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21 - Testa di Moro in Sicilia - Storia e tradizione

Testa di Moro in Sicily: History and tradition

Not only is Sicily a land of traditions and history, but also the perfect environment for legends made up of popular beliefs, jumping back to centuries ago and taking us back to remote worlds. Often those myths become part of a collective memory, giving rise to customs that are handed down to modern times.
Basically, culture and folklore are part of the very nature of this land and its inhabitants.

The Testa di Moro represents one of the oldest Sicilian legends

The Testa di Moro, for example, represents one of the oldest Sicilian legends, a story that still today excites and inspires. Depicting the face of a boy, “the Moor”, often next to a girl’s face, these hand-painted ceramic vases represent a symbol of the whole island. These characteristic objects decorate balconies and terraces, but are also refined interior items given as precious gifts, coming in various sizes and shapes. But now let’s find out what the legend tells?

The first legend related to the Testa di Moro:

We actually need to point out there are two legends related to the Moor’s heads. According to the first one, in the Kalsa district of Palermo, the story goes that a beautiful girl, who loved to take care of flowers and plants on her balcony, one day saw a young moor passing by her house. Below her balcony, he fell in love with her at first sight; the love was mutual and the handsome Moor went almost immediately to the girl’s house.

After a short time, the young lover learned that the moor had a wife and children in the Middle East, and would soon join them. The young woman then grew angry, and during the night she killed him and cut off his head. She then used his head as a vase, she planted basil in it, and displayed the vase on her balcony. Since that time, it has been customary to have dark brown clay pots on balconies for seedlings and flowers.

The second legend related to the Testa di Moro:

The other legend, on the other hand, tells of a rich young woman who falls in love with a boy of humble origins and that this love is thwarted by her family, who decides to behead the couple. The heads were displayed on the balcony as a symbol, and for this reason, since then, it has been customary to give Moor’s heads as a couple or depicting both lovers.

Sicilian traditions are intertwined with the ancient history that’s well rooted in this land, together with a culture that comes mainly from the Arab world. In particular, Sicilian cuisine has inherited and revisited ancient flavours and recipes. Try to think of almonds, for example, which are the basic ingredient of Sicilian pastries, a product that arrived in Sicily from the Middle East. History, legends and traditions seem to have common grounds and yet they come from afar, finally meeting and blending all together in our land, which has always welcomed, transformed and preserved the memory of ancient civilizations and their delicacies.

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