Saturday 6 January 1968, the last day of the Christmas holidays.
Also that year I celebrated the Holy Epiphany in Montevago with my family. Mass at the Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie, a visit to the friars, a stop to admire the magnificent nativity scene and, finally, a hot tea at a friend’s house. I loved and have always loved that church, a place rich in art and mysticism.
That day, during the holy function, I was very distracted and insistently admired the interior of the church, as if I wanted to fix in my mind in perennial memory everything that my eyes saw.
That was the last mass, the last visit to the Sanctuary.
I returned to Montevago on February 3, 1968. No more orange blossom scent. No more green and long asparagus. No more Aunt Rusalia (Aunt Rosalia) with fresh eggs from her hens. No more lu zù Caloiru (uncle Calogero) with good salami and sasizza (sausage) obtained from the slaughter of his pigs.
After the earthquake there was nothing left, only stones and mud. Around only emptiness and, a lot, a lot of frost. With difficulty, my legs turned between stones and snow, while with my eyes I looked for people and houses that were no longer there.
I returned after many years. I saw under a veil of tears, a new and unknown town.
On the outskirts, next to the new houses, there were some very shabby houses: the old historic centre. Small dilapidated houses, which for half a century have defied time, bad weather and scorching heat.
Before 1968, those walls were the silent guardians of a happy community, but on that cold night of January 15, a roar turned them into grieving ghosts.
I returned on January 24, 2021. It is always a joy to see a place that recalls childhood. It’s raining, there are no people on the streets and a misty silence envelops me. Instinctively I head towards the old centre, there, as always, I feel the past. Step by step I reach the places dear to me.
Suddenly I realize that the old road has been cleared, now it is cleared of stones and rubble. The sidewalks are immaculate. The flower beds are squared and planted with palm trees. Piazza Belvedere, Corso Umberto I, a look at the valley and the certainty of being in a special place, where the past meets the present and together they go towards the future.
Memories move away in a few moments to give way to the reality of the moment. An exciting visual walk that awakens hope and dreams. The shadows of the evening slowly fall, but suddenly the light of the street lamps illuminates everything around.
Those street lamps that have remained off for 53 long years, now illuminate a path of art, history, affections, traditions, flavours, aromas and popular culture.
I approach the houses and they welcome me with smiling faces and nostalgic expressions, gestures of affection and moments of everyday life, they are beautiful murals that tell of a quiet town in Belice, unknown until the tragic night of 1968.
The people of Montevago with great willpower have rebuilt their town,, took back their life and maintained their identity. Along the external walls other works stand out for their disruptive force of colours and figures. I feel immense joy in watching that place come back to life.
There, where the fury of nature has destroyed, now the skilled hands, the sensitive intelligence and the ability of inspired young people has given new life. An open-air museum dedicated to the past, to those who are no longer there, but also to young and future generations.
I leave the museum with a great sense of serenity, I would say of joy, because each work that is made is a small piece of culture and history. I feel in my heart that the construction of this open-air museum is the beginning of a larger project which will not only include the artists of Belice, but also the artists of the world.
Each artist who comes will give new life and will go away regenerated by the beauty and serenity of the places, suitable for hosting various forms of contemporary art.
Montevago is the natural place to carry out any cultural initiative. The local products are of excellent quality and lend themselves to giving life to many food and wine tours.
The tourist visiting Montevago will enjoy the many facets of a place where nature, art, culture, good food, and a great desire to do, meet.
The realization of these Visual Paths has some architects and it seems to me only right to thank: Francesco Mauceri, the cultural association “The yearning for it” with the inexhaustible Michele Giambalvo and the artists: Ligama, Bruno D’Arcevia, Patrick Ray Pugliese, Pascal Caterine.
Thanks to the industrious municipal council led by the tenacious mayor Margherita La Rocca Ruvolo.