My Trip To Europe. Day 13. Thursday, October 16. To Mussomeli

And now to seek my own past.

The Coin of the Day is actually two of them, Sestertii of both Caligula and Claudius.

Coin of the Day

Sesterti are fairly large copper coins, valued (at the time) as 1/4 of a denarius.

Sestertius of Caligula

16-001 16-002Caligula is actually a nickname for this emperor (37-41CE), whose actual name was Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.  “Caligula” means “Little Boots.”

Although Caligula’s depravity is probably somewhat exaggerated, it’s nevertheless clear that he was mentally unstable, a bit of a jolt for those who were used to somewhat rational emperors.

Sestertius of Claudius

16-003 16-004Claudius was sickly, and his childhood illnesses had left him with a stammer, that may have saved his life.  Other members of the imperial family simply couldn’t see him as a threat, so he was never the target of any pre-emptive murder plots.  He was proclaimed emperor in 41, at the age of 50, and would reign until 54.  He was by all accounts much more capable and rational than Caligula.

Sicily

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Today is going to be the day I walk in my grandfather’s footsteps.

My grandfather was born in the town of Mussomeli in 1899.  And Mussomeli is where we are going today, taking off from Ragusa Ibla, the Mountain Goat City.

Mussomeli is at a higher altitude, so I am hoping the weather won’t be quite so hot and humid.  On a side note, the antiperspirant I brought with me was a partial package and it had run out yesterday morning.  I’d managed to find more somewhere yesterday, but was dinged 11.5 euros (!!!) for it.

Sicily is needlessly, pointlessly expensive for some reason.  I keep hearing “It’s a tourist trap,” but that doesn’t explain why it’s so much more expensive than Athens was.

Mussomeli

Anyway, I didn’t start taking pictures until getting to Mussomeli.

16-006Mussomeli has a castle.  (The picture in Wikipedia isn’t that good, you get the impression it’s much smaller than it is.)

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City Hall

Our first big activity for the day was to go here:

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This is, in essence, City Hall, and the vital records are kept here.

And I have to explain something.  Most of my companions on this phase of the trip are second cousins, meaning my grandfather was the brother of either their grandmother or grandfather.  As it happens, the entire D’Ippolito clan emigrated over the years, so none of us are still there.  However, one of my cousins, Joe, has two grandparents from Mussomeli, his grandmother was the D’Ippolito, and she married another Mussomelian (?) once in the US.  So his last name, it happens, is still common in Mussomeli, and his relatives started showing up out of the woodwork once the word got out that he was here.

It got to the point where Joe didn’t want his last name mentioned.  Not because he didn’t want to meet relatives, but rather because he couldn’t speak to them when they showed up.  OK, Joe, I won’t mention your last name.

16-009So once we got inside the records room, a bunch of different grandparents got looked up.

 

16-010Records go back to the 1820s.

 

16-011One of the staff looking someone up.

 

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16-014And the book with my grandfather’s birth information in it.

 

The Church

The next stop was to go to the church he attended.  It looks utterly nondescript from the outside, and was on narrow streets, so there was no way to photograph it.

The inside, however, was a very different story.  I had plenty of time to look it over from a pew, since a Mass began shortly after we got there.

16-015 16-016 16-017 16-018

Closeups of the artwork in the apse, taken after the Mass.

16-019 16-020

 

Then someone drew back the curtain behind Jesus and Mary, to reveal:

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The sculptures aren’t Great Art (with capital letters); they’ll never be in the Louvre.  But they are effective and attractive, they don’t look garish, and they don’t look cheap, but their lines are clean, and the lighting is well done.

This simple parish church had more decoration in it than the Syracuse Cathedral.

I told my aunt that Grandfather must have missed this church, and she told me that was the case.  He had donated money towards its restoration long after he had come to the United States.

I couldn’t help but notice that even though I’m only a bit taller than average, I was considerably taller than everyone else in that church–with the exception of the husband of one of my second cousins.

The day ended with a large dinner, with many of Joe’s relatives joining our group.

As expected, it wasn’t nearly as ridiculously hot here, and I can truthfully report that ultra expensive antiperspirant is good stuff.  I didn’t sweat nearly as much.  I also found prices here to be quite reasonable.  (For instance, bottled water is 2 euros for 12 liters here.  In Greece it was a euro for 1.5 liters, and in eastern Sicily, it was a euro, or maybe even two, for half a liter, twenty four times as expensive as Mussomeli.)

Tomorrow:  The castle, a town tour, and a dash to Catania to catch a plane to mainland Italy.

In memory of Mario D’Ippolito, 1899-1986

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