You cannot see the house from Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples. Immediately south of the Valley’s Temple of Concordia, there is a breathtaking drop to the city’s port named for a famous Greek philosopher, Empedocles. The house, however, is a place little known by tourists or travelers. Many seek the house as on a pilgrimage, a place to find inspiration from a life of struggle and purpose.
Above that port, and adjacent to a precipice to the sea, stands the home of Luigi Pirandello, a writer whose novels, poems and plays earned him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1934.
Literally born into Chaos, the suburb of Agrigento where he was born is called Kaos (Chaos),his family was wealthy. Sulfur mining was the source of his father’s income and his mother, Caterina Ricci Gramitto, came from a wealthy merchant family. His family was vehemently against the Bourbon rule in Sicily. Familiarity with politics came early to Luigi and his earliest impressions formed a profoundly important part of his psyche and his writing for his entire life.
An education lead by his mother at home continued until he was offered entrance to the ginnasio, the school of higher education where he began serious studies of literature. From the early age of twelve, when his first play was written, he knew that literature and writing were his passion, his life. At the age of thirteen, the family began a series of moves that would profoundly influence Pirandello. First Palermo, where he studied at the University. Next came Rome where he was given the opportunity to see, first hand, the political intrigue and waste of the early attempts at Risorgimento, the rising against the Bourbon kings.
His life continued through a complex series of disappointments and loss. In 1903, the family lost their entire estate after floods in the sulfur mines of Aragona. His mother never completely recovered from the psychological shock of the loss and Luigi’s wife, herself mentally fragile, was eventually committed to an asylum. Despite the loss and challenges of his life, his writing continued unabated for fifty-six years.
Why is this Italian writer, whose home stands above a city of ancients on the southern coast of Italy, important?
Pirandello, it was stated in his 1934 Nobel Prize citation, achieved his success by his “bold and brilliant renovation of the drama and the stage.” Throughout a life that presented political, moral, psychological and philosophical challenges, he chose to write, to express anger, disappointment, loss and change.
From the vantage point above the sea where Pirandello’s remains are buried, there is a sense of peace. He once said, “I am a child of Chaos…” and while his life story may read as such, visitors come to understand why he loved this quiet promontory where he often found inspiration.
When he wrote of his home above Agrigento, he wrote of the earth. There is a marker at the house with a quote from one of his poems. It reads:
Uno notte di giunio
caddi come una lucciola
Sotto un pino solitario
affacciata agli orli
sul mare africano
One night in June,
I fell like a firefly
Under a lonely pine
of Saracen olive
overlooking the edges
of a plateau
of clay blue
It was but a few years ago that lightening struck that same lone pine tree. While a new tree has since been planted, the remains of that stark burned tree somehow symbolized the life of a man who was a lightening rod of dissent, of great writing and of rising above adversity.
His home is a place that I strongly encourage everyone to visit. It is off the beaten path of tourism that leads to the Valley of the Temples and it is a place that illuminates yet another part of Sicily’s, as well as Italy’s, fascinating culture.
IF YOU GO:
Casa Museo Luigi Pirandello
Contrada Caos Villaseta Agrigento SS 115
Tel. : +39.09184.108.40.206
Open Hours: Every day, except Mondays, 09:00AM to 7:00PM
Ticket: 4,00 €
Visits to the burial place of Pirandello can be completed from 09:00AM until one hour before sunset.
Guided tours can be arranged in advance by calling: +39.360.397.930