Sunday, March 12, 2006

Linguaglossa--"Fat Tongue"

Another tiny town that Theresa Maggio writes about in The Stone Boudoir is Linguaglossa, which happens to be just on the other side of Etna from where I live in Nicolosi. A few Sundays ago, my friend Pat and I took our cameras and went for a ride all the way around the volcano, stopping occasionally to take photos. We were several thousand feet up on Etna, so it didn't take all that long to drive. I had never been on the west or north sides of the volcano. The snow-capped peak was awesome from every viewpoint, with a bright blue sky behind it.

Eventually, we got to Linguaglossa. We had gone through some rather ugly little towns, so I wasn't expecting Linguaglossa to be as charming as it turned out to be! Since it was at least an hour since our last coffee, we first stopped at a bar and had another. Then we just wandered around the town taking photos and checking out a wine shop. The main streets were decorated with overhead streamers for some kind of festival. I had never seen this before, but the windy day made it a very attractive and festive sight! An Annunciation relief above the door of one of the churches is well-worth seeing. Just by chance, we wandered into a side street, really just an alleyway, not even wide enough for cars. There were several interesting wall-paintings, and one was Arabic in content. We followed the street and the ancient little houses definitely had an Arab style to them. There was even the traditional blue door. Many of the houses had obviously been totally renovated by the looks of the doors and windows. I don't know if there really was an Arab presence in Linguaglossa at any time, but it sure looked like in that quarter.

According to Theresa Maggio, "Two thousand years ago Linguaglossa may well have been a bustling commercial lumber center where both Latin and Greek were spoken, for its name is made up of both languages' words for 'language.' . . . In Sicilian dialect, Linguaglossa means 'fat tongue,' which could refer to the tongue of lava the town was built on." She calls it "an old town where people live in lava houses and shake sticks at the volcano." In fact, her entire chapter on it isn't very appealing, totally unlike our impression!

We wandered back toward the main street in search of a restaurant. As luck would have it, we found one that turned out to be fantastic, the Boccaperta Ristorante (Via Umberto, 96-98). The best part of the meal was a traditional Sicilian blood orange salad, with thinly-sliced prosciutto topped with the blood orange, olive oil, onion mixture (see photo). The sweet-salty combination is fabulous!

On our way back to the car, we saw a lava tablet etched with the story of Linguaglossa being saved from "a tongue of lava" by divine intercession when Sant' Egidio, its chief patron saint, shook his bishop's crook at the volcano. The town is also the jumping-off place for skiing and snow sports on the north side of Etna, just like Nicolosi is on the south. One street, in fact, is named "Sea and Snow Street." It's well worth a Sunday drive to check it out.


At March 22, 2006 6:27 PM, Blogger Sicilian Mama said...

I have read the Teresa Maggio book as well as her other, Mattanza, about an island off Trapani and the tuna kills there. Also, we learned to make an orange/celery salad from a restaurant here, Il Desiderio, which is also quite good. Just oranges, celery bits, oil and vinegar. Delicious when everything is fresh!


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