The jet lag is still fresh as I write about this newest adventure to southern Italy. Sicily to be exact.
A little off the beaten path of the usual Carrara or Verona stone circuit, this trip had a very special agenda. I’ve seen much of the Italian mainland over the last several years, but this was my first trip to Sicilia.
The Mother Land.
I won’t bore you this time with the mundane business details. (There will be ample time to torture you with those in future blogs!) With this trip I made a special point to pay a visit to my late grandmother’s home town of Lavinaio.
Well, as it turns out, Lavinaio is more of an area than an actual town. A frazione, as it’s called in Italy. An obscure suburb of the Sant’Antonio municipality belonging to Catania, in the Southeast foothills of Mount Etna. It makes perfect sense now why I would always get blank stares from the locals when asked what city we are from. It would of been far more glamorous to be able to say Rome or Florence!
Just driving through the area that mia nonna called home made me feel that I was somehow returning to my real home. There are lava stone quarries in the area which made me pleased to know that stone working was probably somewhere in our heritage. There are still a few Cristaldi’s (her maiden name) living in the area. I’m sure there’s a relative or two there, but it would be quite the ambitious task to track them down. A local did tell me that the Cristaldi (or Cristaudu in the local Sicilian dialect) name is well known in the region for exquisite panini shops.
In the last few days before returning home, I did manage to visit a few local stone shops in the Taormina and Castelmola areas, just for fun. Imagine my wife’s excitement when we drive past a few slabs by the roadside, slam on the brakes, “I have to check this out”. I think divorce papers will be in my future if I continue that obsession.
It always amazes me how some of these Italian companies can produce such amazing work out of extremely small shops, some of which are truly just your proverbial “hole in the wall”. It’s always a pleasure to chat with these guys, as we share a common profession halfway around the globe.
Reflecting on the experience since arriving home, I feel somehow “complete” now that I’ve finally visited Lavinaio.
I’m also seriously considering renaming our company Mario & Son, marble, granite, and Panini!