Just before I begin, I’d like to note while I can that it’s a friday night, and Cally is up in the Hotel room – she’s discovered one of those brain training games on my Nintendo DS and is completely addicted to it. I can barely pry the thing away from her. I think I’ve created a monster.
Okay, so we’re in Sicily, more specifically Palermo, and I absolutely love this place. I think it boils down to two things – I’ve been a bit burnt out on the whole “touristy” thing for one. We’ve recently been to Venice and Rome, both of which have been teeming with guidebook toting, english speaking, socks and sandal wearing tourists. Palermo, in this regard, is like a breath of fresh air. It’s dirty, far less people speak english, and it feels like a real town with real people in it. The second, and main reason I love it here so much is that the people are the most friendly I’ve met on my travels so far. Allow me to elaborate:
We arrive on the overnight ferry from Naples, and have no idea where our hotel is. It’s on none of the maps we’ve got, and all we have is a general area. Being the glutten for punishment I am, I suggest we walk with our packs, and we’ll just randomly find it. As you might expect, we soon realised that I may not have thought my cunning plan all the way through. So we stop at a newsagent and ask for a map – it’s six euros so I decide to skip it and keep with the original plan. A local hears that we’re a bit lost, and comes over to see if we can help. We show him the street name, he thinks it’s in a certain direction, but doesn’t know specifics, we chat for a bit before he wishes us good luck and he heads off.
Armed with this knowledge we head on, only to be stopped moments later by a car pulling up alongside us – It’s the same local and he offers to give us a lift to the hotel. He’s a nice old guy and we agree. He gives us his name – Paulo, and the tour beings.
Now one thing you might not know about Sicily, and Southern Italy in General, is that they’re absolutely crazy drivers. Paulo well and truly proved this for us. He decided that since we didn’t know all that much about Palermo, he’d give us a bit of a tour. This involved driving up to a monument or building and just stopping cold in the middle of the road while he gave us his spiel. We’re not talking little underused roads here, but main streets. Think George St in Sydney or Oxford St in London. People behind us would honk and yell, but he’d just happily wave them by.
He eventually found our Hotel for us, stopped again in the middle of the road while he dropped us off, waved goodbye, and then was off.
But it doesn’t really end there.
We venture down into the local markets, and admire some of the local produce. Palermo is a fishing town, so we were marvelling at some particularly fresh oysters. We order a couple to try, and two guys who were in the line in front of us show us how to eat them with the lemons we were provided (this was all done in hand signals, they spoke no english). We do as instructed (the oysters were godlike), go to pay, and are told (via handsignals again) that the two guys who instructed us, and had since wandered off, had paid for us. Awesome.
And it goes on. Back in our Hotel we met Antonio and Vinchenso, a couple of Sicilians who live in Costa Rica, and were back home for All Saints Day (that day). We get to chatting and they invite us out with them that evening. They end up taking us, and another random aussie that we collected us down to the markets again, show us all the local beers and liquers, and then all the other local produce. When we were done with that, they met up with a couple of their friends, and we went and had dinner at a rad restaurant.
The thing is that I don’t think we were just lucky, there really seems to be something different about the people down here. I really hope we meet much more people like those above in the next week or so we’re down here.
And that’s it for now! I really should go through all the other places we’ve been to since I updated last, but I can’t be bothered now. What I CAN do, is show you a video we took in Venice. It’s part of my round the world dancing series – this is me going for it in a very cold and flooded St Mark’s Square. Facebook people, you probably can’t see this here, but you can see it on the blog at www.eclectical.org.