Siracusa: living like a Sicilian peasant

It’s been well over two weeks since I’ve written a blog post — sorry. This is due to many different things. Probably the most significant is the terrible Internet in Syracuse or at least where I am. Although my Airbnb is supposed to have Wi-Fi, it usually only works when I’m out in the yard a good 6 feet away from my door which puts me on my landlord’s porch. Once in a while when the goddesses agreed and the planets aligned, I could get it inside my little casita for a short amount of time —only to be abruptly kicked off for no apparent reason. I tried using first my Wind Sim card, but their network only seemed to allow me a limited amount of time per day even though I had 35 gigabytes on the card, next I tried the Vodafone Sim card from Rome, but it did the same thing. So both of them kicked me off in the evening when I most wanted to sit back and browse the net or watch Netflix after a long day of exploring Siracusa and Ortigia. Also don’t forget that I essentially have to shop for food everyday because the fridges are tiny and don’t work well. My freezer is embarrassed to be called by that name! When I bought the Wind plan they gave me a data only Sim card as part of a promotion, so that was next on the list. Brava it worked molto Buona! The only problem is that it is ONLY for data, not texts, no phone calls. But it worked so I was back on the Internet.

However, I spilled an entire latte onto my laptop, so that was not working. I do have an app that works on my phone, but it is not the same. My laptop recently returned from 2 weeks at a repair shop where luckily Mario was able to fix it. If you ever have computer problems in Siracusa bring your computer or phone to Telabone on via Corso. After cleaning out the latte Mario replied a burned out connection and the keyboard. Since he had managed to fix, what the Apple community told me was unfixable, I also asked him to replace the battery, something my laptop had been telling me was required for the last month or two. The storage was so overloaded that I recently reformatted it also, so now my 2013 MacBook is like new!

Except now I was out of the habit of writing and also struggling to adjust to this new lifestyle. The best place to buy food is at the street market in Ortigia which is about a 3.5 kilometre walk each way and is only open until noon. It is great for vegetables, fish and things like nuts and dried beans but not good for bread, meat, milk or water. So if I need any of those things I need to make it to the market in Ortega and back to Syracuse or before 1pm when the bakery closes until four or 4:30 in the afternoon. Yes, I could go then and at this point I do, but initially I found it difficult to start my day again late in the afternoon. I think part of the reason that it is easier now is it staying light later and also the sun has shifted slightly. Siracusa is a collection of very narrow streets and where I am it was getting quite dark by 4 in the afternoon. Now it is still light until about five which makes it easier to go out at four to go for a walk or to do some shopping. In addition, if I’ve gone to the street market in Ortigia, the bakery, the pet store for Pearl’s food and the grocery store for milk and water, which needs to be bought every couple of days, I have already walked around 9 km. Plus I have a sofa bed and a very, very, tiny, tiny studio so the bed needs to be turned back into a couch every day. This may seem like a small thing and it was for the first week or 10 days, but now Sundays it’s seeming like a big chore. A couple of times I’ve tried to leave it open, but then there’s only about 2 feet between the bed and the kitchen table, the bed and the stove and maybe 4 feet between the bed and where my clothes hang. So that is really not a great option. I’m beginning to long for a four-star hotel with room service. LOL 

There are many wonderful things about living here. First my landlady is very friendly and helpful and in love with pearl. Both pearl and I love having the garden for her to playing and pee in before bed. I’m really getting to know the neighbourhood and quite a few people wish me Bongiorno or Bonasera as I walk by. If I don’t bring pearl to the grocery store the women who work there want to know where she is and if she’s OK. At least I think that’s what they’re asking because they speak zero English and what they do speak is a mix of Italian and Sicilian so it’s very difficult for me to understand. I do know that they really like pearl and they always greet her when we come in. Yes, A grocery store where I always bring my dog. I do have to carry her in my arms or in her sling, but still, how wonderful to be able to do it. Nobody even freaked out the day Pearl puked in the grocery store! The cashier just handed me some paper towels and I cleaned it up and put it in her pool bags, stuck them in the garbage and continued shopping. They were just as happy to see us the next day as they had been any other day. I like my butcher too. He cuts up the chicken pieces that I buy for soup like he knows that I only have small pots. If I don’t make it to her teacher there is a small vegetable shop a couple of blocks away. I also go there if I just need a couple of onions or potatoes. I went the other day to buy a couple of oils and he gave them to me. BUT, my all-time favourite shopkeeper is fabulous Fabio who owns the cheese shop. He is a master of theatre and if you go is there any time between about 11 and one he makes a huge production of making these amazing sandwiches that he then cuts into pieces and gives to everyone in the shop. Now that I’ve gone there a few times I also get wine in addition to my sandwich and we can cin:) seriously you have to see him make the sandwiches in order to understand what I’m talking about before I leave Syracuse or I’m going to ask him if he’ll let me video him while he does it. He has these big motions and he rips out the heart of a bun or a small loaf of bread which he drizzles with oil from a few different olive bins, then he smashes it down with his big chopping knife and then he smashes some olives to put on and cuts up this really rustic sausage he also smashes with his butcher knife, then he adds some mozzarella that he makes in the shop and is absolutely delicious and maybe a bit of pecorino or pistachio cheese and then he puts the whole thing together and smashes it again and then cut it into pieces and presents a piece to each person in the shop with a flourish. This is not a place to visit if you’re in a hurry! If however you want some delicious mozzarella cheese and some flirtation it is definitely the place to go! In addition to his showmanship Fábio also appears to love women. At first I thought it was just me, but now I’ve realized that he gives Rigali to every woman who comes into the shop to buy cheese. The first time he gave me a few extra pieces of cheese to try and a cannoli. Last time when I called him Fabio fabuloso— and told him I was writing to my Canadian friends about him he added two cannoli and 8 big, beautiful, plump ravioli filled with his homemade mozzarella! I have some beautiful Sicilian olive oil and some basil growing in pots that I got at the market and I often add some fresh tomatoes to those ingredients for lunch. I don’t know what I’ll do without the fresh food when I get home — especially the cheese and tomatoes. There are so many different kinds of tomatoes and some of them are so sweet they are like candy. I was making chicken stock every week and then making soup or risotto with wild asparagus, but February is very damp in Siracusa (I had not read that in my research) and this small place is already cold and wet. Cooking stock makes it unbearable. I’ve learned a new trick out of necessity. I blow dry my clothes before I put them on — really! Before I started doing that it was kind of like camping through extended rainy periods. You know, when everything is cold and damp and you can never get dry. At least here, I can go to Ortigia in the day and walk by the sea. For some reason, Ortigia is always 3-5 degrees Celsius warmer and there are more open spaces for the sun to penetrate. 

If I don’t go to the market in the morning, I will often walk around Ortigia. The sunsets on the via lungomare are spectacular and there is a restaurant where I like to sit and have a glass of wine while gazing out at the Ionian Sea.

Next post will be about my trip to Ace Trezza and Catania. I met a friend from Frankfurt who was visiting with her family and we had a wonderful time, but a terrible thing happened to poor Pearl in Catania.

Without home wifi uploading pictures is costly, but I’m going to the town of Noto for a few days next week and supposedly the internet works at that airbnb, so I will post pictures when I’m there.

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