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Locked down but not out in Italy

Singing from the balconies! One nice thing about this crisis ... solidarity! “Guess you’re not living like a tourist anymore,” was the funny, truthful and somewhat gut-wrenching message of a friend the day the lockdown in Italy began. Today is day 6. My beloved Italia has been hit hard with the COVID19 epidemic. With the second largest elderly population in the world, the epidemic has meant a disproportionate amount of deaths in the country. So though I haven’t been worried about contracting it myself, this isn’t about me or someone like me who, if contracted it would probably have a sucky couple of weeks and then recover. It is about if someone like me contracted it and then spread it to a person with a complicated health history or an elderly person with a weakened immune system. Eerily orderly: Lines for the grocery store, each person one meter apart In a country with no concept (and no physical room really) for personal space, and in a city with reproachable hygie

A Sicilian Sampler Platter

Elegant Palermo

Wanderlust mixed with a splash of indecisiveness sometimes means trying to explore a country, province or even an island within, let's say, an ambitious amount of time. My Instagram photos are increasingly tagged #speedtourism. In fact, for my husband and I, it is becoming status quo. But for expats in general, I think it is a frequent occurrence: trying to cover a place/many places within the confines of a weekend.

Marzipan! aka SUGAR!
This past Ferragosto we covered Palermo, Agrigento, Scala dei Turchi, Scopello, Castellammare del Golfo and La Riserva dello Zingaro in a long weekend. Each night in a different place; two hour drives between each. In the end, we only had about 2 hours in each of our stops. It was definitely a good sampler platter. But Sicily is, at least, a seven course meal.

Sunset over the Cattedrale di Palermo
I have been three times to Sicily and have just scratched the surface. Palermo is big, intricate, subtle and complicated. Like an introvert, it is not always obvious what Palermo has to offer. You have to dive into its side streets, neighborhoods and outskirts to get a good feel for this city. Three days on my last trip and one on this trip, and I still don't feel like I have gotten to know her. But from her obvious qualities, her breathtaking architecture, hearty food, and elegant parks, she is exquisite.

Scala dei Turchi

We also drove 2 hours south to Agrigento to see what is called La Scala dei Turchi, a rock formation of "stairs" (scala) that emerges from the sea. Bright white in color, it is not your average sight. Like the Giants Causeway, it is one of nature' s artworks: something to keep you guessing about what nature will do next. It was well worth the detour, but you go there to climb the stairs and see the view. As amazing as the water looks, the beaches nearby are not so inviting. The water is surprisingly shallow and very mossy, making it hard to take a good dip, which is a shame in Sicily, the island of beautiful beaches. We made up for it with our next stop.

Cala Mazzo Di Sciacca

Scopello was precisely the right area for the Sicilian beaches de preference. Our newly rehabbed agriturismo was at the doorstep of the Riserva dello Zingaro, a nature reserve you can only enter on foot, and on the hill behind the Cala Mazzo di Sciacca beach. Perfectly situated for beach-goers. 

First beach upon entering La Riserva dello Zingaro
Our timing was a bit unfortunate though as, our ambitious schedule brought us to Scopello at only 4pm the first day, leaving only 2 hours for the beach. We had the next morning as well, but though the skies looked promising at first, they quickly downshifted into a powerful rainstorm. It didn't deter us though. Once you are wet, you are wet, we all agreed. So we stayed in the water as the heavens poured down. The sea was warmer than the air, so we were happy to wait out the rain in the sea's bathtub.

La Terrazza Restaurant for lunch in Scopello. What a terrace it was!
After maybe an hour, the celestial tears waned and we hiked back to the car in a hurry. There was no need though; there was nothing but blue sky the rest of the day. No matter. In the sun or rain, the sea had been glorious. No storm could take that away from us.

Night scene Castellammare del Golfo
Sicily will for sure require some next-times. More hiking in Riserva dello Zingaro, that is definitely on the next-time list. More time in Castellammare del Golfo, where we had a lovely dinner and granita, but only a brief visit. San Vito lo Capo, the piece of the trip that we had to cut, is also definitely on the list. Marsala. Palermo again. Taormina again. Cefalu again. Mount Etna again. And all of the surrounding smaller islands with their various volcanoes or natural reserves. If we wanted, a lifetime of Sicily still awaits... or at least six more courses.