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  • Writer's pictureТимофей Милорадович

Looking at beauty from different angles

There are many very beautiful buildings in Sicily, they are picturesque and diverse, pleasing to the eye and awakening the imagination, inspiring. Every time I hear the guides try to tell which building was built in which year and by whom, I want to exclaim: “How can you not notice that each building is the spirit of the people frozen in stone, and this is a cast of the history of the people, telling how the people lived, died and were reborn." Because each building was not built by one person, it was people who invested their lifetime, energy, work, hopes, expectations. The lives of people were passing in these buildings, and you always involuntarily feel how people lived, so you want to enter some houses, and not enter others, they scare. Buildings are silent witnesses, and architecture is always a message from one person to another. And the buildings of Sicily are the dramatic stories of the people, always amazing and unexpected, and not just beauty. Today we take a closer look at the beauty and drama frozen in stone in Sicily, together with Nicolo’ Reina, an employee of the Custonaci Tourist Office, a connoisseur of life in Sicily.

- Hello, Nicolo’.

- Hello Elena.

- Nicolo’, I want to ask you one thing. When you tell tourists about Sicily and show these most beautiful buildings that we see in Sicily, how do you feel? Tourists want to see only stone patterns, and they are not interested in how these patterns got there, is that right?

- Elena, you make me re-experience this bittersweet taste that I feel inside when I tell tourists about Sicily. And every time I decide how to find a healthy balance of shades of feelings for a specific group of tourists, so that these are the true notes in the story that I offer tourists. Well, a true work of art, and any professional only offers works of art no matter what he does, cannot lie.

This is our spirit, this is our soul, this is our life, and we share this with our guests. At the same time, we want to share with guests only the best, so that they feel real in a heavenly place, we truly want this. But definitely, we cannot lie or hide something, because this is our home, and these are guests in our home.

However, I must tell you that over the years of meeting with tourists, I see that tourists are changing. Of course, when they are romantic young people, I show them the most beautiful and romantic buildings. And there are also very attentive and experienced people who want to know the truth, even when it tastes bitter and even when they are on vacation.

In general, more and more people come to Sicily not for empty entertainment, they come to Sicily increasingly, almost like on a pilgrimage trip. Probably, this is facilitated by all those wonderful truthful stories about the Byzantine and even more ancient past of Sicily, we see more and more psychological and agricultural tourism, when people come to relax in spirit and soul, and not only in body. And, of course, the spirit and atmosphere of Sicily is precious and healing, especially now, when people have been closed at home for a long time.

Now, more than ever, they want fresh air and a feeling of freedom and beauty in unity with beautiful nature. The architecture of Sicily is an organic part of the spirit and atmosphere of Sicily, and in this sense, you are completely right.

- It's true, Nicolo’. In Sicily, I am amazed to see that buildings can be a harmonious extension of nature and an inspired work of the creative and hardworking minds and hands of people. Sicily is strikingly different from Moscow or New York, that's for sure. And Sicily looks like a paradise for residents of big cities, they do not feel depressed among the buildings of Sicily, they feel tenderly supported, carefully warmed.

And this, of course, has developed not in one century and not in one generation of people, it is a fruit, suffered and endured by the people of Sicily, in order to offer this paradise to the exhausted residents of big cities. It is clear that heaven on earth is not an easy undertaking. There are always overwhelmed passions, suffering and reconciliation of contradictions before it becomes paradise.

- Sure. The depth and richness of the harmonious taste includes all shades in the right proportion. Sicily suffered so that God would give it to become a heavenly place for tormented people. It doesn't happen otherwise.

- I remember that you have a special attitude towards the Liberty style in architecture.

- It's true. The Liberty style villas are magnificent, as I look at them, I enjoy their composition, which includes a touch of modernity, but the most touching.

- The Liberty style in architecture takes its name from Arthur Liberty, an English high-quality merchant who invented this style in the early 20th century. In the early 20th century, Liberty-style buildings were built throughout Europe and beyond.

But we must also remember that the 20th century is the one of industrialization. And this name of the Liberty style, paradoxically and symbolically reflects the main motive of the 20th century. And if you look deeper, then the whole paradox of human freedom is reflected in Liberty. Sicily is probably the brightest to see it.

As soon as you take the list of Liberty-style buildings, you almost immediately stumble upon the fact that the first Liberty-style building in Catania is a sulfur mining and processing plant. Externally, the Liberty style is flowers and leaves on the facade. And internally - the first such building hid something like hell. Sulfur processing was controlled by international companies and the sulfur supported the production of gunpowder, acid and petroleum products.

Infernal products, and a hellish building with flowers on the facade, a paradox of the 20th century. The poorest families essentially sold their children's lives to the sulfur plant because the mines were so small that only children could work there. Each child had to pull 25 kilograms of sulfur out of the mine. There were landslides and people died.

This horror and shame continued until the municipal authorities were able to take control of the plant. Once they got control, they just shut it down and set up a park on this site. And now conferences are held in this park, dedicated to nature, history and culture. Sulfur can be a useful substance, if taken in reasonable amounts for reasonable purposes, it can be seen in mountain faults near Etna. Catania is located next to Etna. But the insatiable killers of the 20th century tried to turn everything into hell. Thank God this is in the past.

- To summarize, Sicily is the place where hell was first stopped to become paradise again. This is so in many ways and in many events in history. And yes, the volcano is hiding under the flowers growing on the slope, and yes, it's a mixture of feelings every time you try to tell. This must be understood when you come to Sicily. Paradise is not a free sea, beach and ice cream. Paradise is a very expensive balance and harmony of nature, human, architecture, and all life in general.

- Fortunately, other buildings in the Liberty style are buildings for living - municipal buildings, hotels, villas, port buildings, theaters.

- It's good. However, let us remember that mixed feelings are often hidden under any facade flowers, and it is good when that feelings fermented like good wine, and we can simply rejoice being like in paradise on earth, remembering the true paradise. Thank you, Nicolo’.

- Thank you, Elena. Anyone can come and make sure that a Sicilian open kind heart is only hiding now in these beautiful buildings.


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