That Strange Sicily Symbol

Sicily has an odd symbol that you see frequently. That’s it on the purse that was for sale in one of the shops that we passed by today. Called the Trinacria, it’s been the symbol of Sicily for hundreds of years. It is so old, in fact, that the precise meaning of the symbol seems to be shrouded by the mists of time. Everyone seems to agree that that is head of Medusa (who was supposedly born in Sicily) in the middle, but what the heck is the point of the three legs? One website says the three legs represent three promontories in Sicily; our guide today said it was because Sicily is in the shape of a triangle. And the fact that the three legs are rotating in the same direction is supposed to convey movement.

That explanation is fine so far as it goes, but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Like, why would you want to have the head of a Gorgon who could turn men to stone with a glance as part of your national symbol? And why would you want to have disembodied legs rotating around as the backdrop for that snaky head? The resulting image is disturbing and seemingly designed to promote nightmares about being chased by a monstrous three-legged creature. And maybe that was the point. Hundreds of years ago, the Sicilians may have reasoned that any potential invaders would think twice about tangling with a place that would think it was appropriate to enshrine a petrifying serpent-haired head and bodiless legs as the national symbol.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why you would want on a purse.

Happy Festa Della Repubblica!

June 2 is the Festa Della Republica in Italy and Sicily. It is a national holiday that marks the 1946 vote to become a republic. We celebrated the occasion by going snorkeling in a nature reserve near Siracusa.

We were fitted with flippers and masks—a process that produced a colorful mound of gear, shown in the first photo above, as the proprietor searched for something that would fit my size 13 gunboats—then took a speedy boat from a dive shop located along the harbor in the old section of Siracusa. After skimming and bouncing across the waves we reached the reserve, donned our gear, and tumbled into the water, which was chilly in some spots and warmer in others. We then padded over to the cliff and a cave.

Regrettably, we snorkelers didn’t see as many fish in the water as we hoped. In fact, the most visible fish were on the Sicilian CEO’s brightly colored swim trunks. Still, it was fun paddling around, checking out the underwater reefs, and cool to snorkel into a cave. Our friendly guide showed us a sea urchin and a beautiful, bright red starfish, and the divers in our group saw an octopus.

Our Festa Della Repubblica celebration ended with an excellent dockside lunch served by the dive shop crew. It was all good, but the rice, mussel, and clam concoction, shown in the center of the photo below, was particularly delicious and would be a terrific addition to any Fourth of July cookout. I’ve eaten lots of fish and shellfish over the last few days and enjoyed every bite. Now, if only it would make me a stronger swimmer . . . .