Monday, 18 October 2010

Sicily - the Godfather of October Get-Aways

Italy... we love it. The service is almost always crap, the streets have numbers instead of names, no one can speak English even though millions of tourists visit every year... and yet, we love the place and visit the land of mozzarella, pizza, good wine and great food more than any other European country.

the old and new FIAT 500
We landed quite late in the evening, but to a temperature of 25 degrees which is amazingly, normal for October. We found a cozy little hotel in the old city and spent the evening at a bar drinking limoncello and Italian beer.

Vaivara enjoying limoncello
The next day it was even warmer and after a morning of sight-seeing (thank God for GPS) and shopping for fresh and tasty food at the local markets, we hit the beach and spent a lovely afternoon doing what Italians love best - eating and relaxing.

food on the beach (when its this good) is preferable even to sex on the beach
In the afternoon we took the lift up to Erice where we met our couch-surfing hosts, Guido and Sandra who were the most lovely people. They prepared a truly wonderful dinner of risotto, cheeses, wine and grilled Sicilian sausages. We hit it off immediately and spent hours talking about the mafia, Sicily, culture, couch-surfing and of course, food. It turns out, the word "mafia" does not mean organised crime, but refers specifically to Sicilian organised crime, which dates back several centuries.

the Mafia museum
They left us alone at their holiday home, promising to pick us up the next day for a tour through the countryside. Amazing hosts... but for my mafia nightmare which woke me up in the middle of the night, I would definitely recommend couch-surfing to anyone who wants to truly experience the culture of the city they are visiting.

on the roof of our hosts' holiday home
The next day we visited the castle in Erice; Segesta, an old Greek ruin; and a little town called Salemi, places in the very heart of the island. Salemi, it turns out, is quite famous for things like the Coppole hat, strong Mafia ties and it was also the capital of Italy for one day when Garibaldi declared it so while on his quest northwards to unify Italy.

the medievil castle of Erice 
the Coppole hat
We took the last bus to Palermo, the largest city in Sicily which was nothing short of a museum under the sky. It is also a city of so many cultures mixing together, with an abundance of African, Arab, Greek and Spanish influences shaping the island.

the view of the market from our hotel balcony
Palermo theatre
We spent the day exploring, shopping, drinking the loveliest Italian espresso and living the good life. No wonder these people live so long:

Sandra's grandfather at 96 years. Incredible!

Cannoli and espresso... yummy
Without a doubt we plan to come back, possibly to visit more of the eastern part of the island and Corleone, the village made famous by the Godfather.
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