For this past weekend’s adventure I was in Sicily!! Before I left for Italy a couple months ago, I had no plans to visit Sicily. I didn’t know anyone there, there wasn’t anything I particularly wanted to see, and there were several other places higher on my must-see list. However, after a slideshow from my host family of their Sicilian vacation 2 years ago and the discovery of a cheap flight which left from the town I’m living in (thanks Ryanair!), I was sold. It was a short weekend trip and something a bit adventurous, even for me, but I still had a good time even though it ended up being almost nothing like my expectations.
Solo travel- Traveling alone is nothing new for me. In fact, I usually enjoy it since I get to do whatever I want. But believe it or not I have never been on a flight before that either wasn’t in the US or wasn’t flying to the US. Nor have I ever stayed the night anywhere completely on my own in another country. Not only was I in a foreign city alone not being able to speak the native language (well) but I didn’t know anybody within 600 miles. I was outside my comfort zone, by far.
Safety- Being female and alone in a new city, safety was a concern for me. Before I left, my host family warned me many times to pay attention to my bag/phone/wallet (especially since they know I’ve already had my phone stolen once in Italy). Instead of staying in a hotel or a hostel, I booked a nice AirBnb apartment. I made sure the place had many good reviews and I actually booked the room for 2 people saying my (non-existent) boyfriend was coming with me. The place worked out great. It was in a decent area of Catania and there was a castle right across the street. Nothing was stolen and I made it out alive.
Mt. Etna- Etna (“The Lady” to the locals) was the biggest reason I chose to visit. When I’m in the US, I spend a majority of my time in the eastern US and have never even seen a volcano in person, let alone hiked on one. I found a tour which picked me up from my AirBnb place and we proceeded on a 5 hour tour of Etna. I expected this hike to be more like a mountain, with dirt, trees, some rocks, etc. (Obviously I did zero research about volcanoes before I left). What I found instead were tons of lava rocks, no trees in the higher altitudes, a few inactive craters, a lava cave, and zero actual lava. It was fun though. My tour group was an Italian guide, A French couple, and German sisters, and they all spoke English. It was a lot of fun and I learned quite a bit about the largest active volcano in Europe!
Roman theater- I almost missed the Teatro Romano completely as it was almost hidden away between other more modern buildings. But it was actually one of my favorite parts of my trip. The original theater was actually built around 300 BC by the Greeks but the Romans, obviously, eventually took over. It was a pretty cool site to see and it is highly recommended the next time you’re in Catania. I was (and still am confused) by the entrance fee. When I walked in, the woman told me the fee was 6Euro. I took out a 20, she looked at me weird but didn’t say anything. I assumed she didn’t have change. So I put the 20 back, took out a 5 and set it down. While I was looking for 1 Euro, she took the 5 and handed me back 2 Euro. This ticket I received said 6 Euro. So I’m really not sure why I only paid 3, but I’m taking it as a win.
Wandering- Like in any city, one of my favorite things to do is wander around aimlessly. I strolled through the fish market, with fisherman shouting about what they had for sale. I discovered a “pop up market” (which resembled an outdoor flea market) with merchants displaying their newest merchandise. I visited the famous elephant fountain near the Duomo, a popular meeting spot for both locals and tourists. I sat at a table in the sun outside a small pasticceria off the main square, listening to a trio of street musicians play Italian music, watching the clouds pass over the peak of Mt Etna in the distance, I savored every moment.
While my trip to Sicily was planned on a whim, I’m very glad I went. It was step outside of my ever-growing comfort zone for many reasons. Catania was a small, but nice city and Etna was more than I ever expected. Yet another chapter in this grand adventure! Next week: a half marathon in Verona and maybe an outing in Florence!