As the years pass, our travels to Italy would include the north, central and as south as the Amalfi coast. March 2018, we decided to venture further south to Sicily. Anna has been to Sicily over 30 years ago but the rest of us, this would be out first time.
As I mention in many of my travel blogs, traveling with family is the best feeling. It generates memories that find themselves at dinner tables and pictures that last a lifetime. This trip was so close in that 2 of my 3 daughters were able to attend. Vanessa didn’t have time off work, while Alessia and Milena were able to slip away. The four of us drive to New York, have our sacred Shake Shack burgers and fly to Milan. What makes our travel so exciting, or if one looks at it the other way, more stressful, is the last minute changes. In Milan, I had a split second to make a decision of either trying for a Malpensa to Palermo flight or actually rush out, take a taxi to Linate and fly to Catania. Decision was made to taxi to Linate and the race was on. 30 minutes later, while in the taxi, I log on and book a flight with Alitalia to Catania. All 4 of us rush to the counter, check in, get our seats and voila……we find ourselves in Catania renting our car for the last leg of our trip. Roughly 2 hours later we find ourselves in a small town called Sant’Elizabetta.
The two hour drive was pleasant with the sun shining and music playing. Sheep and cows were visible in the distance minding their business and adding to the picturesque background of green mountains. Clearly looked like some Caribbean island with all the palm trees, but with more history with its orange tiled roofs.
The population has dwindled enormously in this small town, couple it with the month we visited, the streets were abandoned. Nevertheless, this town had history, character, greenery and most of all, residents that call it home. We find our way to Anna’s aunt’s home and quickly settle in. The warm hospitality made it feel as though we’re right at home.
We decide to visit the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento and upon appearing in our site, we were shocked in seeing the state and condition of such ancient ruins. In our eyes, they were nicer than the Greek Pantheon. The Temple was cordoned off, however it seemed to be in such great shape. As if time didn’t take its toll on the structure that was built in the 5th century.
Maria Concetta, Anna’s cousin, described to us that Sicily is home of many UNESCO sites and one not to miss would be the “Scala dei Turchi”. This area in the southern part of Sicily was known as the Turkish Steps since Turkish pirates invaded the area and would rest along the coast. With years of sea water clashing the sides, it formed smooth stair like ledges that one can sit and stare out at sea. In the summer months, with the sun beating down on the limestone, the white calcite would shine bright and make a picture perfect portrait along the blue sky. To reach the cliffs, one would need to do some hiking and maintain balance for the wind would make the walk challenging.
This type of trip, when visiting family, the warm hospitality is sensed with simple conversation around the dinner table and listening to the stories they recount of when they were young. What they would do, how they would work the fields, how they lived, and most importantly how family values were at the forefront of every household.
Along with such stories, the most emotional experience is when we physically saw the home and furniture they used. Certain things along the house were still untouched which gave an eerie feeling, nostalgic, sadness yet content, and true feelings of what they went through. Life has changed dramatically since then but we couldn’t help think of how they lived.
What was extremely heart warming and totally appreciative was when all the cousins have gotten together for a memorable evening supper at a local eatery. All sorts of pizzas where ordered with each one better than the other. Nothing like authentic pizza. The evening turned out to be so lovely and seeing Anna catch up with her aunts, uncles, and cousins made this trip rewarding.
Another evening we decided to drive to Agrigento and see what the night life had to offer. Albeit a weekday, the downtown was alive and many were walking the streets. Without even planning an encounter, we run into Anna’s uncle who quickly invites us to his favourite corner bar. Continue the reminiscing, order a tasty pastry and the night slowly passes with relaxation and conversation. Anna’s cousin Giuseppe, had become our designated tour guide and brought us along the town. As proficient as a seasoned tour guide, since working for the community, he showed us where people lived from their summer homes to their domiciles, his Vespa collection to car collection, and explaining us different olive and lemon trees. He even gave us a trip down memory lane with all his picture collections spanning from the early 1900’s.
Our final day before heading to Catania, we visit Anna’s cousin Giuseppe’s woodwork shop and see his cabinetry creation. Great little shop and is a very talented carpenter. Nearby to his manufacture exist the monastery in which Anna’s aunt Laura ,the nun, served the Catholic church.
Maria Concetta brings us to a local pastry called “Le Cuspidi” and convinced it’s the best granita pastry I have ever tasted. How do these Italians come up with such great pastries. My children were fascinated to see that a grocery truck would roam around the small towns with groceries from fruits to daily fish, from hardware kitchen essentials to bathroom cleaning products. Why go to a store when the store comes to you!
Our sad farewell to all, we pack up and head for Catania to catch our late afternoon flight. With time to spare we decide to visit Catania’s city center and take in as much as we can. A long walk, great quick lunch coupled with sight-seeing and ice cream, we take in all we can of what the beautiful city Catania has to offer.
Best of all, Mount Etna was the last landmark we see and proceed to the check in counter.
Delta has given me such great travel memories and the benefits are shared with family members as well. What a fantastic ending to a fabulous trip in having the whole family travel in first class.