|The Life in Cianciana, Sicily|
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|The Life in Cianciana, Sicily|
|Scritto da Hilary Arnold|
Where is it? What’s it like to live there?
During the summer months the town’s population swells to nearly 10,000 as many families return for the season. More than 5000 people immigrated from Cianciana during the 1960s after the closure of the local sulphur mines, settling in England, France, Australia and the Americas. Family is very important in Sicily, and people have always remained in touch with relatives no matter the distance. Consequently, summer is particularly lively with the numerous cafes and bars staying open until the early hours of the morning, as people enjoy family reunions and balmy late nights. Summer is also the time when most foreign homeowners visit to indulge in Cianciana’s glorious weather and the beautiful beaches to the south.
More and more of us have made a home here year round. The character of the town is certainly quieter during the off-season. This is the time when you really start to meet your neighbors, and become part of the Cianciana family. Bars and restaurants are open all year, and there are festa throughout the winter months as well. In fall is the olive harvest, and there are 2 local olive presses which fill the air with pungent odor of virgin oil. Winter is orange season, for which Sicily is rightly famous, growing navel, blood and sweet oranges. The local produce of Cianciana is seasonal, organic and always fresh from the grower. In mid February there is the almond blossom festival in Agrigento. At all times of the year the attention and celebration of the harvest is evident, whether it be pistachios, almonds, pomegranates, olives, oranges, lemons, cauliflower, fava beans or tomatoes. Tomatoes are grown un-staked and the ripest are used to make passata, during September the streets smell of one huge vat of savory tomato sauce which is bottled and used throughout the year.
The weather is variable from November until the end of March. This is a Mediterranean island, and there can be large storms, and cold nights, especially in January and February. However, we are often treated to bright sunny days to break up the winter weather. As most homes are built of block (tufa) and concrete, you do need heating. However the summer months are consistently hot, it starts to warm up in May and the fine weather often continues into November.
Daily life anywhere is hard to capture. Here things are relaxed, which can be frustrating for those of us used to living in larger cities where instant gratification is possible. Things take time here, and often when someone says tomorrow (domani), one may need to ask “which tomorrow?” It is a place where you need to make your own niche, whether as an artist, a builder, a retiree, part time resident etc. Going out for simple errands can take a long time as you end up stopping to chat with half of the town, or get caught in line at the deli counter (salumeria), where the customer in front of you is engaging in a 20 minute conversation worthy of not seeing the person in years, even though they were there the day before. It all has it’s own entertainment value and you may find yourself holding up traffic on the main road, while you lean on someone’s window to exchange greetings and news. Traffic watching from the Clock Tower Cafe, in the center of town, is a truly pleasurable past time. On a hot day with a cold beer, the uniquely Cianciana rush hour around lunch and then at 6 pm is full of cars parking on sidewalks or at jaunty angles blocking traffic as large delivery trucks attempt to negotiate, and people get in highly amusing disputes with the whistle-armed traffic wardens. From the terrace you can also look down the main street of town at the blue hazed mountains to the south. If you turn to look back across the terrace, there are usually at least 2 tables packed with people playing cards, in which it is obligatory to wave your hands and shout often to intimidate your opponents. All in good fun, and just part of the sounds and color that make Cianciana special.
We read on a forum of expats the question “What’s so special about Cianciana, why there?” It seems difficult to describe, but there is something that tugs at your heart here. Mixed with that affection is also the inevitable irritations present in any good relationship. Our shock that in the summer when water is in short supply, that our neighbors insist on bathing their balconies with 100s of liters every morning. Exactly how does the free form line at the post office work? When we were first here we stood in line for 20 minutes, and just as we got to the front, a woman came running up and said that she’d been there earlier and therefore was ahead of us. Hmm, still trying to fathom the logic of that. Trying to accept that children run rampant here, and there is very little overt discipline, okay maybe none at all. Yet, none of these frustrations have ever made us regret our decision to move here. So obviously there is much more positive than negative, and we all need something to moan about. The friendliness and instant acceptance is what first attached us, and the quirks have only endeared us. Our own oddities are no doubt a source of raised eyebrows and shakes of the head, but hopefully we provide amusement for our neighbors. No, we don’t scour our balconies and polish the door step each day. We often go out together as a couple, here many couples only go out on festa. This was very confusing at first, as you needed to wait for a holiday to see who was with who. We’re still not sure. That tradition is changing with a younger generation, and we have been accepted as we are. Is that it? An openness and welcome even though we are obviously not Sicilian, and must be putting our foot in it all the time. Who knows?
So why this web site? Well amid that rather skeletal description, there are all sorts of little and big things that are difficult to arrange when you’re not present all year, and even if you are. Hopefully this will become the place to discuss and share. Benvenuto a Cianciana. -Hilary
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