Introducing Rabbi Barbara and Her Book: The Cat That Ate the Cannoli

Book cover of Rabbi Barbara's book The Cat That Ate the Cannoli

All quoted text and Images used with permission from the author, Rabbi Barbara Aiello.

“Discovering Rabbi Barbara and her book … turned a light on so many parts of my own family’s traditions, and opened my eyes to the anusim stories in my own grandparents from Calabria. I read it with tears the first time, and reread it with more tears, finding more details that I missed the first time. Thank you Rabbi Barbara! – Corbin”

“A tabby cat, an Italian confection, and a young girl on the threshold of adulthood… A family gathers atop a mountain in Calabria, Italy where hidden Jews have practiced in secret for 500 years. As a rabbi unrolls a Torah scroll, inscribed in Hebrew in 1783, the ancient words illuminate the restored sanctuary, once a hidden prayer room, now brought to life in worship and song. The Italian-American rabbi is determined to uncover the Jewish roots buried in these hills, lost through centuries of persecution and obscured by decades of misunderstanding. Faced with more questions than answers, the tenacious rabbi overcomes the obstacles thrown her way by traditional colleagues to uncover the Jewish heritage that many believe had been lost forever.” – Amazon book page.

This wonderful book “The Cat That Ate the Cannoli: Tales of the Hidden Jews of Southern Italy” is available at Amazon.

Villa Romana Sicily – Must See for Italy History Buffs

Entrance to Villa Romana

Villa Romana del Casale located in Piazza Armerina in Sicilian heartland is not-to-be missed site for all history and art enthusiasts. Covered by layers of mud for 700 years, rediscovered in 1950, and reopened in 2003 after over forty years of reconstruction, the Villa is a treasure trove of the best Roman mosaics in existence today.

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Overlooked by visitors, Catania is a masterpiece of Sicilian Baroque

Duomo cathedral, Catania

The third largest city of Sicily, a UNESCO-listed Catania lies in close proximity to the majestic mountain Etna. The city was always subject to the brooding moods of that volcano.  In the late 1600s, Mt. Etna struck twice: first drowning Catania and over 12,000 of its inhabitants in boiling lava, and then, in less than 25 years, leveling the city again by a murderous earthquake. Only 2,000 people survived. However, like phoenix out of ashes, Catania, rebuilt by architects from Rome, was reborn as one of the greatest baroque cities of the Mediterranean.

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Following the Steps of Tennessee Williams in Sicily: Taormina’s Casa Cuseni

Casa Cuseni Taormina, Sicily

I came across the name “Casa Cuseni” when I was reading about Tennessee Williams and his beloved partner, painter/poet Henry Faulkner, spending many happy months in Taormina while staying in Casa Cuseni. I knew then, without a doubt, that when we are in Sicily, we will follow the steps of Tennessee! We and our four friends arrived at Casa Cuseni on a beautiful late September afternoon. We were met by the B&B’s smiling owner, an MD and art lover, Francesco Spadaro, and we followed him up the stairs through a terraced garden. 

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Best B&B in Palermo

Piazza San Domenico in Palermo, Sicily, Italy

I selected a B&B in Palermo called BB22 not only because of its high reputation and excellent reviews, but also because I wanted to support those who restore Palermian ancient palaces.  BB22, a hidden gem in the heart of historic Palermo, is comprised of six luxurious rooms inside a 16th-century Palazzo Pantelleria located on a tiny back street in an ancient Vucciria neighborhood.

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Sicily: Glorious Sicilian Food! And The Best Place in Palermo to Discover It

Trattoria El Pepita in Palermo Sicily

Sicily is not Italy, even though the island has been administratively part of that country since the 1860s. Likewise, Sicilian food is not Italian, though of course it has been influenced by the mainland cuisine.  Only in Sicily, a paradise for art lovers and foodies alike, one can see and experience a successful harmonization of so many different influences. And I do not mean only mosaics and architecture. Their food is a true masterpiece on its own.  Sicilians never rejected the past but with love and care combined all the trends brought by many invaders over the last three thousand years.

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