This post is from current API Global Leader, Jordan Patterson. Jordan is from Bryant University and participated in a study and internship abroad program at the Babilonia Language School. Here he shares his experience partnering with a local business: CioccolArt Sicily Museum!
My first day at the CioccolArt Sicily Museum (yes, a CHOCOLATE art museum), I rode a bus up a cliff towards the small town of Forza d’Agro’ with Daniele and my supervisor, Donatella. After numerous trips, I would come to love the view of the Mediterranean, Sicilian coast, Italian mainland, and breathtaking heights this bus was climbing through, but it was quite the surprise the first day!
When we arrived at the small town of Forza d’Agro’ (a small town known for having the Godfather movies filmed there), I was in awe of the natural beauty of this town. Forza d’Agro’ is home to splendid architecture, tranquility, lovely Sicilians, and personality. The town culminates at a point where an old convent is located, and inside is the museum.
We walked up the stairs, through the doors, under the arches, and finally into the welcome area of the museum. There, I met my colleague, and wonderful friend, Antonio. After a few introductions, I was given a tour of the town, and of the museum itself.
The museum is unique in that Donatella, the museum’s founder, wanted to show the bellezza (beauty) of Sicily in a unique way. And so, she decided to utilize chocolate. Sicilian chocolate is one of the purest types of chocolate and is made in the same traditional way as the Aztecs. The Spanish, when Sicily was under their control, brought chocolate there from Mexico. Not much has changed from the original style of preparation and today, original Sicilian chocolate is cocoa, sugar, and a natural flavor (orange peels, salt, etc.).
The CioccolArt Sicily Museum is new this year, but not the idea. Every year, Donatella, and her company, Taormina Immagine, hold a festival where she invites chocolate artists, master chefs, pastry chefs, designers, and journalists from all over Italy (mostly Sicily), to gather and enjoy all that Sicily has to offer.
While at the museum, I gave tours to visitors from all over the world, talked with my colleague Antonio, enjoyed Sicilian food, and conducted market research on Sicily. Through the use of official Italian documents, provided by the government, I researched the opportunities Sicily provides, why tourists come, from where, how, and for what reason. I collected this data, along with information on various industries throughout Sicily to make Donatella’s life easier during the year.
However, some of the most valuable experiences came from simply observing. Throughout my three months, I was always side by side with Donatella. I met with the mayor of Forza d’Agro’, to talk about bringing more visitors to the town, and how to strengthen the partnership between the town and the museum. Donatella and I traveled to Messina, where we spoke with government officials to receive official credibility for the Festival. Also, we traveled to Piazza Armerina, where an ancient Roman villa is found, to talk with officials there, in order to start planning for a new exhibit and to capture photographs for the artists. Every day I watched Donatella sell her brand to the bus drivers, who in turn, would sell it to the passengers. Throughout day-to-day life she would spread the word of CioccolArt Sicily to the locals, as this is how brands grow in Sicily, by word of mouth and relationships.
Donatella was not only my supervisor; she was my friend. I was invited to her house numerous times for dinner, and I became close friends with her son, Gabriele, as well. In so many areas of Sicily, including Forza d’Agro’, I had become a part of a family, unlike any before.
For the past three years, I have been preparing myself to live and work abroad, and this opportunity has given me an experience that is unmatched. Leaving my position, and Sicily, was one of the hardest things I have done, however, I know that one day I will return alla Sicilia.