For a town plunged into pitch darkness, San Vito was a happening place. Perched on the northwest corner of Sicily, San Vito is picture postcard perfect. It offers sailors making the passage from Sardinia the first sheltered bay and provides a good jumping-off point for those going the other direction. It has a broad expanse of white sand beach, street vendors, bars, cafes, artisans, yummy bakers and, well, a Mediterranean je na sais quois which is shorthand for the marina has no toilets and everything except the street vendors and bars shut up tight between the hours of 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Given the temperature, humidity and general lack of air conditioning, those hours make imminent sense.
San Vito also has close ties with Canada. After World War II, much of its adult, male population — the part that was left after the failed experiment in Fascism — emigrated to Canada, settling in Toronto and Windsor. It is that generation to whom Canadians owe a debt of gratitude for, among other things, ceramic tile that comes in colours other than white, food that contains garlic without being scandalous, and, at least outside Quebec, the whole idea of table wine. Grazie guys.
Had I known that earlier in the day, I wouldn’t have been so surprised when the friendly-looking guy running the gelateria and bar interrupted a gushing Italian conversation with his other patrons to say, with a perfect, southern Ontario accent, “Hey Canada, where ya from?”
I was shocked. I was impressed. Mostly I was surprised my assimilation into Canadian culture was so complete an Italian guy knew immediately I was from Canada. I was feeling pretty good about this until my Perfect Partner reminded me C-A-N-A-D-A was written on the back of my T-shirt in six-inch letters.
Vince — last name lost to the fog of travel — had grown up in Windsor, worked on the assembly line at Chrysler, traveled to his father’s hometown 18 years ago, fell in love with an Italian woman, moved back into the house his father still owned and was now living in a three-generation household with his children and his parents who moved back a year after he did. Vince missed Canada, or at least the concept of Canada. He didn’t miss winters, the uninspired agricorp food, the pace of life. His wife hated Canada. He was happily resigned to life in San Vito but overjoyed any time a Canadian stumbled into his place, especially in the middle of a torpid afternoon to enjoy the lemon granita he made with lemons from his own trees.