Yesterday Dad and I saw the Liberty Quarter, with all of its Art Nouveau houses. I didn’t write about it much, because I was thinking about what Sicily meant to me. Most of the houses were simply apartment blocks, and I got a lot of photos of details rather than to try to capture whole buildings. It’s not easy to describe the looks of the houses, in any case. What was clear is that Sicily, or Palermo at least, remains a vibrant and wealthy town, at least in this neighborhood. Because it’s Palermo, you find yourself speculating about the wealth and its origins, as well, and there’s no really good way to know, in any case.
Over the garage gateway on the house of Ernesto Basile, one of the major proponents of Art Nouveau design in Sicily, is a sextet of painted decorative tiles, which contain the legend, “Dispar et Unum.” I think this means “Diversity and Unity”, which Dad thought summed up the elements of the Art Nouveau style pretty thoroughly. Organic, assymetrical, and yet ideally including all elements of a building — the furniture inside, the decorative elements on the outside, the diversity of forms harmonizing toward a single goal.
Today we’re on the flight to Rome. We had to be up at five, and at the airport by 6:30. There are virtually no women on board. Out of 200 people, maybe seven are women. Dad sees the other passengers, in their business suits, as men on their way to Milan or Rome, which are the only places to get things done in the Italian government or business worlds. The dress on board is conservative and serious; I’m wearing a brown jacket and a tie with dark slacks, and dad is wearing his black turtleneck with a blue blazer. We’re both underdressed.
The news today is about Berlusconi and Prodi, the candidates for Prime Minister (or President, I’m not really sure). On Sunday night, during a talk-show appearance, Berlusconi got asked a question that apparently rattled him, for he stormed off the set, visibly rattled. Prodi, a university professor, really got the better of Berlusconi during the debate last night, apparently. Berlusconi is trailing by a LOT in the polls. The number two guy in Berlusconi’s political party also just got nabbed on fraud and bribery charges, and has been demonstrably linked to the Mafia. Will they nail Berlusconi himself? Not clear. He’s way too wealthy and powerful to bring down easily, just as Andreotti was in the 80s and 90s, but there’s probable cause — the last time Berlusconi lost an election, the only territory in Italy that he won easily was Sicily.
Yet another example of how the history you think you know may not be the history that is.