A few years ago, Lisa and I, along with my sister Karen, and brother-in-law Kevin, travelled to Italy. I had never visited the land of my ancestors, although I had heard many, many times of its historic architecture, its stunning beauty and the warmth of its people. In my mind’s eye, I knew exactly what to expect and what I would see. Our plan was to tour Sicily for 7 days then travel to the Amalfi Coast for an additional 4. We flew to Catania on the west coast of Sicily and drove south down the coast to Siracusa. Siracusa is unbelievable! It was colonized in the 8th century as a Greek city-state before becoming a part of the Roman Empire and like the rest of Sicily, being under the auspices of the Vandals, Ostrogoths, Moors, Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish, Austrians, British and Americans before becoming a part of the Italian Republic. The town abounds with Greek and Roman amphitheaters and temples, underground catacombs, Catholic Cathedrals, alongside Jewish temples, Spanish forts built after its conquest in 1492, and papyrus originally planted by the Egyptians. My first impressions of the land of my ancestors was nothing at all like what I had imagined.
Our plans had us driving west through the towns of Noto and Ragusa to view Baroque Churches and to taste the local wines (we employed drivers for the trip) before heading to Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples. The Temple of Concordia is one of the world’s best-preserved Greek temples in an area where temples abound. The Temples of Zeus, Castor and Pollux are a short walk away from the Garden of Kolymbetra and our hotel, Hotel Villa Athena, on the grounds of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was blown away by the sites and smells and history of the place. This couldn’t be the same land spoken of by my grandfather. Could Grandpa really have shepherded sheep as a boy in the nearby mountains before emigrating to the U.S. as a teen?
We continued our trip west and north through the towns of Sciacca, Trapani, Monreale, and Palermo before arriving in the small seaside village of Cefalu with its beautiful church, ancient town center, and incredibly friendly people. Although my grandparents had emigrated 100 years prior, we have family in Sicily and were treated like long-lost brothers and sisters by cousins living in Bagheria and Casteldaccia, towns on the island’s northwest coast. We toured Palermo’s Cathedral accompanied by Angela, a cousin who wrote her master’s thesis on the subject. Family parties of 30+ were held for us at local ristorantes and we were welcomed for family dinners at cousin’s personal villas. These memories will be forever with me and none of these events could have been foreseen or expected. We spent several days with our “new” family members, before visiting the towns of Taormina, Castelmola and Mt. Etna. Perched high on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea, Taormina has inspired the likes of Oscar Wilde, Friedrich Nietzsche, Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, but for us it held little compared to our days spent in Cefalu.
I thought I knew exactly what we would see, taste and experience in Italy. Fortunately, the land of my ancestors was so much more than I could have imagined and my memories of Sicily will stay with me forever. Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Italy is like that.
Just as I knew exactly what to expect in my travels to Italy, we all know from the news and from the pundits exactly what will transpire going forward with the economy and in the markets. They tell us with certainty that the economy is headed for recession and that the markets will surely tumble. And just like my trip to Italy, the reality is no one can predict what will happen. Many issues abound including geopolitical troubles, domestic political concerns, and slowing economic growth, but how these play out in the future is beyond our comprehension. We continue to preach that a diversified portfolio and long-term planning consistently applied are the best prescription for achieving your goals and objectives.
As always, we thank you for your business and for your continued trust.
Jack P. Cannata