A vivid Sicilian travelogue from an experienced traveler.
If you believe Hollywood, Sicily is little more than the birthplace of the Mafia. Enter Keahey (Hidden Tuscany: Discovering Art, Culture, and Memories in a Well-Known Region's Unknown Places, 2014, etc.), who first traveled to Sicily in 1986 and is now an expert. “Despite my having no known ancestry here,” he writes, “Italy and Sicily keep summoning me.” In his latest book, the author takes armchair travelers on an enjoyable adventure through Sicily’s back roads and tiny towns. At times it can feel like a diary, a play-by-play of a man roaming the countryside: “Afterward I honored the ritual of riposo. When I awoke, it was time for the evening service at the cathedral,” Keahey reports of his time in Piana degli Albanesi. But for all the banal details of naps, espresso runs, trips to the bakery, the author packs the narrative with plenty of pro tips and pleasant insider tidbits a future traveler could use. For instance, Keahey is a strong advocate of getting off the highway and on to provincial roads. “Many times,” he writes, “I have stumbled into a really small place with only a few streets lined with medieval structures and sat down to a remarkable meal in a tiny trattoria with perhaps three tables.” At his best, the author makes a charming case for the benefits of travel. In the afterword, he writes of getting a bloody nose in a cafe in Santo Stefano di Camastra. Noticing his plight, women from another table jumped up to help, an older woman tilted his head back, and a third ran across the street to procure gauze to staunch the bleeding. “Sir, this is Sicily. We help,” one of the women explained. “Tell people that Sicily is not the Mafia.”
Keahey provides a solid argument for seeing Sicily not for its stereotypes but for its surprising hospitality.