Come with us as we explore Italy and check out properties for Gira! Italian Vacation Rentals.
Today we rise at 4:00am to make the big jump to Sicily. We have mapped everything out carefully, getting lots of advice from our hosts at the hotel on how best to reach Fiumicino. We’re sad to leave Hotel Castel Gandolfo, especially during the wee hours of the morning when there is no one around. We make our way up the stone streets one last time and remember how welcoming this place has been. It would be nice to come back again some day.
In the moonlit early morning, it’s easy to find the Via Appia leading into Rome, and then the southern leg of the GRA (Grande Raccordo Anulare), the usually hectic beltway that encircles the city. For a 7:05am flight, it soon becomes apparent that we are on the early side, and that’s good. Doing Italy the way we do, we are often traveling at ridiculous hours, and this is no exception.
We leave the car at the Europcar off-hours drop off near the airport, and that goes smoothly. We then walk across the bridge into the large hall that includes all of the airline ticketing desks. They are just opening up and we get right through, except for the detour to another desk nearby to pay for our extra few kilos of weight. Today we will be flying Blue Express at a low fare, so we aren’t expecting much in the way of frills.
When we arrive in Catania, there is an endless wait for our bags, and this usually brings fears of lost luggage. In this case, our fears are justified. The bags don’t make it! The baggage desk staff are competent and professional, but the system supporting them is hardly that. There is no way of knowing where they are, so we have to take it on faith that they’ll arrive on the next flight from Rome, a mere three hours from now.
The clerk sells us on the idea of visiting downtown Catania for a few hours, a town we were not planning to visit. It’s a warm and sunny autumn day, so we locate the bus stop and take the ride into town. The view from the bus makes it all worthwhile. This is our first view of Sicily, and both the people and the scenery are fascinating. Not particularly beautiful near the airport, but as we near the town center, we begin to see the style of the architecture and get a feel for what it is like to be in Sicily. It’s Italy, but clearly it’s different.
The heart of Catania is the area surrounding Piazza del Duomo. As you pass the group of local men making spirited conversation by the fountain, you catch begin to catch a whiff of the famous fish market, which is just off the square. We stroll through the crowded and hectic streets of the fish market and listen to the vendors shouting out loud about their wares, which include all manner of squid, octopus, eels and assorted types of fish. Sicily is famous for these markets, and they are as colorful and exciting as anything you can see in Italy. Here is a little taste of it, courtesy of marciajeans on YouTube.
We stop for a quick slice of pizza and Fanta on the edge of the piazza, which proves to be one of the less memorable meals of our stay. Then we find our way back to the bus stop and take the return trip to the airport. Thankfully, our bags have arrived safely from Rome. We check out our rental car, and we are on our way. Our first look at Sicily has been most rewarding.
Tomorrow: Siracusa and Ortigia