Villa Pennisi and the curious encounter between Wagner and Garibaldi
Villa Pennisi in Acireale was once a hotel – namely the Grand Hotel des Bains, built in 1873 with the city’s thermal baths, by will of baron Agostino Pennisi of Floristella. It had the honor of welcoming Richard Wagner, allowing the great German composer to meet none other than Giuseppe Garibaldi, on a day of relax and work when he was in Sicily.
Author Giuseppe Pontiggia (1934-2003) was inspired by an article by journalist Roberto Alajmo to tell the story of the curious encounter:
“Garibaldi’s train stops at the station, right in front of the Hotel delle Terme, where Wagner was staying. The crowd cheers. The composer comes out in his robe and asks the hotel manager who the old man the people are applauding is. The manager tells him it is the hero of the two worlds, and Wagner exclaims, ‘Ah!’.”
“At the same time, Garibaldi asks who that venerable person in his robe is. Someone tells him that it is the inventor of future music, and Garibaldi says, ‘Ah!’. Neither moves, and the trains departs again.”
“That’s an incomparable event in Western history […]: two historic men, sealing their speechless encounter with the oldest of interjections, ‘Ah!’” (translated from G. Pontiggia, “Prima persona”, Mondadori, Milan 2002).
Today, the seven large rooms in Villa Pennisi welcome you with splendid antique furniture and cutting-edge comforts, surrounded by a magnificent garden, with its original, 19th-century structure and size and – amongst many other things – a large variety of tropical plants. Here it is, at the center of our images today.