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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sicilian Piazzas - An Important Part of Sicilian Culture

Illustration 8: Piazza del Duomo, Syracuse. An...Image via Wikipedia
By James Iozia

Sicilian piazzas are the locations for festivals, gatherings and shopping. A piazza is simply a Sicily town square, like that found in any traditional town. The squares are suitable for open markets, concerts, rallies and other events that could not be easily held in a field or an area of "soft" ground.
The word piazza is roughly equivalent to the Spanish word "plaza". In the US, shopping centers are often called plazas. In Ethiopia, the word is used to refer to any part of a city, not just gathering places. US homes built during the 19th century sometimes had long colonnaded porches and the port was called a piazza.

The Sicilian Piazzas are also a group of families. Piazza is a common last name in Calabria and Sicily. The surname originates in the region surrounding Venice.
The Sicily town square is typically paved, usually with decorative tiles or stones. A church is typically located off of the square or very nearby. Many of the churches are examples of Sicilian Baroque architecture, which took hold on the island during the 17th and 18th centuries. Sicilian Baroque combines the curves and flourishes of traditional Baroque with grinning masks and statues of cherub-like babies called putti.
A massive earthquake in 1693 required the rebuilding of many a Sicily town square. Because of that earthquake, local architects, many of whom were trained in Rome, had ample opportunity to recreate the sophisticated Baroque styles that were popular throughout Italy. Gradually, because of the unique engravings used only on the island, their form of Baroque became unique, a separate architectural style that was similar to, but different than, that found in Italy.
Sicilian piazzas are frequently used for weddings and other family celebrations. Family and church are an important part of the culture. Weddings are big and elaborate, followed by feasting.
The local cuisine includes seafood, lamb, turkey, goose, rabbit, fruits, vegetables, beans, pasta, rice and pastries. Brucellati is a popular pastry for wedding celebrations. The name literally means little bracelet and it is filled with figs.
Another event that you will find in a Sicily town square is a Farmer's market. Farmers from the surrounding countryside have traditionally brought in fresh eggs, fruits, vegetables and other foods on a regular basis. The practice is just as common today and even gaining in popularity.
Some of the better known Sicilian piazzas, because of the important celebrations held within them, include Trapani and Sciacca. But, all of the towns have their squares and regardless of where you visit, you are likely to see at least one celebration.
James has loved Sicily for as far back as he can remember and he returns to this island paradise every chance he gets. His grandparents came to America from this beautiful land in the early 1900's, bringing with them all the tradition and passion that is Sicily. From the beautiful beaches and Roman architecture, to the heavenly food and romantic charm, he hopes you will come to love Sicily as much as he does. Stop by for a visit at

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