This morning I headed out early to wander round the Piazza Duomo and check out the church of Santa Lucia (complete with Caravaggio) before the day became too hot.
I’ve settled effortlessly into the Sicilian hours now – up and ready by 6.00 a.m and home for a nap between 1.00 and 4.00.
When I stopped for my hit of freshly squeezed orange juice from this little kiosk, I fell into a familiar conversation. The people here are artless in their approach, with personal questions that I would never dream of asking a stranger.
I sat down, spremuta d’arancia in hand, with these ladies…
… exchanged a polite buongiorno and passed a couple of remarks on the weather.
Sure enough, I was asked…
Da dov’è? from one lady and Dov’è lei? from the other. It sounds like one word here in Sicilia and I’m hearing what people say a lot better.
I know this one now. Da dov’è? – ‘Where are you from’ is somewhat like a short bark and Dov’è lei? -‘where is she from’ (a more polite way to ask) is a little ripple of sound, a small splash. (In Rome the question was different although it meant the same).
I’ve had this conversation before, at least 20 times in the 4 days that I’ve been here and it always runs like a well rehearsed play.
It goes like this …
Tedesco? The first couple of times I was asked this I responded with a blank uncomprehending look and scusa non capisco – I don’t understand.
Next question :-
Germania? — (I must look German).
Non, non, I answer.
Once again I answer with Non, non (I’m not Dutch either)
Non, non, I answer. Ma, parlo inglese Not English but I speak English.
Non, non, non, non, non, non!
My emphatic denial of being American always gets the full attention of the audience which by this time has increased to include every passer-by within earshot.
Sono d’Australia I say.
And, to add deep significance, I point at myself
Io sono un australiana!
This always brings the house down.
Once again ..
Si, I answer, Melbourne.
(In Rome I would be asked if I came from Sydney)
Then there followed a barrage of speech from both ladies, the gentleman and a handful of other people in the street.
I caught a word here and there, mainly this one, parenti and cugini – Relatives and cousins.
Of course, a heck of a lot of Sicilians migrated to Melbourne after the war. (I should know, their children came to my primary school).
And I can say
Molto Siciliani a Melbourne There are lots of Sicilians in Melbourne.
Seriously, these people talked as eagerly to me as if were one of their long lost family.
I love this place.