Have you ever seen the head-shaped ceramic vases in Sicily? These colourful handcrafts are the result of an ancient tale

It is said that around the eleventh century, when the Moor dominated the island, a love story began in the Arabic neighborhood Al H├álisah, nowadays called Kalsa, in Palermo. A beautiful girl was noticed by a Moor who passed under her balcony, where she was taking care of her plants as she often did. The man fell in love at first glance and declared his feelings to the beautiful girl, who, struck by such passion, returned his love. The bold Moor, however, had a secret: he had to return to the East, where his wife and children were waiting for him. The girl, feeling betrayed and seized by a fit of anger, killed the beloved while he was sleeping. But that’s not all, the woman found a way to keep the beloved always with her: she cut off his head and planted some basil shoots inside. From that moment, the plant, watered with her tears, grew and emanated a strong scent that inspired to create those head-shaped pots where so-called royal plant (from the Greek basilikon) could grow.

You can find a different but similar story in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron (fifth novella of the fourth day). It tells the love story between the young Sicilian Lisabetta da Messina, who lived with her three wealthy brothers, and Lorenzo, a young boy from Pisa who worked for them. When the three brothers discovered their relationship, they decided to kill Lorenzo, so as not to endanger their reputation given his lower social background, and to hide his body. However, a night the beloved appeared in a dream to Lisabetta and revealed her where he was buried. When the girl was able to reach the place, she decided to cut the head off the body to have a memory of her beloved. Once back home, she hid his head inside a pot and planted a fragrant basil, watered with her tears of despair. Unfortunately, her brothers discovered the head, so they separated their sister from the only memory of her beloved and decided to move to Naples. Not long after, Lisabetta died of wrenching pain.