Sicily is a fantastic land, rich with art and archeology. Many people colonized the island during the years, from Greeks to Romans, from Arabs to Normans. Today the island is one of the biggest archeological sites of Europe and discoveries are frequent in each corner of the island. During the 90s, working on my family lands, I found a strange piece of rock. A discovery of a fossil was something unexpected. I never thought that a simple day of work could be so exiting. This experience gave me a very important significance. The fossil’s discovery gave me the devotion to archeology.
It was a simple Sunday of August, very hot even in the night, so that people were sleeping in the balconies of their houses. The sonorous callback of the birds was announcing that the night was ready to give space to a new day. Looking at the dark street, I was reflecting how beautiful life is in a quiet place like Casteldaccia.
Only a few thousand people live in the town and most of them spend their life in the camps, working on the agriculture. Production of oil and lemons are the most famous in the town. I had heard of some peasant who preferred going to the lands than staying home with their wives. How wretched are the people of my town! Like a lot of them, I was ready to spend my Sunday in one of my favorite places. The lands are quiet, and out of the city I can breath fresh air, write and be far away from the noise of the city. I was very excited to go to the lands, so I was the first to be awake that night. My grandfather came with his van, and he didn’t ring the bell of my house as usual, but he stopped to the corner of the street trying to fix something on the van. Hearing the noise of the vehicle, I ran outside. The last stars were about to leave the sky and the light of the sun was coming up with magnificence. My grandpa didn’t move from the van, but I noticed his surprised face when he saw me awake so early. Poor Grandpa! His white hair could approximately describe his seventy years and his adventures, and his blue eyes were giving me a sensation of beauty. He was leaning on a walking stick, and every time he was feeling a pain in his legs, he started to raise his voice blaspheming and cursing against the Germans who shot him during the Second World War. Since that day he never walked like before and he always needed the help of a nurse to take care of the incessant pain. He shouted: “Come on Giuseppe, it’s time to go”, while Nino, my older brother, was coming out the door at the same time. He had always been a rebellious person. I liked his character because of that, or maybe just because Nino and I were too different. From the way he closed the door, he didn’t seem too excited to go to the lands. I think he was angry because he preferred to go out with his motorcycle instead of working. I can remember that he never wanted me to go out with him. That situation was hurting me so bad. ‘You cannot come with me today” was his famous phrase that he always used to repeat me. It was also the last phrase that he said to me two months ago, before having a car accident and passing away. Maybe his world was different than mine.
While we were going to the farm, my Grandpa picked a topic just for the sake of having an argument. He was talking about the Germans who invaded Sicily during the Second World War, and he was forced to leave the town and go to the mountains to escape from them. Then he started to talk about the lands that were rich with products. My brother didn’t seem too interested in the conversation, so he was looking through the window at the fantastic landscape of the island. My old Grandpa then started to another discussion. This one attracted me mostly because he was talking about strange discoveries beneath our lands. The most important was a Roman funerary case with the skeleton still intact. The lands are rich with archeological treasures because centuries ago an old Roman city was situated there. The people of the lands prefer not to talk and hide the discoveries because they are afraid to lose their lands. Everybody knows a lost city is beneath our lands, but like good Sicilians, they prefer to keep their mouths closed to avoid possible confiscations from the State. The lands are the only thing they have, and loosing them would mean loosing their job. That’s why I admire my people. I was not surprised to hear about the discoveries, but the fact that was making me feel bad was that some people sold treasures that they found on their lands, treasures that didn’t belong to them. When we arrived at our destination, my Grandpa asked to my brother and I to collect walnuts and if we were able to fill a case of walnuts before lunch, he would give us mille lire each, approximately 50 US cents, that during the 90s were a lot for a kid. I was too young to listen to him; instead I started to look around me at some pieces of rocks. There were a lot of snails because it was a rainy day and it was fun watching those little animals crawling. While I was looking at the snails, something curious pushed my eyes to look at the ground. It was looking like a snail, but it wasn’t. It was a fossil, a fantastic exemplar of Ammonites, probably millions of years old.
The ammonite was one of the first living animals in the face of the Earth, and it was in my hands. My Grandpa, alarmed from the fact that I was yelling to get his attention, ran to me and he saw the Ammonite in my hand. He didn’t talk. Actually he was looking at me like I did something wrong, or maybe he just was mad because I was not doing my job. I was very excited and my eyes were reflecting that wonderful masterpiece. My brother was not so excited to see a piece of rock, but he was curious, so he was trying to take the Ammonite out of my hands. I was touching the fossil so carefully and my hands were shaking from my happiness. My dream to find something important in that land finally was true. I was not going to follow, of course, other people’s idea to sell their pieces of history, but I had like a sensation to understand that fossil, the meaning that it had. Fossils are pieces of art that people should respect. A fossil is the history of our Earth, the place were we are living.
I didn’t want to continue my work that day because the sky was getting cloudy, so my Grandpa advised us to get into the van. While it was raining, we were leaving the lands. For the rest of the World, that Sunday was a normal day, but for me it was one of the most important days of my existence. The fossil was only the first piece of my collection that today I hold in my house in Sicily. The devotion to a new subject today is the reason for my studies.