For a honeymoon, we toured Sicily. My husband gave me the tour of Sicily and I got very familiar with several parts of the island. He hired a private driver to drive us around the island so that he could show me all the sites. I know quite a few of the little towns around the island. One I remember so clearly is by Mt. Etna. I know Etna is so tall that you could walk there when the clouds come and you wouldn’t be able to recognize the people near you. It’s like ghost walking. I never had the experience of walking in a cloud till then!
Mt. Etna is considered the most beautiful volcano in the Mediterranean. One side of Mt. Etna you will see the lava is black, and the one near Catania was grey and dark. But because of the lava, Catania had some of the richest lemon and orange groves. I was surprised when I looked at Catania, being a big city, it was grey and dark. Etna is the highest part of Sicily, and in the winter time the people know that they spend part of the winter in and don’t go outside unless they really need to, because of the very dark clouds there. You wouldn’t be able to go outside with a lantern for you still wouldn’t be able to see anything.
In order to love Sicily you can’t be young; unless you have that love already. Because young people want to go out and do things in cities. You have to live in Sicily to love Sicily. When you are older and you see the mountains of Sicily and the sun coming down, you fall in love with it. No matter how horrible a spot is, if you were born there you love it. My daughter Myriam says she loves Sicily, but it is different, she was born there! “Show me the way to go home” reminds of Sicily; that song is a great song.
When I went to work for the American Headquarters, as a translator during the war, my husband had to find a house for us to live in Messina. So my husband found a fully furnished home for us to live in for a while. Pia, my cousin, told me about this Greek hair stylist and she said I can trust him to do good work. I was sitting in the beauty parlor to get my hair done and in those day this was one of the best beauty parlors in the city. They had curtains to make your room private from others getting their hair done and it was shut. He was doing my hair when he got an emergency phone call and asked me to excuse him.
So I sat there looking in the mirror trying to think of every little thing to pass the time. When all of a sudden, I heard my name mentioned. There were other ladies around and I decided I better listen since they were talking about me. It wasn’t eavesdropping, I was just over hearing them talking. All of a sudden I began to choke a little because what they were saying about me. They said that I just made another conquest! Apparently they were saying I had five lovers!
Well just like Madame Pompadour got a bad reputation, I don’t think she was as bad as everyone thinks. Just as these women were talking, they said, “What does she have? She isn’t that beautiful!” But another one said, “No, but she is attractive and charming. And you can’t deny that she is very intelligent.” That comment I accepted. Then they continued and said, “Most importantly, she’s got power and can do anything she wants.” I remember thinking though, “Well what do I want?”
They continued on and mentioned the five men I supposedly was with! I thought to myself, they must be out of their minds. I remember in Sicily, your honor is the most important thing you can have. How in the world could this have happened? I was at the office from morning till night, and then my husband was with me to and from the office every day! When did I have such time to do those things? Anyways, they went on to say, “Wouldn’t you know it? She always picks the richest ones!” Finally they left and I began crying. I really didn’t want those people to think I was that kind of women.
The hair stylist came back in and saw me crying and asked, “Signora! What is the matter? Are you not well?” And I told him, “No, I’m okay. I just heard some news that bothered me.” Concerned, he asked, “Has something happened to the family? Do you need to leave?” And I said, “No. Some women next to me were talking about me,” sobbing I continued to explain what they said. He then told me, “Is that why you are crying? You shouldn’t be upset. They are envious of you! They would do anything to change places with you.” I looked to him and said, “What do you mean? That is a dishonor.” So he tried to explain to me that the women in town envied me because supposedly the American Headquarters office was under my control, which wasn’t true, but he told me I should be proud for what I have accomplished and these women were just jealous of my accomplishments. So when my husband came to get me, I told him what happened and he said, “I’m not surprised.”
One night when we were coming home and my husband had his arms around me while we were walking. Well, all the windows downstairs in homes on the streets and all the balconies upstairs had someone looking out at us. I said, “Felice, see all those people there? They are all talking about us.” And he said, “Yes, and I know what they are saying.” So I asked, “Oh you do? What are they saying then?” He told me they were saying, “Look at her and her husband. He doesn’t know but tonight she is with him, but when he is gone who knows who she is with!” And I said, “Felice! You don’t believe that!” And he said “You will be the talk of the town! You’ll be very powerful whether you like it or not!” So I got that reputation in the town. I told my sister that I didn’t believe Madame Pompadour was as bad as she was believed to be after all!