Siracusa: Week 1 — Part 1

And now for something completely different — living in southern Sicily. People here still follow the traditional way of life. Most but not all shops are open for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening. Although, some are only open in the morning, some only in the evening and some are only open on certain days. The bars that serve coffee are usually open from 8 am till about 1:30 and some of them reopen for cocktails around 4. Some restaurants open for lunch from 11/11:30 to 1:30/200, some only for dinner 7/7:30 to between 10 and midnight and some for both. Almost nothing is open on Sunday except for the Sunday street market.

This means that you have to plan when you were going shopping for food or even when you were going out for a bite to eat. I imagine it would also be good to know which shops are open when and what days. My fridge is tiny and there is little room to store food or clothing for that matter. I’m living in a small studio apartment attached to the main house consisting of 10’x13’ bedroom/living room/kitchen plus a small bathroom. However, there is a garden which is wonderful! As I write I’m sipping water with a slice of a lemon that I picked from the garden! Ah yes, water, that is another thing that needs to be planned. The tap water is not drinkable or really useable for anything other than washing clothes and dishes, so all water has to be bought and carried home. I’m so glad that Angela had left a 2 L bottle for me when I arrived because otherwise I don’t know what I would’ve done. I had no idea where the stores were or how far they were. As it turns out there is a little grocery store just two blocks away and it is fine if Pearl shops with me, as long as I carry her in my arms while I’m in the store. This does make it a little difficult to shop though. However, the store is so close I just go every day or two.

Both Google and Apple Maps are almost completely useless here. Using them is an exercise in frustration, but the first couple of days I had no choice even though I knew that they were taking me on roundabout routes and in some cases in actual circles! Luckily I really only needed them to get places. Our new home away from home is very close to a large Basilica and the spire can be seen even from Ortigia.

During my travels I had run across a small restaurant to take away place that did rotisserie chickens and one night I thought that sounded like a great idea for dinner so pearl and I set off. I remembered it being quite close so thought that it should only be about five minutes away even though Google told me it was 25 minutes. My brain doesn’t work well at the best of times so I figured maybe I was misremembering. Pearl and I trenched off and walked and walked and walked and walked for far longer than 25 minutes we circled a few blocks twice and finally found the chicken place to the right not to the left as Google said it was. I bought a mezzo pollo arrosto e patates arrosti and used the basilica spire to guide us home. It was only 5 short blocks – about a four minute walk!

My dog has a death wish! The lifestyle is very laid-back except for when it comes to driving. Drivers pay absolutely no attention whatsoever to stop signs and very little to traffic lights and one-way street signs. The street is going in the wrong direction, that’s OK, just reversed down it, or better yet drive on the sidewalk like the people on motorcycles do! Seriously I can’t count the number of times when I have suddenly been confronted by somebody on a motorcycle driving right behind me or in front of me on the sidewalk. It appears to be the norm here. Sometimes you drive on the road but if it’s busy, you take the sidewalk. So crossing streets and even walking down the sidewalk can be quite a dangerous proposition. This is not helped by pearl deciding that she likes to stop in the middle of streets when I’m rushing across to stop from being run over by a driver desperate to get who knows where so that he or she can go back to piano piano. This means that I spend a large part of our walks saying andiamo, andiamo. The other day she decided to stop in the middle of the road and have a poop! I am amazed that I’m still alive to be riding this tale! Your other favourite thing to do of course is to walk in front of me and suddenly stop. Now the sidewalks here or not cobblestone, but most of them haven’t been repaired in years, so they are not in very good shape. Many of them are stone tiles and the tiles are loose or broken or cracked. Sometimes there are just holes in the sidewalk and I’m not sure what’s under there.

As you can probably guess from the broken sidewalks and undrinkable water Syracuse it is not a rich city. there’s a lot of alcohol gambling and garbage in the streets.

Despite the fabulous weather and the beautiful sea, always within a short walk, the people seem quite sad. Or maybe it’s just my Canadian nature to smile at people when they look at me. Most people when I greet them will not reply with a smile but they are at least genial. Pearl or Perla as she’s called in Italy often provokes conversation most of which I can’t understand other than mascul o feminin? Or some variation of that. Not many people speak English and most of them speak a mix of Italian and Sicilian. Some of them appeared to speak only Sicilian or at least it’s not an Italian that I can recognize although that might be partly the accent. This is good! It is forcing me to practice my Italian and a lot of hand and arm gestures. Once in a while I need to resort to Google translate but most of the time I’m muddling through somehow. Although, truth be told I do a lot of nodding when I have absolutely no idea what the person is telling me.So far I have managed to feed myself I’ve also managed to buy some things that I needed for my little apartment such as a grater, an espresso pot, another adaptor and a corkscrew now that’s a funny story.

I wanted to try a nice robust red Sicilian wine and one day when we were walking I stumbled upon a dusty old Wine Shop. After a comical conversation with the proprietor of which I think neither of us understood much at all I chose a bottle of wine. Now the problem was that I had tried the corkscrew at home and it was useless in fact it chipped the bottle. I needed a good one. The shop owner, although insisting his English was very good was obviously having trouble understanding me. Google translate to the rescue — or not. I don’t know whether it was google translate, my pronunciation or just a general lack of understanding but I turned my back for a moment and the next thing I know the shopkeeper was OPENING the bottle of wine! No! I was a little too late and the wine was open and he was telling me that I needed to wait three hours before I drank it. I kept saying no no no I don’t want to drink it now and finally he understood so he stuck the cork back in slammed it down and said va bene. I said no I want to take it I Canada in una borsa. For a while he insisted it would be fine but eventually he realized that I wasn’t having any of it and I think what he said was that he would drink it himself that evening. Soon after Pearl and I were on our way again with an unopened bottle of wine and a good corkscrew – success at last. I felt a little bad about the open bottle of wine but I’m pretty sure he charged me at least double for the corkscrew.

Inspired by this wonderful soup I had for lunch one day, I made my own. I haven’t made bruschetta yet. And since they had this lovely chicken stock plus some wild asparagus, the next day I made risotto.

Pearl and I are starting to settle in. I know my way to the market, where the supermarket is, where to buy the best croissants (those are the most common pastry here) and I’m beginning to adjust to the lifestyle. Pearl is happy to I think. She likes her garden and she loves our landlady Angela. If she’s not up when we get up in the morning pearl waits for her at her door.

The days are warm. It usually gets up to 17 or 18 by mid afternoon, but the nights are cool and the heating is not good. This is my morning outfit when I crawl out from under the down duvet.

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