Vivienne Gunning
04 Feb

After months of investigating and navigating my life, having the freedom to explore and become a brave swallow, the clock announced it was time for my departure to Sicily. Departing from Cape Town, my two-day stopover in Johannesburg allowed me to bid farewell to friends and savour the last moments in a place that once was home. 

The initial hours of my journey unfolded with unexpected twists. The excitement peaked as I boarded the flight on February 1st, heading to Sicily via Istanbul, Turkey. However, a 15-minute delay upon arrival in Istanbul led to an unforeseen layover and a rebooked flight to Catania-Fontarossa Airport, only the following day at 17:15! The sunset arrival in Catania added a poetic touch to my sense of displacement, setting the stage for the adventure ahead.

Determined to navigate this unfamiliar terrain, I hopped on the Airport Shuttle service (AMTS | ALIBUS) in pursuit of my temporary sanctuary. Little did I know that my initiation into the local transportation nuances would come at a cost – both figuratively and literally. A lesson in local currency intricacies unfolded as I forked over Euro 4, for what should have been a Euro 1 fare. It turns out, my destination was the first stop, and with the extra Euros, I unknowingly funded a potential circular adventure within a 90-minute timeframe.  Now this is how it works:  As you exit the airport building, the bus departure station is at the right-end of the building. You can purchase your ticket on board with cash. Your Euro 4, ticket will be validated on the bus and is valid for 90 min. This service runs from Catania International Airport to the city center and the Train Station. The bus goes every 25 minutes, from 4.40 AM to midnight.

Lost in translation, I smiled at the irony of my misstep, realizing that sometimes the best lessons come from unexpected detours. The journey had just begun, and with each hiccup, I embraced the unfolding adventure, knowing that every twist and turn would contribute to the tapestry of my Sicilian exploration.

I thought I was ready for a bit of chaos in Catania, especially since I planned to be there for the start of the Feast of Saint Agatha (FEAST OF SANT’AGATHA IN), Europe's third-largest religious festival that kicked off the day before. But let me tell you, the lively, friendly chaos there totally caught me off guard as I tried to navigate through the crowds to get to my place. No other option, really. The city was alive, with people lining the streets, chatting, laughing, and singing. It felt like the Tower of Babel story - I heard but couldn't quite understand, weaving my way through their conversations! With just a 7kg backpack on my back, I tossed around "Grazie Mille" to express gratitude if I found myself in someone's "private" space. Rumors were flying that a million people had filled the streets since the night before! To keep moving, I chatted up some police officers, sweet-talking them into lifting barriers and finding shortcuts using Google Maps. Despite the language barrier, my gestures and map-guided efforts effectively communicated my destination – the remarkable Dimota de Mauro.

Dimota de Mauro was more than just accommodation; it is a century-old family-owned apartment complex built around a charming courtyard. Perfectly restored, it stood as a testament to time, welcoming me into the heart of Catania. Exhausted yet determined, I dropped my backpack and contemplated a rest, but the distant echoes of the festival beckoned. Ignoring fatigue, I found myself indulging in the festival atmosphere. My first Sicilian pizza, Pizze Pesto, paired with a glass of red wine, filled to the nose level, became a delightful initiation. Even in the darkness, I found myself captivated and couldn't resist snapping some less-than-ideal night photos of the baroque architecture. These buildings possess a character that modern architecture simply can't rival. It's a different kind of allure.

"Grazie" became my first official Italian word. The only correct pronunciation for thank you in Italian is “graht-see-eh“. It can be used to thank one person or many people at a time in formal and informal situations. My "Grazie Mille" echoed through the night as I embraced the cultural richness of Sicily, knowing that each experience would weave into the tapestry of my Sicilian sojourn. Stay tuned as I unravel the mysteries of Sicily, exploring potential homes and embracing the unique charm of this enchanting island. The journey may be filled with surprises, but each moment promises a story worth sharing.

                                                                      Feast of Saint Agatha Crowds

                                                                  Feast of Saint Agatha

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