Bunch of no-good ear biters

A bit of trivia. The main photo at the top of this website shows the Cunziria, an abandoned historical quarter in the rustic Sicilian town of Vizzini. [update: I’ve changed the photo since this post, but you can still see a picture of it in my Galleries section, here – middle of the third row] The name Vizzini will be familiar to film buffs as one of the villains in The Princess Bride (1987). I know it better as the place where Gill and I mistakenly got off at the wrong train station, miles from the town itself, at an unmanned platform, surrounded by empty countryside and rolling tumbleweeds, with not a human being in sight; no phone either, and no idea when the next train might rumble past. All my fault, by the way, and didn’t the missus let me know it. 

Fortunately, we ended up having a great day in Vizzini, mostly because of the annual ricotta festival that coincided with our visit. Freshly baked herb-infused cheeses always tend to lift the mood.

As for the Cunziria, here’s a snippet about it from the book (Chapter 13, “A trip to Vizzini”):

The Cunziria (careful with that pronunciation, folks) surrounds a derelict tannery, hundreds of years old, and is famous as the setting for a duel between Alfio and Turiddu, the two protagonists in the renowned opera, Cavalleria Rusticana. Their fight is prompted by – what else? – love, lust and adultery. It’s initiated by means of the customary ‘Sicilian embrace’, in which two men hug and one ends up with half his ear bitten off. This ear-biting is intended as a challenge: ‘We will fight to the death.’ Colloquially the custom is known as il Mike Tyson. Or it should be.

I’m reminded of the scene from The Godfather III where Sonny’s son Vincent (Andy Garcia) challenges Joey Zasa to a duel by biting his ear.

‘I would bite Andy Garcia’s ear,’ says Gill when I recall the scene.

‘What, off?’

‘No, just some gentle nibbling.’

Below: photo looking up to Vizzini from the Cunziria.



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