Several years ago, my husband and I to take a travel adventure in Europe. Being that I’m the one to plan trips of this nature, I thought it made sense to visit Italy, since (my husband being of Italian descent) I figured we’d both benefit from going there. Our first stop was Sicily, since he had ancestry there on his mother’s side.
Most of our time on the island was spent in Palermo, a big city (compared to most in Sicily) and not a particularly quaint or attractive one. The main thing I remember upon arriving (and waiting for what seemed like eons for a rental car) was the absolutely insane traffic in and around Palermo.
Cars didn’t seem to stop at intersections so much as pause and roll through them. So with vehicles emerging from side streets willy-nilly, we managed to make our way to the hotel.
It was in Sicily that we had our first meal at a restaurant. I had heard that people eat late in Italy. This was confirmed when we arrived at the restaurant at around 5:00 or 5:30 to find it empty. The place was open and almost ready for business — as I recall they were setting up. They had what looked like a huge buffet, but all we wanted was pizza. Imagine our surprise when we found out that the buffet items came with the meal. Like a huge buffet of side orders. The selection was mind-blowing.
As we ate, more people arrived and by the time we left, the place was no longer empty. I made three more discoveries before we left: in Italy no matter how much you eat, order dessert; tipping is a wholly American custom; and it’s never too late to drink an espresso.
During the few days we were in Sicily, we had little time for significant sightseeing. This was poor planning on my part. Although, we did a spin through the countryside. All the while, drivers kept their turn lights on, even though they weren’t changing lanes. A most bizarre sight.
On our way, we approached a tunnel in the hills.
We did run by a castle in a small town not far from Palermo, where the streets were so skinny, cars practically brushed against each other when passing.
And here are some photos of the castle itself.
After we hung out at the castle, we wandered over to a small gelato shop, where nobody spoke a word of English.
It’s not uncommon for this to be the case in Italy’s small towns and villages. But we managed to fumble our way through ordering, with the help of my husband’s limited knowledge of Italian and my own threadbare knowledge of Spanish (not the same language, but at least similar). Not to mention a few friendly hand gestures.
One of the other places we had to visit while in Sicily was the small town of Cefalu. The maternal side of my husband’s lineage had emigrated from this town. Naturally, I was curious about the place. So we took a day trip there.
There was something about the look of the town reminiscent of a California beach community. To an extent, I’m sure the weather was a factor in that, as well as the stucco buildings, red Mediterranean roof tiles, and the profusion of flowering plants. But the place also had a very relaxed and laid-back feel. Well, it was a small beach town, so that was hardly surprising.
That reminds me. If you plan to visit Italy, September is a great time to do it. The weather was perfect and it was just far enough off-season to make the crowds manageable.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the McDonald’s near our hotel, which was so crowded at night you would’ve thought it was a dance club.
And that was only the first leg of our trip. The next stop was Rome …
Originally posted on Medium.