Saturday, September 22, 2012

Catania, Sicily

The rain had settled down in Palermo but I was ready for something new. A long day on the train landed me in Catania, on the south east side of the island of Sicily. The first day was a recovery-oriented day with much needed long hot shower, an overdue load of laundry, catching up on sleep, socializing with other travelers, and just general relaxation. Site seeing resumed on the following morning, which began once again with just me, my map, and my camera, with no real plan in mind. Catania boasts the largest Monastery in all of Europe, Monastero Dei Benedettini di San Nicolo L’Arena, which was my first stop for the day. Unfortunately a University had reserved the sight for the entire day so I was unable to explore the massive inside. As I continued on, another traveler and I were wandering through the same path, mostly along deserted roads full of large churches every half block, darting in and out of them, snapping pictures, reading the informative signs placed in front and continuing on our way. When our paths literally crossed into each other he said to me, “Same route, eh?” with a smile and thick Italian accent. We exchanged pleasantries and I learned that he was only here for the afternoon, and was staying in Messina, a town just north of here for a job training. His ancestors were from Sicily but he was visiting most of these places for the first time.  We both went on our way, in separate directions for the first time and I wandered toward the Piazzo Centrale to see the symbol of the city, an Elephant statue in the centre of the plaza. Along the way were street artists painting and sketching their surroundings, and a large festival in a smaller plaza, Piazzo Universito, hosted what I assumed was an antique car show full of old motorbikes, buggies, and war vehicles. Reaching the end of the historical centre I turned around to attempt to find some place to eat. After roaming around unsuccessfully for a bit my fellow city explorer from before appeared in the crowd and asked if we should grab some lunch together. Relieved by his perfect Italian that helped us find our way to a hidden ristorante, we enjoyed a delicious meal and I learned that he is the Chief Officer of a cargo ship and travels all over the world transporting anything you could imagine. Though he rarely has a chance to leave the ship for exploring a new place he said he feels like he’s seen the world through his binoculars. We continued on from lunch to a cafĂ© for cannolis (founded in Sicily) and coffee, which was followed by a wild car ride where he dropped me off at the Piazzo Bellini before continuing on his way back to Messina.  After exploring the city a bit more I retired to the hostel for a night spent chatting away with a couple Aussies, a Swiss-Italian and a girl from Seattle.


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