OpEd

A sunny day in Hora e Arbëreshëvet

"Italy without Sicily leaves no image in the soul: here is the key to everything", wrote Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1787. These words of the famous German can be verified in the town of Hora e Arbëreshëvet

1.  
On the big island of Sicily there is a small island, clinging to the mountain like a pearl that is waiting to be discovered by visitors: it looks almost like Kruja and it is Hora e Arbëreshevet (Piana degli Albanesi), about 30 kilometers from the Sicilian metropolis, Palermo. Sunday was a sunny day in this town, while the people of Arbëresh celebrated Easter. People's happy voices, the rustling of the spring breeze, the sound of church bells, the longing meetings between locals and newcomers, the alleys filled with women, girls, boys, men and children of Arberes dressed in traditional clothes, made with a lot of tastes, preserved for centuries, cultivated and gilded in gold thread - all these decorated Hora e Arbëreshëvet with a tis of culture, customs, treasures and docks. Above all, the words of the locals echoed: "Welcome to you". An island of beautiful contradictions. Between the past and modernity, pride and the future. An island of myths, passions and legends. A land where ancient Greece laid its foundations and where famous Germans such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Richard Wagner discovered a world that they idealized every second. On his trip to Sicily in 1787, Goethe wrote: "Italy without Sicily leaves no image in the soul: here is the key to everything."

2.  
Irfan approached us not imposing, but with natural kindness. He expressed sincere joy that he was meeting other Albanians in Hora e Arbëreshëvet square, his curiosity was not boring. Irfani said that he is originally from the vicinity of Tetova, in distant times he had studied Albanian language and literature in Skopje, then, like thousands and thousands of Albanians, he had taken the path of exile. He had taken with him the longing for Albanian literature, language, traditions, the desire to expand the horizon of knowledge. 

"I live in South Tyrol", said Irfani. South Tyrol, a German-speaking province, is located in northern Italy. From up there, almost to the Alps of Switzerland, Irfani and some of his friends, Albanians from Durrës and Kavaja, flew to Palermo and then continued the road to Hora e Arbëreshëvet, the most famous town of the Arbëresh community in Sicily. Under the Sicilian sun, Irfani proved that he teaches supplementary lessons in the Albanian language for Albanian students in South Tyrol. Inevitably, there was also talk about the beautiful hills of Tyrol and Irfan showed with unstoppable enthusiasm that he has a passion for mountain climbing and skiing. This is life: he comes from the Swiss Alps to Sicily, meets Irfan and learns many interesting things about Tyrol and Tetovo.

3.  
Every serious square has a serious bar with a bartender who has humor. In Hora e Arbëreshëvet square, the one who brought all the grass with one finger was Nikolo (I think that was his name). If his name was not Nicolo, then he may have had the name Giuseppe as any second (or third) in these places. 

"Do you want fly water?", asked Nikolo, who could have been Giuseppe or Riccardo or Francesco, it doesn't matter. "Water with flies?" Nikolo, a wise man, noticed the surprise on our faces, a few seconds were enough and we understood that water with flies is water with gas, water without flies is water without gas. Nikolo laughed and said: "Do you want water Tepelene?" While most suburban restaurants in Albania and Kosovo serve San Pellegrino water (from the north of Italy), Nikolo actually sold Tepelene water to customers. On Sunday, the Easter holiday, when everything comes alive in Piana degli Albanesi, when the alleys speak and the people are silent (for a few moments).

4. 
There is a lot of history in Piana degli Albanesi. For example this: on May 1, 1947 near this town, in the place called Portella della Ginestra, the thugs of Salvatore Giuliano, a sort of Sicilian Robin Hood, killed some socialists and communists who were celebrating the victory in the regional elections and, of course, a May, workers' day. After World War II, there was a separatist movement in Sicily, which sought the union of Sicily with the United States of America. Insurgent Salvatore Giuliano intended for Sicily to become the 49th state of the Americas. The ties between America and Sicily are close. Thousands of Sicilian Americans visit the Italian island every year. The famous director Martin Scorsese has said that for his film "Taxi Driver" (1976) he carefully watched the film "Salvatore Giuliano" by the Italian director Franceso Rossi. There are so many, so many stories from Sicily that a column like this remains just a footnote. There is material here for at least a book. Or two. The Scottish writer Gavin Maxwell has written that Maria Lombardo, the mother of Salvatore Giuliano, came in 1922 "with dynamite in her body" from New York to her native Sicilian village of Montelepre and there she gave birth to Salvatore Giuliano. When Salvatore was a child, he killed rabbits and birds. Later he killed people. On July 5, 1950, the news broke that Salvatore Giuliano had been killed. His corpse was laid out on a marble slab in the Sicilian commune of Castelvetrano - "like a bloody tuna fish after fishing". These words could only be formulated by the Italian writer Alberto Moravia.