The Stone Boudoir: Travels Through the Hidden Villages of Sicily

Theresa Maggio, Author . Perseus $25 (272p) ISBN 0-7382-0342-4

Sicily is firmly ensconced in the minds of foreigners as the bastion of the Mafiosi—a land where no organization is as powerful as a crime family and no bond stronger than blood. Maggio, a travel writer who's been exploring her grandparents' homeland for more than 15 years, has found an even more lasting force in the worn stones of the remote towns of Sicily's mountainous regions: "something thrums in the stones of Sicilian hill towns," she writes, "and I have become obsessed with them both." In villages built on the flood plain of Mt. Etna's scorching lava flows, she marvels at the cycle of life provided by the volcano's nutrients. Reflecting on the antiquity of a town carved entirely out of the face of a cliff, she notes the modern glow of television radiating across the rock walls. "Stones are crystals, which vibrate, each at its own frequency. The stones live long, slow lives," she muses. If some of the passages smack of New Age beatitudes, mostly her tone will be familiar to readers of Mattanza, her vivid account of the epic Mediterranean tuna hunts. Curious, light-hearted and enthusiastic, Maggio roams the villages of Etna and the Madonie Mountains as though hunting butterflies. Each detail is worthy of scrutiny, from the way Sicilian women hang out their wash to the peculiar placement of Sicilian kitchens on the top floor of the house. While her fascination with the bedrock of Sicilian communities is evident, it's her quick understanding of the residents' humanity that brings the landscapes to life in this engaging travel memoir. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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