Leaving here is bittersweet, but life here has been bittersweet as well. I’ve loved our time here and have experienced such joy, but at the same time, it’s been really hard and really frustrating. I think it’s important to remember all those good times, but also to remember that it wasn’t all vacationing and wine and beach time. So, here’s my first of two posts on what I will miss, and what I absolutely will not miss about living here.
What I will miss about Sicily:
Free time. I can pretty much do whatever I want most days. It’s a blessing and a curse, but it has been pretty nice. If I want to drive down the coast, I can. If I want to go to the beach, I can. If I want to spend the whole day cooking awesome food, I can. Go to the market? Watch Netflix all day? Wake up early? Sleep in late? Read all day? Go on a hike? Stare at the cat? Sure, whatever. This was all made possible by Sean’s ability and willingness to work long, hard hours at a sometimes frustrating job, and I am forever grateful to him for that.
Driving. I hate it as well, but you can basically do whatever you want, which is fun. Driving down the middle of two lanes, parking on the sidewalk, triple parking so you can run in for bread, drive whatever speed you want, run red lights, run stop signs, drive on whichever side of the road suites you. All of those things are fine here, and I’ve started to get good at it.
The opportunity and ability to travel. We have done a ton of traveling here. Not including trips in Sicily (of which there probably another ten), we took 15 vacations while we were here. Some were two days, some were two weeks, but it was so amazing to be able to see so much in so little time. Most things in Europe are close by and relatively inexpensive to get to, which made our time here so fun. Again, all this was made possible by Sean’s awesome job and some really long stretches working 10 days of 12 hour night shifts in a row to get the days off.
Spending so much time with our friends and family. It’s been such a priceless experience for me to have so many people come see us out here. I basically got to vacation with some of my favorite people in the world. All in all, we had 29 visitors, a total of 216 days of guests. Some people came for a few days, some for over a month, and it was all awesome. I loved getting to spend such fun, uninterrupted time with all my friends and family, and equally getting to spend that time with Sean’s friends. Since we live where I grew up, he knows a lot of my friends pretty well, but most of his friends live out of town, so I don’t get to see them much. It was really fun for me to have so many of them visit, and to get to spend time together.
The food! Yeah, my pants don’t fit like they used to, and if there is a lifetime limit on cheese consumption, I’ve reached it, but it’s been so amazing to be around all the wonderful Sicilian food. It’s a little different than at home, which has taken getting used to, but the pride they put into their cooking and the amazing quality of fish, meat, cheese, olive oil, bread, and produce has been such a treat. I love going to the markets and buying fresh fish, meat, and bread, or getting the best oranges and tomatoes there are.
The Sea. It’s warm and clear and so salty you bob like a cork. There’s nothing like it.
A slower pace. I’ve never really been one for sitting around or moseying. I always have a plan and a list, but out here….you just can’t. Nobody’s in a hurry (unless they’re in their car), people walk slower, food service is slower, sometimes things are closed for no reason. You just have to get used to it. It’s kind of nice to just go with the flow.
I got to see my sister a lot. If you can believe it, I actually saw her more this past year and a half than I normally do. She lives in NYC, which isn’t exactly close to Sacramento, but while in Sicily I was able to go to New York for 10 days for her graduation, she came to Sicily both summers for about 8 weeks total, I saw her during a layover in NYC in November and I spent another week with her in New York in February. We traveled to Croatia, Rome, Greece, and Malta together.
The coffee. It’s strong and dark and is everywhere and costs 80 cents.
The Wine. It’s different than California wine and it took a little while to get used to. But it’s good, it’s made with love, and it is super affordable. In restaurants you can get a jug of wine, which is (normally) pretty good for about $6 a liter.
Mount Etna. I love volcanoes. Living underneath one is a joy, especially such an active (but safe) one. I saw it erupt four times while we were here, and it smokes and ashes almost constantly. There are many trails to hike. The clouds gather around it differently every day, and it’s covered in snow in the winter. It’s beautiful and always changing.
Sicilians. They’re a unique breed. Life here can be hard, but is full of joy and beauty. They’ve endured thousands of years of abuse, invasion, and exploitation, but they stay true to who they are and find joy in their island, traditions, and family. They’re (rightfully) somewhat suspicious of outsiders and foreigners, and a little private, but the ones that I got any sort of chance to know are the nicest, friendliest people there are. I love the way they talk and interact, how strangers yell and laugh with each other, I love when they take the time to tell me about Sicily and their life and to share what they love.
The Aeolian Islands. I think these are my favorite place here. I’ve written about them many times – I made nine trips up there!
Fireworks. I saw more fireworks this past 19 months than my entire life so far put together. There are fireworks on every major holiday, and then every town has multiple days a year dedicated to their patron saint (or saints). Every one of these days is fireworks too, and our high perch looking over the coastline meant fireworks shows many many nights.
$3 movies at the theater on base. $4 if it’s 3-D.
History. The history here is SO OLD. And so varied. Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Moorish, Norman, Spanish, etc. etc.
Our Apartment. It’s small, full of light, and easy to clean. The four flights of stairs give me a little bit of exercise every day, and we have so many good memories there.
Our Deck. This is a big thing I’ll miss. Our deck is huge, and has an amazing view over Sicily and the sea. I’ve spent countless hours out there staring out at the water, over the island, watching fireworks, looking at the stars, watching boats go by, and enjoying good food and wine with good friends. From our deck we can see:
- Aci Trezza, the little fishing village
- Aci Castello, the other little fishing village
- A castle built in 1076 by vikings on volcanic rock
- The Cyclops Rocks, huge lava spires that stick out of the sea. They’re the stones that the cyclops threw at Odysseus after he blinded him.
- Catania, complete with carnivals, fireworks shows, etc.
- The port, and the monster boats that dock there
- The airport, and plane after plane flying in and out
- The town of Augusta
- The hills behind Siracusa, which are full of necropolises and caves that were occupied since neolithic times
- The Ionian sea
- When the wind is right, the ash plume from Etna blows over us
- The weather changing and the storms blowing in across the water or from back over Etna. I never realized what a high vantage point can do for your awareness of how the weather moves and changes.