I'm really excited to be on the move again, and this time to the land of my forefathers, Sicily! I had originally planned to stay in Sicily for up to 2 weeks, jumping from town to town and maybe a week alone on the island of Lipari, where my family is actually from. As I started planning however, I found that Sicily is a very expensive place to visit, especially since it is August, their busiest summer month. Aside from Palermo, I could hardly find accomodation for less then 50 eruo, and Lipari is more of a resort island, and much much more expensive than that. So my plans have changed. Instead of moving around every few days, I will be making Palermo my homebase and taking day trips from there. I wont get to see as much of Sicily as I'd like this way, but what can you do when you are working on a backpackers budget. I also have to find a way to make it to Lipari, so I will likely need to splurge a bit for maybe 3-4 days there, so if I can save a bit by staying in Palermo so be it. My Dad agreed to help me out there, just to give me the chance to visit the Favorito homeland :). I think this will actually end up working out okay. At least I can avoid dragging around my bags every few days.
The train ride was an interesting one to say the least. I was sharing a space with a group of older Italian couples who were hell bent on talking to me, even though they knew absolutely no English. I guess they understood slightly more then what they could speak because for a little while between snail-talking and hand gesturing we seemed to be able to communicate the basics, where are you from? where are you going? etc. They were really sweet, and they thought I was very brave for traveling alone. When I told them I was going to Palermo they showed serious concern for my well being and told me it was dangerous and to be very careful and not walk around after the shops are closed. I remember hearing the same things about Naples, so I am not too worried about it. But it is very sweet of them to care so much. It was like having 3 grandmothers and 2 grandfathers looking after me.
Another cool thing about the trip was crossing the gap between the mainland and Sicily. I guess I had assumed that we would cross some kind of bridge or go through a tunnel, but since the area is basically a chain of active and inactive volcanoes and very seismic neither of those ideas are even possible. Instead, the train was run on a track directly onto a ferry, where we were able to leave our cars and go to the deck for the 20 minute ride across the channel. Once the boat docked, we got back to our seats on the train and it was taken off the ferry and we were on our way again.
Palermo is a city on the Northwest coast of the island of Sicily. It took nearly 5 hours to get from where we crossed the channel at Messina, on the Northeast coast, to Palermo. The train was so slow. I found out later that a bus takes only two hours to make the same trip. I arrived in Palermo a little late, it was just beginning to get dark. It seemed like a lively city to me and not at all dangerous. My hostel, Quattro Canti, was only a 5 minute walk from the station so I had no trouble. It was very small, just 2 rooms with 6 beds each. The owners were a brother and sister pair that were incredibly friendly and helpful, and spoke very good English. Guiseppe, greeted me upon my arrival, showed me my room and immediately sat me down with a map of the city, pointing out what I should see, where I should eat and what buses and trains would take me to different desirable areas outside of town. Then he invited me to go along with a group of kids staying at the hostel for dinner. They were welcoming as well, and before I knew it I was eating an um-azing seafood smorgasbord and making new friends from Canada, the UK and one from NYC. I would find out over the next few days that this was Guiseppe and his sister Veronica's MO. They would set up dinner and drinks almost nightly to bring together the small group of travelers they housed. It was such an amazing atmosphere.
Can't wait to explore this city!