We had arrived at a sulfur mine.
As soon as they saw my father, three mine laborers headed for us. They all bowed to my father and kissed his hand. One of them took the reins of the mare, while another laborer took my father’s cloak. A third workman was waiting for my father’s orders.
“This is my son, Vincenzo. I want you to show him the mine, both inside and out,” my father said with a commanding tone. The laborer nodded. “It will be done!” Meanwhile, he helped me dismount.  Holding my hand, he led me to the smoking stones that I had seen at the entrance.
“These are furnaces,” he said. “We put the sulfur ore inside and smelt it. At least two-thirds of the molten sulfur is lost in the air as sulfur dioxide. The remaining third flows into wooden casts. We wait until the sulfur is cold, then we take it out of the wooden casts and load it into trucks. We export sulfur all over the world. It is used in agriculture as a fertilizer, to make gunpowder, as an insecticide, a fungicide, and so on. Nevertheless, I have to say that all the people that work here breathe toxic fumes due to high levels of sulfur dioxide in the air. Sooner or later we all get sick. We are doomed to die young. Therefore, I advise you to stay as far away from this sulfur mine as you can.”
We kept walking around the area until we finally arrived at an entrance that had been dug into the ground. The upper part of the tunnel and the walls were propped up by wooden piles and beams, and a narrow staircase led underground.
“Is it not dangerous to go underground? I don’t think these wooden posts are stable enough,” I said.
“Actually, accidents happen every now and then, but we must go down, otherwise your father will reprimand me. Anyway, don’t be anxious. You are safe with me,” he said, holding my hand tightly.
We went downstairs for about a hundred meters. Then the stairs became steeper and slippery. Little by little, as we went down it got hotter. We kept going until we arrived at a wide area from where many tunnels branched off. They were propped up precariously.
Along the stairs and the galleries I saw an uninterrupted line of children who were carrying that nauseating acetylene lamp in one hand and a heavy weight on their shoulder. The ore was stuffed into canvas bags or baskets. The children wore small bags stuffed with rags on their shoulders and heads to soften the harshness of the ore. Stooping under the weight and with labored breathing, they went upstairs slowly, giving out a painful moan with every step. I had the impression of seeing human-shaped moles which didn’t like to come out in the daylight.
“What is the average age of those children?” I asked.
“Their age ranges from seven to eighteen years. They cannot grow well because the air here is too rarefied and humid. Moreover, they carry weights that are too much for their young age. They cannot stop on the stairs to take a rest or the entire long train of carriers would stop. Their bodies are misshapen and they will never grow taller.”
We kept going down, and finally arrived at the end of one of the galleries. The air there was hot and unbearable. I saw that a few men were completely naked because of the stifling heat. With picks in their hands, they dug out the ore. Near them, a few children filled baskets and canvas bags with the ore, while other little laborers helped other children put the loads on their shoulders.
“Every pick man has at least three children at his disposal. He cannot do his work without children that carry out the material that he digs out. For this reason, he makes an agreement with children’s parents. The pick man gives the parents money in exchange for their children’s work.”
I was itching to leave that goddamn, underground place. I wanted to breathe freely in daylight, but the laborer, who had to follow my father’s orders, took me all around the mine to see more naked laborers and misshapen children.
“One last thing,” the laborer said. “You have to know that accidents are not infrequent in this mine. Some are caused by the accidental collapse of the props, but the most serious tragedies happen when the laborers come across firedamp, which explodes when it comes in contact with the flame from the lanterns. A considerable number of both pick men and children, sometimes dozens, are left trapped in the bowels of the mine. Their deaths are appalling. The oxygen runs out little by little and they die of suffocation.”
When I got out of that infernal mine, my legs were quaking. My mouth was dry and my face was pale. The hand gave me some water and we both sat down on a bench near my father’s office. From there I could see the people who set fire to big logs below the furnaces, while other laborers loaded the blocks of melted sulfur into wheelbarrows and then carried them to the trucks. My father didn’t allow me to enter his office, so I had to wait outside on the bench. Two hours later a hand came with our mare. It was the sign that we could go home.
On the way back home my father broke his silence. “Did you visit the mine?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Did you see all those children working hard?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Well, now I’ll give you an option—you either make progress in your studies, or you will come and work inside the mine like those children you just saw. You can be sure that if you fail as a student I will take you to work in the mine!
“You can consider yourself a privileged boy,” my father continued, “because you are given an option, while those unlucky children have no choice. They belong to large families with six, seven, sometimes twelve children. Their parents cannot afford to support them, so they entrust them to the pick men for a handful of money.”
“Okay, Father, I promise from now on I’ll be a good schoolboy!” I said.

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
http://www.ettoregrillocom.wordpress.com
http://www.ettoregrillo.wordpress.com

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