Sicilian Easter I [west]: Good Friday Processions in Trapani & Erice
21.04.2011. Erice, Sicily
woke up at the crack of dawn & caught a flight to Palermo. stepping off the plane against a striking backdrop of cliffs i was thinking it's about time we set foot in Sicily—the island that perhaps Sleepingfish owes it's name. rented one of those new hybrid manual/automatic [clutchless] Fiat 500s & drove west, stopping first in the golfo di Castellammare to put our feet in the turquoise water. then inland to Segesta, the site of some ancient Greek ruins dating back to 420 B.C.
the landscape was spectacular, rugged & wildflowers everywhere. on to Trapani where we had lunch at Antichi Sapori, insanely good seafood & pasta. then went to Scopello & to the Zingaro nature reserve. everything was in bloom & pristine, almost like it was a landscaped botanical garden, an incredible amount of biodiversity & wildflowers [over 600 species of plants] on cliffs dropping down to the crystal clear sea.
then we went back to the hilltown of Erice, checked into our hotel & walked around. had dinner at Pentolaccia, i had pesto trapanese which is hardly like it's genoese cousin, but good. in Trapani they substitute almonds for pine nuts & sauce it up with cherry tomatoes & red pepper flakes. initial reactions... Sicilian food is even better than the mainland [if you like seafood & spice] but they are slow & shitty drivers.
we had high hopes of taking a gondola down the mountain from Erice to Trapani, but when we got there it wasn't running, presumably from the high winds & rain. so we drove & parked, then walked around Trapani waiting for the «misteri processione» to start. looked in some tidepools, walked around the harbor then ate at Antichi Sapori again [this time i had cous-cous with broth & fried seafood—normally i'm not a big fan of cous-cous but this was the tastiest i've ever had].
the Procession of the Mysteries of Trapani [Misteri di Trapani] is one of the oldest running good friday [venerdì santo] festivals in Europe, dating back to before 1612. it's essentially a day long procession [starting friday afternoon & going all night until saturday afternoon] re-enacting the «passion» [i.e. death] of Jesus with 20 floats or stations, each built & carried by the various guilds of Trapani. it's a tradition that hasn't changed much over the years, except members of the procession used to wear hoods [much like the ones the KKK have since bastardized] to conceal their identities when repenting [a tradition banned in the 60s so mafia members couldn't hide from the police, but now legal again, at least in Corleone [yes, the Corleone of Godfather fame] & Enna] & some used to flagellate themselves with nail-studded whips [still practiced elsewhere in Sicily & in Spain & Mexico & the Philippines]. the repentance or self-punishment in Trapani these days amounts mostly to carrying the heavy floats around the streets for 24 hours. the accompanying music & the way the band & men carrying the floats swayed when marching was most striking & at times haunting [something not adequately captured in these photos & video].
we watched for a few hours then decided to go back to Erice to catch the end of their procession, which was smaller [only 6 stations & lasting only 6 hours]. the stations were also not as big & heavy but most of them only had 4 guys carrying them & the streets were steep slippery cobblestone.
it was cold so we stopped & got a glass of wine in a bar & then once we sat down all the members of the procession filed in for free food & drink [the processions typically stop in front of businesses to ask for a donation]. the already sweaty & weary pallbearers gulped down beer & whiskey then stumbled out to carry the floats the rest of the way back to the church.
then we ate at Monte Sangiuliano, which was really good. i had the sardines [shown above] & ravioli with squid ink & ricotta. have also had Sicilian pecorino a few times, but for the most part it's bland compared to Pecorino Romano or Sardo.