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Time Takes No Time

Donna L. Gestri

A snowy afternoon and a sparrow seeking shelter in a window box bring recollections of an injured sparrow of many decades ago; and introduce the story of a newly-married young couple who tend the family olive grove in Sicily during the 1890s.


The small village of Resuttano, located about 45 miles southeast of Palermo, is captured in the pages of Time Takes No Time with descriptive passages of rustic landscapes, heartfelt conversations, and Sicilian traditions. The story—recounted by the author’s maternal grandfather who immigrated from Resuttano to America—brings the townspeople to life through vibrant characters with strong ties to their culture and their religious beliefs.


Saverio and Raffaella Rivito are deeply in love, but while Saverio dreams of a better life “on the other side of a larger body of water,” Raffaella takes pride in the land and its offerings. As she looks forward to harvesting the olives, Saverio feels “the government [treats] the peasants with contempt” and discusses the plight of a town that is “slow to change.”


Still, Saverio is determined to continue with his obligation to take care of his family’s property and to provide for his wife; and in keeping these commitments, readers meet some of the people of Resuttano: Saverio’s best friend Rufo, the town butcher, and Rufo’s younger sister, the rebellious Dorotea; the kindly Father Hart and the unscrupulous Father Bruzzo; the cobbler, Mastru (artisan) Grizzanti, and the Paci family who make “the most magnificent sfinge” are just a few.


Each encounter offers a glimpse into the culture of Sicily through the actions and conversations of the villagers. In one passage, Saverio watched as the “women swept in front of their doorways and called to each other. Their houses were a grayish yellow that blended into the landscape as if to emphasize that the land and the people’s lives were eternally entwined.”


On a trip to the comune of Caltanissetta, Saverio “observed the street activity. Beggars and urchins, priests and peddlers blended in a gaudy explosion of life. … Women in kerchiefs and aprons gathered around a fountain to fill buckets and gossip.”


During the feast of Santa Lucia, “Puppet shows and itinerant vendors set up booths in the village. Traveling musicians filled the air with music and storytellers and magicians gathered crowds around them.” For the festival of San Giuseppe, “An altar covered with an embroidered bed linen was set up behind the house, the statue of San Giuseppe surrounded by flowers, candles, and loaves of bread …”


Bread, cheese, wine, olives, olive oil, chickpeas, almonds, vegetables, and homemade pasta are staples of a Sicilian diet; and the land provides. “Saverio looked across at the silver leaves of his olive grove shimmering in the distance.” Returning home, “along the side of the road, Swiss chard leaves moved in an almost imperceptible breeze. Jumping down from the cart, [Saverio] retrieved a knife from under the seat and cut their crisp white stalks.”


Preparing food has its rituals. Pasta is made by hand, olives are cured and stored, and artichokes are pounded against a stone to expose their cores. For those growing up in Sicilian homes, Dorotea’s encounter with strufoli (honey balls) and Raffaella’s fried dough should trigger fond memories.


Each chapter brings another month in the lives of the young couple and their interactions with family, friends, and adversaries as they participate in festivals, celebrate holidays, and deal with life events. The customs of Sicily are woven into a timeless story of love, despair, faith, and hope.


The title, Time Takes No Time, is loosely translated from a Sicilian expression that means “to make a long story short.” This, and many other words and phrases used in the book, are included in a very handy glossary. The back pages also provide some traditional recipes that are mentioned in the book.


Read this story to learn about life in a small Sicilian village at the end of the nineteenth century. View the countryside, listen in on conversations, and share the joys and sorrows of Saverio, Raffaelle, Rufo, Dorotea, Father Bruzzi, and others. Then read Time Takes No Time again just for sheer pleasure.


Published: 2007; Legas


About Donna (Interview)


Time Takes No Time (



Review posted January 10, 2012


Copyright 2007-2016 Janice Therese Mancuso
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission except when published with this credit: Excerpt from Thirty-One Days of Italians, 2015 Janice Therese Mancuso.