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Following is the Collection of Best Photos of National Geographic's Photo of the day section. There has always been important work to be done in Sicily, but for most of history everyone but the Sicilians themselves were in control. Cultivating the rugged terrain, isolated by mountains, at the mercy of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Sicilians have long been masters of apathy, fatalism, and distrust. Anti-Mafia feeling began to build in the early 1980s, and modest demonstrations across the island were followed by something new: trials and convictions of Mafia members.
And it took me forever to find a widow in a black dress, once the hallmark of the strict obligations that bound women to church and family.
I asked Salvatore Butera, director of economic studies at the Bank of Sicily in Palermo, about these changes. Yet as I reflected on all the changes in Sicily, it seemed that they were really just the accumulation of changes in individual Sicilians—small personal revolutions over the past generation in which a person chose to depart from the well-worn path of habit.
This woman was the only Sicilian I met who did not want to be named in an article that dealt with the Mafia, though she has not been directly involved in any anti-Mafia protest. TWO MONTHS after he received the calf’s head, Mayor Cipriani was speaking out again, this time in the town square. Mafiosi themselves became landowners after the unification of Italy in 1861 brought land reform. Then, on May 23, 1992, Falcone was returning to Palermo from Rome on what was supposed to have been a secret trip.
I ASKED VIRTUALY everyone I met whether they considered themselves Italians first, or Sicilians. Northern Italy, for one thing, tends to look at southern Italy as a scruffy boot bottom, and at Sicily as an object appropriately poised to be kicked. She had just received her degree in languages and literature from the University of Catania. Sicilian roots are firmly embedded in their extraordinary countryside, which they love with a passion: its moody mountains looming out of the wintry thunderclouds, the sweep of blossoming lemon and orange groves, the dusting of tiny wildflowers that can seem like snow in the shadows of dawn. When Salvatore suggested that I have coffee with him and his fianc?e, Elena di Natale, I had been in Sicily long enough not to be surprised that we were also joined by his mother and father and her mother and sister. The way they drive is a good illustration of the result: anarchy, something between an art form and a blood sport. She lived up to her promise, escaping congestion by deftly creating a third lane where my limited vision saw only two.
And there are traditions enacted through elaborate rituals that even the most modern Sicilians have no desire to abandon. Enna is an ancient citadel city of 29,000 built on the summit of a 3,200-foot (975 meters) mountain in the center of the island.
Here, as in many towns throughout Sicily, the Holy Week ceremonies preceding Easter are rich and complex. On Good Friday, Luigi Barbarino, 38, closes his caf?-bar to shoulder the Urn of the Dead Christ.
All of Enna lines the route or hangs from balconies as the confraternities in a rainbow of capes and white hoods begin the five-hour march through town to the cemetery, then back to the 14th-century cathedral.
Elegant and blond, Giovanna Tam started Boomerang, an advertising agency in Catania, 13 years ago. So he went to the tiny western village of Tonnara di Bonagia, on the wild shores of Trapani Province. Because the 66 units will be offered on a time-share basis, the visitors will stay long enough not only to see the mattanza but also to enjoy the rocky beauty of the untouched coast and the tranquillity of the village. Daniele is only one of several entrepreneurs I met who wants to show their love for their island and to dedicate themselves to its future. THE ROAD TO REGALEALI winds upland an hour south of Palermo to nearly 2,000 feet above sea level.
In Sicily vineyards rise almost everywhere (grapes trail only citrus in agricultural production).
Pasta was first, fettuccine in tomato sauce, and Lucio poured a crisp white table wine made from, among others, a grape called Tasca because it was first found growing on their property.
Later, as we walked along a dirt road near the stone farmhouse, I learned about some things Lucio Tasca would like to see changed. RETURNING TO PALERMO I clung to the memory of Regaleali; it was the pastoral side of Sicilian life, nurtured and protected despite the struggle with taxes, politics, the pressure of deciding what to keep and what to change. The city is full of markets brimming with the island’s bounty-glistening fish, glorious fruits and vegetables. The city is set on a harbor of the sapphire Tyrrhenian Sea, against a backdrop of low, ragged hills. I awoke every day in Palermo to the sound of police sirens: The judges were going to work, with their bodyguards and police escorts.
Beyond pronouncements, I discovered the church hard at work in a poor Palermo neighborhood called Albergheria.

This fight, more internal, lacks the drama of street demonstrations, yet it is just as important. When Father Scordato and several other priests moved to Albergheria, they knew they had to offer real alternatives. I swirled spaghetti drenched with cuttlefish ink as he periodically came out of the kitchen to talk.
Father Scordato knows that saving the neighborhood will be a long-term project, but he has patience. New York Daily News 2014 National Geographic Traveler's Best of the World 2014 National Geographic Traveler's Best of the World Maybe it's time for a vacation.
When two Palermo judges were assassinated in 1992, Sicilians reacted in spontaneous revulsion.
I eventually met one running the family produce stall in Randazzo, a small town on the slope of Mount Etna, at 10,902 feet (3323 meters) Europe’s highest active volcano.
Sunday afternoon had passed in Corleone in the usual way, which meant that everyone was already in the square. It is impossible to speak of anything in Sicily without eventually speaking of this organization. Under the feudal land system, strongmen who collected rents for landowners and helped settle disputes in the absence of local government or courts came to be called mafiosi.
By 1875 the strongest political power on the island was the hierarchy of bosses and underlings that eventually was known as the Mafia.
He was driving toward the city with his wife and several bodyguards when someone watching from the coastal hills used a remote device to set off powerful explosives along the highway, blowing up Falcone’s car.
In 1990 business owners in the small beach resort of Capo d’Orlando on the northeast coast refused demands for money from a regional Mafia family looking to expand its territory.
They have also kept their religious traditions, which have altered yet remained strong over the centuries. The spring breeze blew from the cobalt water, and the tropical trees gave the house a sense of seclusion.
Salvatore Giuliana, 27, moved to Milan to work in advertising, but after seven years he hasn’t given in to the lure of the big city.
The rituals are religious, certainly, but they seem to have almost equal importance as a community tradition. As a member of the confraternity of San Salvatore, he is one of 60 men who carry this glass coffin holding a wooden statue of the crucified Jesus. This is a great honor, as it is for the 80 men of another confraternity who carry the six-foot (183 centimeters)-tall statue of the Madonna of Sorrows. With them walk young girls dressed as nuns or angels, giving thanks to Mary for a blessing or praying for one. The hooded men light their torches — battery-powered colored lanterns these days instead of flames.
There are new contrasts too in the world of economics, as Sicily struggles with recession, subsidy cutbacks, and unemployment that has reached 22 percent (it is 11 percent elsewhere in Italy).
Here he and three partners are creating a small resort from an abandoned 15th-century tonnara, a compound of houses built around a courtyard where tuna fishermen once lived and processed their catch. Although the villagers may not be overtly enthusiastic at the prospect (they are Sicilian, after all; something will probably go wrong), they are cautiously positive at the idea of finding some new ways to support themselves. That love and dedication are nowhere more clear than at an estate called Regaleali, where Count Lucio Tasca d’Almerita is making Sicilian wine to confound all previous notions of Sicilian wine.
And the city the scenery rapidly reverts to countryside, olive groves punctuated by small villages. Palermo is a picture of what can happen to a place without any protecting hand, at the mercy of those who take and give nothing back. Energy and flashing wit were on display with everything else when I walked through the market one morning, the men throwing good-natured insults at one another with a skill born of long practice.
Some buildings still show touches of the Arab culture; the Spanish laid grand boulevards over the tangle of old alleyways and built baroque palaces. More than a few of the buildings bombed by the Allied forces in World War II are still half standing, with people living in them.
At San Francesco Saverio, the Reverend Cosimo Scordato in 1986 established a social center to try to help the neighborhood help itself. One group has been formed to run a small magazine; another gives tours of the neighborhood. Corleone has always had a powerful Mafia presence, and the 32-year-old Cipriani, having been elected months earlier on a strong anti-Mafia platform, knew that he was supposed to be afraid. The combination of exploitation and neglect created a chronic poverty and conservatism that virtually defined the term Sicilian. In the glare of the publicity, outsiders were astonished to see that Sicily, far from having remained superstitious and backward, had been undergoing great social and economic change.
On this Sunday evening in April, Cipriani and other speakers were addressing a rally, urging the people to sign a petition that, it turns out, eventually saved the town’s hospital.

The coffee bars and ice cream parlors reopened after the one to four siesta - a multi-course family lunch followed by a nap.
Its 5,000 or so local members have touched, to one degree or another, every aspect of Sicilian life, scooping money from the flow of public funds, controlling politicians and judges, intimidating, extorting, and killing. To their previous work they added delivering votes and protection services against bandits, and ultimately against themselves.
Her three grown daughters, like most Sicilian children, were still living at home; the Pappalardos were building a small house nearby on their property for the one who was about to be married.
When she seemed dismayed by the Milan license plate on my rental car, I asked if it would be a problem. In Enna, everyone joins in the array of processions and dramas that commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ.
And of course some people are like that,” she said as we sipped espresso and she smoked yet another slim brown cigarillo.
The men still go out each May and June to catch them, using a method called the mattanza introduced by the Arabs in the ninth century.
The paler green of vineyards beginning to leaf stretched up the hillsides, with splashes of red poppies and towering stalks of wild fennel topped with starbursts of yellow flowers. Beyond the open door the courtyard was scattered with his grandchildren’s toys and scented by climbing roses.
The Romans made it the first province of their empire-Arabs left a flourishing legacy of crops: oranges, lemons, melons, pistachios, and a new breed of wheat. Along with frustration I found hope; there was abundance, yet there was still intense poverty. To lose the hospital would have meant a two-hour drive to Palermo, the capital, first on rural roads shared by sheep and goats, then on secondary roads that might be broader and smoother if the money allocated for that purpose had somehow found its way to the right hands. When they moved from the countryside into the burgeoning cities, infiltrating industries and bureaucracies, they became the de facto power of the entire island. His mother and father call their only child every morning from Sicily to wake him up at seven o’clock.
I ended up learning as much about Salvatore from his family as I did from him, which is exactly the way Sicilians think it ought to be. But as the men muscle the coffin into a narrow stone street and a funeral dirge swells from an accompanying brass band, I find myself unexpectedly blinking back tears. If a Sicilian does change jobs, people assume he was fired or that his boss needed to give the job to a relative.
Father Scordato helped seven young men form a cooperative to start the restaurant, and now professors from the nearby University of Palermo walk through this still somewhat unsavory neighborhood to eat lunch. Discos are common in most towns, and the fashions are indistinguishable from those worn in Milan and Rome.
I saw the creamy almond blossoms finally fall, and the grapevines just begin to glow with green. Young adults and teenagers made their Passeggiata, strolling down the main road talking and joking, then turning like a school of fish and strolling back. The day I met him he was wearing a peach-colored shirt, a blue-checked jacket, and an extremely floral tie. There’s no accounting for the millions of dollars that the government has invested here.
I can hear people making plans for dinner, the stray car alarm blaring, and pocket cellular phones ringing.
The destination is one of the most fascinating in the world, according to National Geographic Travel magazine's Best Trips 2014 list.
Centuries of Spanish and Austrian nobles exploited the island from their palaces in Palermo-the lack of a national government left a void of power that was easy for local strongmen, mafiosi, to fill. An entrepreneurial spirit is replacing the old habit of taking one job and keeping it for life.
I also escaped an attack on my car by a gang riding Vespas in a poor neighborhood of Catania, who shattered the passenger window. Men in their 60s and older sat in groups around the square, dapperly dressed in crisply ironed shirts) sweater vests tailored jackets, and wool caps.
I’m waiting for them in a street I hoped would be full of mysterious medieval gloom, but it is bright with the glare from spotlights jury-rigged onto balconies. They were just the last in the long line of conquerors when they took over the island in this century. And the equally old habit of accepting massive national subsidies for endless failed public projects is under fire from Sicilians who are beginning to demand accountability from their politicians.

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