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Ciccio the lion

Ciccio the lion


There was once a lion named  Ciccio. Indeed a strange name for a lion. ‘Ciccio’ (Tshi-tsho) you must know is the brief for Francesco. The name is  also used to call someone whose name you don’t know. In a slightly disrespectful, belittling way. Here the lion was named Ciccio, not after Francesco. But because of the contrast. A form of Sicilian humour, belittling the king of all animals. Making it sound meek. 

A gift you can't refuse

How did the lion end up in Palermo? This is a truly unbelievable story. An entrepreneur, ‘cavaliere’ De Furlanis gifted the animal to the city. Why a lion? Did he actually buy a lion and then send it? Or did he want to get rid of his own feline? And did he have any idea how one feels when gifted a lion? Maybe it was a veiled message. It were the nineteen sixties…

There was no zoo in the city. It would still be awkward but altogether acceptable. No, the city now had a lion and no place to settle the animal. 

Ciccio in villa Giulia

So what to do with an adult lion? Town hall decided to erect a cage in  Villa Giulia, a lovely park near the sea. Ciccio lay in his cage, sleeping. Now and then he’d walk up and down. On Sundays parents would bring their offspring to the park. The occasional roar frightened most. But far less than the sound of gunshots and explosions. ‘Ciccio’, they’d say, ‘you frightened us for a moment’.

The lion sleeps tonight

And then, one day, the cage was empty. Ciccio had gone. To a better place some said. He was sick and tired. People stopped coming to Villa Giulia now its star was no longer shining. Ciccio was, as the matter of fact, dying out. He died in utter anonymity in 1995. No necrology in the newspaper, no vigil was held. Ciccio appeared visibly sad and depressed, so people felt almost relieved. The lachrymose spectacle, somehow mirror like and confronting was finally over.

No rest for the weary

More than twenty years after his dead Ciccio caused a new commotion. The zoological museum ‘Doderlein‘ showcased the -probable- remaining bones of the lion. An immediate protest aroused. No mirth would come from seeing the bones of an obvious sad animal. A spontaneous group suggested that erecting a  statue would be opportune. And now there is no statue, no lion, only a bitter memory. 

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