A slow Grand Tour to rediscover our roots and the human values which define us

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INTRO

Born in Messina, Tommaso left Sicily before even becoming of age. For over a decade he travelled the world for his studies and work. For him, traveling is not just the experience of different places and different people, but it becomes an opportunity to find some sense of community and belonging wherever he goes. Whether at the rugby club in Oxford or in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, he does his utmost best to learn the language, the accent, the ways of the locals and make them his own. Rarely can people tell where he’s from. This kind of befuddlement in the face of his chameleonic skill, marks the way Tommaso went about living, anywhere he went.

One day, during a visit to his father’s home town, Cesarò, perched on the Nebrodi Mountains in Sicily, he enters the café in the town’s central square. The owner, a 90ish year old woman, is staring at him insistently from behind the bar. “Who do you belong to?” she inquires, in the local dialect. Her curiosity is satisfied merely at hearing Tommaso’s family name. She cannot imagine that her question has cut across him, exposing him to how little, despite all his travels, he really knows about his family, his origins, his native land. What she cannot possibly divine, is that her question made Tommaso’s most intimate preoccupations about the meaning of being in the world collide.

If Sicily is, in the words of Goethe, the key to everything, what keys can Tommaso’s roots offer in order to live a meaningful existence?

Why does this land exert this attraction on him while most young people are forced to leave in search of a better future? How can one really make a difference in the world and what values are needed in the face of today’s challenges? Which of these values unite us as humanity and is a sense of local community still possible in the face of an ever more global, hectic and liquid reality? If Sicily is, in the infamous words of Goethe, the key to everything, what keys can Tommaso’s roots offer in order to live, today, a meaningful existence?

THE IDEA

The search for an answer to these questions and for the meaningful aspects of human life in its multifarious forms was always the backdrop to Tommaso’s studies and travels. After befriending Marco Crupi, playing with their ideas and the initials of their names, the duo created MeaningfulTravels.net, to share their passion for travelling in its meaningful aspects and the belief that traveling meaningfully is somehow a metaphor of living (read about our philosophy here). Is it surprising that the most attractive destination remained their own native island? According to Marco, though traveling is a crucial learning process in so many ways, it is absurd to be ignorant of your own place of origin.

“Many of our fellow Sicilians suffer from xenophilia, deliberately ignoring the beauty which surrounds them. Mass culture often makes certain places look beautiful and desirable, altering our perception of reality to the effect that our surroundings lose all their appeal. This is why I hope my photos will attract not only foreigners and Italians generally but also, and more importantly, Sicilians: it is especially for them that we conceived this project.”

THE PROJECT

Telling of Sicily to the best of our abilities implies penetrating some of its complexities. Leonardo Sciascia famously wrote that there is not one but many Sicilies, a system of islands within the island: a pirandellian claim which gains veridicality before the immense diversity among its inhabitants. There are stories, places, people, a material and immaterial heritage which escapes the average tourist’s eye as much as the indigenous’, which might never be documented as it should. This is a journey after the unseen, the least heeded, the lest-it-be-forgotten. ‘You can travel to Sicily and not see it at all’ wrote Matteo Collura in a 1984 collection of sicilian itineraries. Dominique Fernandez thought Sicily was behind the heroines of opera composer Vincenzo Bellini, ‘the Swan of Catania’:

“You can travel to Sicily and yet not see it at all […] Her treasure is invisible to the eyes of the lovers who court her merely for her looks.”

“whether her name be Norma, betrayed and abandoned in the most atrocious way, or Beatrice `{`…`}` or Amina `{`…`}` or Elvira `{`…`}` or Imogene, whose folly alone makes her existential circumstances bearable, she is always a victim, a tragic shadow with a dark destiny. Men use and abuse her, they deceive and abandon her. In herself she hides the secret of her nobleness and her purity; her treasure is invisible to the eyes of the lovers who court her merely for her looks, not unlike the tourists who visit Sicily for her beaches and monuments`{`…`}`”

SPONSORSHIPS

The enthusiasm of friends and family, though flattering, would not have been enough to turn our idea into a feasible project. We wish to thank Fabio Lavafila of Mtb Sicily, for his support in the process of purchasing the bikes. The major contribution came from Panasonic Europe, together with all of our photography equipment.

Specifically, the equipment consists of two mirrorless cameras,the Lumix GH5 and the GX8, the lenses Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm F4.0-6.3, Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 and Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4

We also wish to acknowledge BRN Bernardi Componenti per il ciclo for the enthusiasm they showed toward our project and for their support: they supplied us with their Himalaya waterproof bags and racks, the Arrow helmets and the Thor lights. As the leading italian manufacturer of bycicle components, we couldn’t have hoped for a better technical partner.

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