My name is Carmelina Ricciardello. I was born in Sicily and emigrated to Australia when I was 7 years old. In 1992, twenty eight years later, I returned to my homeland for a short visit and have been here ever since. It was in Sicily that I felt the sense of belonging I had never experienced in Australia where I grew up. Sicily was in me and now I am in Sicily enjoying its beauty, joys and difficulties. Sicily has little of the glamour of Tuscany, and Umbria but it has its own unique character born out of the hardship and brutality that characterised much of its history. I had an obsession to tell the world about its unpretentious beauty and relatively untainted village life. Not to turn it into yet another popular tourist destination but to provide an opportunity for keen travellers to taste the simple life of a Sicilian villager
I decided the only way to do that was to leave Sicily and get the experience and knowledge I needed to promote it without compromising its essential character and simplicity.
At first it was my experience in running my own business in Australia that allowed me to get work running prestigious 5 star hotels in Tuscany and the Italian Alps.
In 2004 I worked in Gabon (Central Africa) as a consultant for the European Community on Ecotourism. In this impoverished country I trained local villagers in how to promote the unique character of their land and culture to encourage the tourism income so essential for local economies. My job was also to consult and advise local tourist lodges on their running operations based on eco- and sustainable tourism.
In 2008 I volunteered to help lead a group in Turkey and Syria for the Abraham Path Initiative www.abrahampath.org
The Abraham Path is a route of cultural tourism that retraces the journey made by Abraham (Ibrahim) through the heart of the Middle East some four thousand years ago. It is a non-profit, non-political, and non-sectarian organization honouring all cultures and faiths, which is supported by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.
In March 2009, I participated in Nawamis Working Project for Makhad Trust, helping to build a school for the Bedouin children in the Sinai Desert, Egypt. www.makhad.org
The mission of the Makhad Trust is to provide a meeting place, in nomadic regions of the world, where there is a powerful relationship between the environment and the human spirit. The Sinai Desert is one of those places. Makhad works to sustain the environment and the natural heritage of the people who live in those regions and, while doing so, to appreciate and to learn from their traditional wisdom.
My interest in nature, history and architecture led to work as a walking guide since 1994 throughout the Italian mainland and in Sicily. My passion for food and wine (I am a qualified sommelier) led to appearances on the Australian travel show Getaway, the BBC Travel Show and the Italian travel programme Mediterranea presenting walking and gastronomic tours of Tuscany.
My love of learning, travelling and discovering has taken me to the peaks of Kilimanjaro and Monte Blanc, Ras Dashen in Ethiopia, Jebel Shams in Oman. I have also been trekking in Bhutan, Nepal and the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and walking through Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Egypt and Asia. It has filled me with a profound respect for the importance of culture and tradition in defining who we are and how we see the world. An ability to see the world through the eyes of a local is what travel is all about—otherwise you might just as well sit by the pool in your local hotel and read travel brochures.
I have been living in the village of Sant'Ambrogio since 2005 where I helped to establish the Pro-loco (association to promote Sant'Ambrogio) which is now run by other members of the village. Since I started my business and project of promoting the village under the banner of sustainable tourism there has been a Responsible Tourism conference where the participants all stayed in local accommodation. The New York choir also paid us a visit where the villagers organised traditional home-cooked food and displayed their local handicrafts in the streets. I feel that locals and visitors, from all parts of the world, have enjoyed and reciprocally benefitted from the cultural exchange which has been my main aim and gives me great satisfaction.
My work in Sicily has been highlighted recently by many different articles in the media: www.sicilianexperience.com/media.html
In November 2014 Sicilian Experience was voted as number 1 by Tripadvisor of Things to Do in the area of Cefalu’.
I’ve decided the best way to help the Sicily I love is to promote it to people who want to live life as a Sicilian local—to see the world through Sicilian eyes. This is the best way I know to contribute to the place I love, the home of my birth, the Sicily in me.