Posted by Judith Hennessey, April 20, 2016, for Earth Day!
You’re looking at it. "The Tree of One Hundred Horses" is located in Sand’alfo, Sicily. It’s somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 years old with a trunk measuring over 190 feet. It was aging gracefully before some lunatic recently tried to burn it down. Crazy right? I stumbled upon on this magnificent specimen when I was in Sicily this month.
We were at Barone DI Viilagrande winery in Milo, in the Mount Etna region, enjoying a foraged pureed asparagus soup with a hint of fennel (these Sicilians are farm-to-table on steroids – they forage the surrounding forest for ingredients for their dishes) and enjoying a flinty chardonnay. The subject of American slang came up as we tried to explain to our driver, who joined us for our wine tasting, what ‘older than dirt meant.’ Everything around us was, well, older than dirt! Finally nodding with understanding, he said, “It’s like us saying, it’s older than the Tree of One Hundred Horses!”
I stopped mid-sip. I had read about this tree somewhere. “Oh my god, it’s a Chestnut tree! Is it close to here?” I’m a tree-hugger amongst other things and was stunned by this weird turn of events. I thought there was no way in hell I would be able to drag husband, son, sister and brother-in-law to see one tree when World UNESCO sites and temples dating to 340 BC were scattered around the island like sea shells.
“It’s 20 minutes from here. Would you like to see it?” I could tell our driver was impressed, looking at me with newfound respect, like I wasn’t just another dumb brunette American.
My mouth hung open. He proceeded to tell about the tree’s name, how a princess with 100 knights in tow rode up to the tree in a thunderstorm, taking refuge under its massive branches. “She was, ah…,” he stammered, ”ah…,” clearly searching for an English word that would not offend me.
“Promiscuous?“ I asked. My son blushed, my husband cackled, the Sicilian driver flashed a sly sexy smile and replied, ”You can only imagine what happened.”
God save the Trees!