How Did We Get Here
The town of Troina first came to our attention when planning a month-long visit to Sicily a few years ago and we learned of the Italian 1 Euro House Project. The proposal sounded adventurous: In exchange for a buck (actually $1.09 currently), you get to transform a rundown, old, uninhabitable house in some antiquated Italian city-center into a something livable, full of beauty, life and purpose (la casa bella, Italians would say). Movies had been made of such endeavors. Books written. Lives changed.
In the end, the amount of work involved in the kind of full-scale renovation project required—think: no roof, no plumbing, no power—held little appeal for us as we were about to be, for the first time in our thirty years together, alone, just the two of us, without children and the many other fulfilling pursuits, proposals and possibilities a busy life conveys. Why gunk that up with a project of such eye-popping magnitude? And besides that, as far as our children are concerned, our move to Sicily has been, in our opinion, a masterclass in longing, purpose and finding your place in the world, and, in the words of comedian George Carlin:
“If your kid needs a role model and you ain't it, you're both fucked.”
Though we didn’t pursue the one euro house, the towns where these houses were (and still are) found hold up their end of the bargain as they are beautiful places off the beaten path and as such present not only a more affordable option but also the kind of larger world you find when you live in a small town. Places such as Penne in Abruzzo, Taranto in Puglia, Chiaramonte in Basilicata (all on mainland Italy) and in Sicily: Sambuca di Sicilia, Gangi, Petralia Soprana, and of course, Troina.
The First Norman Capital of Sicily
Interest in Troina is nothing new. Over the millennia it has attracted its fair share of attention, serving as the first Norman capital of Sicily from which the Gran Conte Ruggero conducted his conquest over the Arabs in 1000 AD. Many centuries later, in World War II, it became one of the last German strongholds on the island, requiring six days of intense fighting to liberate. Add to these the remains of a walled fortification recalling the Graeco-Roman city that existed in the 4th century BCE, and yeah, you start to get the picture: Troina is something special.
But this is Sicily and describing a place by what it once was can in no way describe it as what it is now, and certainly not what it may become. Especially as it relates to invaders, occupiers, or even just a couple of fresh, middle-aged immigrants, one of whom is, ancestrally-speaking, no stranger at all to Sicily.