THE FRENCH, THE ARAGONESE, AND THE INTERNATIONALIZATION OF SICILIAN WINE

La Vucciria di Guttuso  copyCarlo d’Angiò and his Frenchmen arrived in Sicily, and conquered it, at or about the year 1266, chasing away the Hohenstaufen after a series of horrendous massacres. Aside from a few linguistic terms adopted by the Sicilians, the French did not leave too deep of an imprint on the already-rich Sicilian gastronomy. One interesting example of how French language was assimilated with Sicilian is the French term for “meat market”: boucherie.

 

 

The Sicilian Vespers-Francesco_Hayez_Over time, the word became vucciria, and was used in reference to  outdoor markets. The famous “La Vucciria” in the center of Palermo is  still an authentic market operating today, and has become a tourist  attraction, as well as memorialized by Sicilian modern artist, Renato Guttuso.

 

Santo Spirito i vespri sicilianiThe Sicilians saw themselves now being ruled to enable an alien tyrant make conquests from which they would have no benefit”
The first European revolution exploded in Palermo in 1282, in the form of a  popular uprising against the French usurpers. The event takes its name from an insurrection which began at the start of Vespers, the sunset prayer marking the beginning of the night vigil on Easter Monday, March 30, 1282, at the Church of the Holy Spirit just outside Palermo (at that time) now is part of the monumental cemetery. According to Steven Runciman, the Sicilians at the church were engaged in holiday festivities and a group of French officials came by to join in and began to drink. A sergeant named Drouet dragged a young married woman from the crowd, pestering her with his advances. Her husband then attacked Drouet with a knife, killing him. When the other Frenchmen tried to avenge their comrade the Sicilian crowd fell upon them, killing them all. At that moment all the church bells in Palermo began to ring for Vespers. Runciman best describes the mood of the night:

TPanino with Panelle copy 2o the sound of the bells messengers ran through the city calling on the men of Palermo to rise against the oppressor. At once the streets were filled with angry armed men, crying “Death to the French” (‘Moranu tutti li Francisi’ in the Sicilian language). Every Frenchman they met was struck down. They poured into the inns frequented by the French and the houses where they dwelt, sparing neither man, woman nor child. Sicilian girls who had married Frenchmen perished with their husbands. The rioters broke into the Dominican and Franciscan convents; and all the foreign friars were dragged out and told to pronounce the word ‘ciciri’, meaning chickpeas (chee-chee-ree) whose sound the French tongue could never accurately reproduce, (they would pronounce see-see-ree) . Anyone who failed the test was slain… By the next morning some two thousand French men and women lay dead; and the rebels were in complete control of the city. Chickpeas flower is the main ingredient of the “panelle” a must of  the  Sicilian street food!

 

the still life with glass of red wineNinety years later, in 1372,  the House of Aragon established itself as the definitive ruler of the entire Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which at that time included all of the regions from Abruzzo and Molise down, comprising what is referred to as “Southern Italy” today. The capital of the Kingdom was settled at Napoli, indicating a historical detachment from Sicily.
The Spanish-Aragonese dominion represents an important period for regional enogastronomy, considering vastness of the territory, and Sicilian wine thereby began to enjoy international fame on a new level.