05 March 1933

Orange Picking

Famiglia Notarbartolo

Music by Guglielmo Pagnozzi

Oranges, it is known, grow very well in Sicily, but there is no absolute certainty about the origin of the cultivation of this delicious fruit there. It is said that oranges were introduced to the island at the time of the domination of the Arabs, who imported them from Asia around the year 1000. But there is evidence of their presence in Sicily from much earlier, as reported in some Roman texts from the 1st century. While it is certain that the Portuguese brought oranges to Europe much later, in the 15th century, it is therefore probable that oranges were already being cultivated in Sicily. Certainly, their spread is the result of centuries-old exchanges between East and West. Cultivation developed for ornamental, religious and alimentary purposes, favoured by the climate and the fertility of the soil, in particularly favourable areas such as the slopes of Mount Etna. Over time, citrus groves became part of the Sicilian landscape. The orange harvest in the Simeto valley, to which this 16mm film sequence refers, in March 1933, appears rich and satisfying. A group of labourers heaps oranges and fills baskets under the gaze of the corporal. Further down, towards the river and among the blossoming almond trees, a man and a woman joke and portray themselves with the camera. They are the Notarbartolo family, descendants of an ancient Sicilian noble family.