Santa Lucia was a rich, young Christian girl who was martyred in 304 A.D. She chose to die rather than be married to a pagan, who then had her tortured and murdered. She died on the longest night of the year, December 13th, and is the patron saint of those who are blind and suffer with eye problems. In fact, her name means "light".
There are several versions of St. Lucia's story and she is celebrated in other countries as well as Sicily.
One legend has it that during the great Sicilian famine of 1582, a large group went to the church to pray to 'Santa Lucia' for an end to the famine. While they prayed, a ship came into the Syracuse (Siracusa, Sicily) harbor filled with wheat and they were saved. They were so famished that they did not process the wheat into flour. Instead, they boiled the unprocessed wheat berries, and called it Cuccia or Cuccidata.
In Italy, a few towns, especially Siracusa Sicily, will have a big celebration.
Below is Rosanna Spallino performing at the Santa Lucia celebration at the Italian Club in Ybor City, December 2009.
I just want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving (or Buona Festa del Ringraziamento in Italian). In actuality, it is not a holiday that is celebrated in Italy. Too bad, because it is probably my favorite holiday in that we all take time out to give thanks, count our blessings, and nothing else. Especially this year in light of the economic turmoil, unemployment, the war overseas, etc. No crowded malls to fight (yet), nothing to do but eat a good turkey and spend time with family and friends.
What is Agriturismo? In Italian, it is actually a combination of two words - Agricoltura and Turismo - agriculture and tourism.
It basically means spending your vacation on a farm. It started becoming popular in the 1980s when many Italian farmers were looking for other ways to supplement their income. At an Italian agriturismo you will usually have the chance to experience the foods prepared from raw materials produced on the farm. Some will allow their guests participate in the activities surrounding the farm such as wine-making, cheese-making, olive production, milking cows, etc. It is usually a very rustic experience. Agriturismo can be another option instead of a typical Italian vacation that involves Italian hotels. Most of them are located in Tuscany, Umbria and Sicily.