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In 2015 we had the joy of visiting Sciacca, in the eastern tip of Sicily. A place that surprised us with some unexpected stories

We had come to attend the wedding of one of our granddaughters, who from distant Mexico had come to Sciacca to marry a Saccense (name given to the inhabitants of Sciacca).

During our stay we loved the friendliness of the locals. Walking through the streets we enjoyed the architectural beauty of the city and the view of the harbour from the square.

Not to mention its churches: Basilica Madonna del Soccorso, Basilica San Calogero al Monte, San Nicolò la Latina and the Church of Giummarre where we saw the bust of the commander of the French airship Dixmude …

Dixmunde, what a strange name and what a strange place for a statue.

We ask for information and Angela, the owner of the Garibaldi Relais where we were staying, told us the story of Jean Du Plessis.

Dixmude was a German airship of the Zeppelin class, built to bomb New York.

The airship then went to France as part of the WWI damage payment. With this passage it had been renamed with the name of the Belgian village Diksmude which had been the scenario of a battle of 1914.

Back from Tunisia, the aircraft was struck by lightning on the journey and crashed into the Mediterranean off the coast of Sciacca. In the accident 50 crewmen perished.

It was the night of December 21, 1923 and Father Arena was the first to recognize the commander’s body, Count Jean du Plessis de Grenèdan.

It was recovered by Saccensi fishermen five days after the disaster and, in the captain’s pocket, a ticket was found that makes everything look like a miracle.

The commander addressed the Madonna with the prayer that in case of death his body would not be eaten by the fish.

The priest established friendly relations with the French authorities, and with the families of the victims, and had a votive column erected at the Viale delle Terme with the Madonna of Notre Dame de Fourviere on top.

We discovered a city full of history and anecdotes that certainly enriched our stay.

But we do not want to forget the local cuisine that deserves attention and makes your stay pleasant … what we liked most were cannoli, pizzas, ice cream and salami (not in that order).

It is important to remember that Sciacca is close to wonderful places like Agrigento, Selinunte, Monreale and the city of Palermo.

It was truly an unforgettable experience and it made us return two years later.

We want to thank Angela de Michele, Signor Gulino and the Segreto family for their hospitality, and I hope soon again to be in Sciacca.