Valentine’s Day in Sicily: Unforgettable Love Stories from a Romantic Island

Valentine's Day in SicilyOn the occasion of Valentine’s Day, Sicilian Secrets also wants to celebrate love with five (plus one!) romantic stories set in the marvelous Trinacria. These tales involve famous characters, both real and fictional, as well as people who simply met and chose each other amidst the breathtaking scenarios of the island. From thwarted love to overwhelming passion, all of this reminds us that love can bloom even in the most unlikely places and in the most unexpected ways. Are you ready to experience this Valentine’s Day in Sicily?

Who hasn’t dreamed of a love story from a movie? Or one of those found in great novels? Valentine’s Day in Sicily means romanticism, passion, feelings… and endings as surprising as ever. How else to celebrate love than through the stories of some couples? In our ‘journey’, we will move between reality and fiction, from literature to cinema… to reality. And you, which of these stories do you prefer?

Tancredi and Angelica – from “The Leopard” by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Angelica Sedara and Tancredi, the favorite nephew of Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina. Their love symbolizes the encounter between ascending bourgeoisie and dissolving nobility in the second half of the 1800s. The subversive force of eros, capable of overthrowing any arbitrariness of a social and classist nature, plays the role of the protagonist in this union. The reasons of the heart are indeed here in a symbiotic relationship with the reasons of History: the young and ambitious Tancredi, a representative of the crumbling nobility, finds in the irresistible magnetism of Angelica, daughter of the mayor of Donnafugata, the possibility of maintaining and increasing a status quo, one derived from belonging to the nobility of the Salina, destined to fade away in a short time. By virtue of this double thread that weaves their love, where sentiment and interest often coincide, over the years their union will encounter difficulties, with mutual betrayals and the death of Tancredi. Angelica and her three unmarried daughters will remain on the grand stage of History, which will not grant replays or encores to the now deceased nobility.

San Valentino in Sicilia
Tancredi and Angelica – Credits:

Sensuality and unscrupulousness, two founding elements of youth, blend the hues of this love handed down to the immortality of the collective imagination by the adaptation to the big screen of Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel, directed by Luchino Visconti in 1963. Alain Delon as Tancredi and Claudia Cardinale as Angelica visually embody the idea of beauty and enterprise, with the memorable waltz scene between Angelica and the Prince of Salina, in which her composed and measured grace unleashes the frightened admiration of the bloated court ladies, about to give way (and their privileges) to the emerging bourgeoisie.

Do you know…: the novel and the film received harsh criticism from some of the Sicilian clergy, annoyed by the decadent and ruthless representation offered by the events of the Salina family. Ernesto Ruffini, cardinal of Palermo in the early 1960s, went so far as to say that three things had dishonored Sicily: the mafia, Danilo Dolci, and “The Leopard”.

Salvo Montalbano and Livia Burlando – from the novels of Andrea Camilleri

Inspector Salvo Montalbano, an iconic figure in detective fiction, and his partner Livia live a long-distance love affair between Sicily and Genoa. Despite the difficulties and obstacles they encounter during Montalbano’s investigations, their bond remains strong and deep, proving that love can withstand distance and adversity. Equally true is that the famous Commissioner has often been tempted… remember ‘August Flame’? A relationship, that between the two characters bearing the signature of Andrea Camilleri, certainly not simple where jealousy often also played a role.

San Valentino in Sicilia
Salvo and Livia – Credits:

Fans of the TV series (as well as readers of the novels) know, however, that the epilogue between the two is not quite what fans expected. In the episode entitled “The Catalanotti Method”, in fact, Salvo is overwhelmed by Antonia – the new head of the forensics team – with whom he cheats on Livia. The phone conversation between the two fiancés, who somehow realize that they are tired and at the end of their relationship, remains unforgettable. Well, perhaps a hint of sadness is understandable… but let’s see it this way, with Sicily as the backdrop, for Salvo it’s still the beginning of a new love!

Malèna and Renato – from the film “Malèna” directed by Giuseppe Tornatore 

Malena and Renato, the first love, even if dreamed, is never forgotten. Early adolescence is that period of life when love is yearned for, thought about, and dreamed of, even before being realized. A coal always burning that fears not turning into ash. “Malèna”, a film by Giuseppe Tornatore, was released in theaters in 2000 and launched Monica Bellucci as an international actress. In the film, the dazzling beauty of the protagonist, a young war widow, is only a cause of suffering and affliction: on one hand, it earns her the envy and gossip of the women in the town, on the other hand, it makes her a victim of the lasciviousness and insistent stares of men. In wartime Sicily and Italy, there seems to be no space for positive feelings, but only for the most base and rapacious impulses of human nature. In a world of adults now incapable of loving, young Renato sublimates carnal desire into a dreamy idealization of the woman.

Malèna and Renato – Credits:

This impossible love, where only in his dream space can the cherished fantasies materialize, represents a sentimental initiation for the protagonist, in which passion and altruism find mutual support, far removed from the world of adults at war dominated by mutual envy and desire for possession. Throughout the story, Malena’s body analogously assumes the sign of Sicily and Italy during the Second World War, becoming a conquest and plunder ground by the locals first, and then by the Germans. In this sense, Renato’s pure and selfless sentiment is the light in the darkness, and the letter he writes to her resurrected husband, assuring him that his wife has always loved him, even though she was forced by circumstances to exploit her attractiveness to survive, represents the ultimate gesture of altruism and therefore of Love towards Malèna. Loving is also letting go, when necessary, and never has it been more necessary to remember that than today.

Do you know... although the film is remembered by many, thanks to Monica Bellucci’s intense performance, the box office takings did not cover the production costs, which amounted to around 20 million dollars.

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and Alexandra Wolff

And if we talk about Valentine’s Day in Sicily, we cannot forget about a ‘princely’ couple. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of “The Leopard”, and Baroness Alexandra Wolff, one of the greatest psychoanalysts of the twentieth century, were protagonists of a love story that challenged the social and cultural conventions of their time. This couple, coming from different worlds, demonstrated that love can overcome even the most difficult barriers, also inspiring Lampedusa’s masterpiece, considered one of the most beautiful novels in Italian literature. Their story is a testament to the power of feelings and the importance of following one’s heart, despite external adversities.

Valentine's Day in Sicily
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and Alexandra Wolff – Credits:

Their love story began in London in 1925 and continued until 1932, the year of their marriage in a church in Riga, Latvia. Their relationship was certainly not simple; just think that due to the conflicts between her and her mother-in-law, the two were accustomed to spending long periods apart. The strength of their love, almost dramatic, was fully manifested when Alexandra – after her husband’s death in 1957 – decided to become the custodian of Tomasi di Lampedusa’s cultural heritage. She lived in Palermo until her last day in 1982, within the walls of Palazzo Lanza Tomasi in via Butera, before being buried, next to the one she loved most, in the Capuchin cemetery in the Sicilian capital. A bond that time could not break, eternal.

Giorgio Agatino Giammona and Antonio Galatola – a true story portrayed in the film “Stranizza d’amuri” by Beppe Fiorello

Giarre, a halfway point between dynamic Catania and joyful Taormina, is a town like many in eastern Sicily, where the land is tilled and life flows peacefully. Museums and theaters are not lacking, and in recent years, it has shaken off the title of ‘capital of the unfinished’, completing some of the municipal works intended for public use. There is also the municipal library in Giarre, where a commemorative plaque stands, in memory of two men: Giorgio Agatino Giammona and Antonio Galatola. In Sicilian land, one might think they were judges sacrificed in the name of the common good or law enforcement officers who fell in the line of duty, but that’s not the case. Yet they too are modern heroes, fighting against prejudices and ignorance, poisons that know no differences of race, religion, or gender. If we were to give a title to their story, perhaps banal, it would be ‘The courage to love’. Because if love is the freedom to show vulnerability, when one is pointed out as ‘u’puppu cu ‘bullu’ (a homosexual with the mark in Catania dialect) by an entire community, even walking down the street, getting an ice cream, in short, existing requires a conscious recklessness, which does not belong to those who follow the herd instinct.

Valentine's Day in Sicily
Giorgio and Antonio – from the film: “Stranizza d’amuri” – Credits:

Giorgio and Antonio never gave in to this instinct, until October 31, 1980, when their two bodies were found, hand in hand. Their lives, their dreams shattered by two 7.65 caliber bullets. An execution, on which different versions have been wasted, that still today has no culprit. The days following the murder determine a new awareness within the homosexual community, which begins to raise its voice and associate to break the cage of marginalization, and society, timidly, begins to look at itself with a little shame in the mirror. Here, love, understood in the etymological sense of ‘absent from mortality’, finds full testimony in Giorgio and Antonio, reminding us, as Sandro Penna wrote, that ‘perhaps youth is only this eternal loving of the senses and never repenting’.

At the beginning of the article, we talked about a ‘plus one,’ and indeed, one couple is still missing. The protagonists did not come out of a book or a film; they are two real people who wanted to share their love story with us. Where did it blossom? Obviously in Sicily!

Valeria and Enrico

52 years of marriage, this is the milestone of Valeria and Enrico. She, born in Piazza Armerina but raised in Varese, used to come back to Sicily every summer to visit her grandparents. When she was 17, on the occasion of her cousin’s wedding, she met Enrico who was working in Gela at the time. A feeling that immediately arose so much that Valeria, after finishing high school, moved to the island at the age of nineteen. A reality different from that of the north but full of happiness to finally be close to her beloved. After a year, the first son was born, then the other two. A life that then led them elsewhere, first to Puglia and then to San Donato Milanese. Today, Valeria tells this:

If I could go back, I would retrace the same steps considering the result. So much goodness, so much patience, tolerance, understanding, and a bit of irony have brought us here. Tolstoy writes that what matters in a happy marriage is not how compatible you are, but how capable you are of managing incompatibility… this is the secret!

Valentine's Day in Sicily
Valeria and Enrico
Did you enjoy these romantic stories inspired by Valentine’s Day in Sicily? Perhaps they will be inspiring… who knows! But our news doesn’t end here. Keep following Sicilian Secrets, from articles on the blog to interviews, not forgetting the news on the Facebook page and on Instagram. Stay tuned!

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