Sparrow – the story of a Sicilian lockdown

In a time when liberty is threatened by lockdown and restrictions, Maria’s story, written in 1869, is more than ever contemporary.
Let’s talk about love and freedom.

In a time when liberty is threatened by lockdown and restrictions, Maria’s story, written in 1869, is more than ever contemporary.
Let’s talk about love and freedom.

It’s 1854 and a Cholera outbreak forces Maria to move from Catania and isolate with her family…. Reminds you of something? Yes, this is very similar to what we’re living now. The only difference is that, while we feel that our freedom has been taken away because of coronavirus, Maria actually gains freedom because she’s moving from the austere convent she has been forced into, to the beautiful countryside on Mount Etna, where she’s finally free from her constrictions.


This story was written in 1869 by Giovanni Verga, an author I would recommend if you feel like being thrown inside the real Sicilian way of living of the 1800s. It is called ‘Storia di una capinera’ (Story of a blackcap).

Sparrow(and other stories): Sicilian Novelle (Dedalus European Classics S) by [Giovanni Verga]
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If you’re not a fan of books, on top of telling you that the only reason why you don’t like books is that you haven’t found the right one for you, I can recommend the film inspired to this book directed by Franco Zeffirelli: “Sparrow”(1993). 
Among the others, the great Vanessa Redgrave, Angela Bettis and Jonathon Schaech paly the main roles in the film.

I would say though, that the two experiences are completely different: Verga’s work is a unique example of epistolary book, while Zeffirelli put a lot of his own imagination into the film. As to say, they are almost two different stories… 
The only voice that you would read in the book is the one of Maria. Through letters addressed to her friend, Marianna, she will tell you all about her story and you’ll witness, as a powerless observer, her fall into the spiral of madness caused by the confinement of her freedom to love.

The part of Catania that is described both in the film and in the book is the beautiful Via Crociferi, a place definitely worth a visit. There is a real monastery of cloistered nuns there. I remember that years ago I use to see their black shadows at the other side of window grills located at the top of the church below the monastery. They always reminded me of Maria. 

Picture courtesy of: “Sacred music” by Mire74 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

All of us have that one film that was played in loop as a child or teenager. For me it was “Sparrow’, the Italian/Sicilian version, of course. And every time, towards the end, I would shout to Maria to run away.


Maria, run away!

This story and the current restrictions we are forced into have lots in common, they make me realise the importance of freedom and, extending the concept, the importance of being free to love. Verga tells this all through Maria’s pen in this  sentence:

“How many things there are in a ray of sunshine!.. All those things that he sees and illuminates at this very moment…so many joys, so many pains, so many people who love each other… and he”

Giovanni Verga, Storia di una capinera

Now, what is it that you love? Cosa ami?

Personally, I love freedom, Io amo la liberta’.

Follow this link to practice these words singing “A modo mio Amo” (In my own way I love) and leave a comment saying what you love.

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