Day 1: Coming to Italy!

Trip Start May 30, 2013
Trip End Jun 29, 2013

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Flag of Italy  , Sicily,
Friday, May 31, 2013

So what is one of the first new Italian words we'll learn on this trip?    While standing in the check-in line for Alitalia at Miami International Airport, a thirty-something young man was taking an iphone photo of his elderly father and kept repeating "sorridi, sorridi".  There didn’t seem to be much of a response by the father, so what was he asking his dad?  I asked the son if he spoke English and if he’d like me to take his photo with his dad – yes, sure – he switched easily between English and Italian although his Dad appeared to only speak Italian.  I took their photo and the son again said to his dad “sorridi, sorridi”.  Now I feel I can ask what is “sorridi”?  He said “smile”!  Ah, what a great new Italian word for our first day!  Yes, great to remember to smile!  We sounded like parrots as we kept trying to get the inflection and diction correct - he was very patient with us.    The young man shared that he lives here in the U.S. for over 16 years and had an Italian restaurant in Hollywood, FL for 6 years before the recession hit – he now has a job with a Canadian-Italian firm and  appreciates a five day workweek and weekends off – his quality of life is much improved, though he is saddened that 22 people lost their jobs.  His Dad was visiting from Italy and he and his brother are here at the airport to see him safely on the plane.   I asked if it would be okay if Harvey took a photo of me and his Dad.  Sure – and this time when the young man, Harvey and I say “sorrido”, the father smiles!  Harvey says his Dad likes women by his side.

We’ve got lots of time in the airport as there is a mechanical problem with the plane.  I’ve gone off to make a few more phone calls so when I return to our seats in the lounge area, I find Harvey in conversation with a blonde haired middle aged woman – I’ve learned that I don’t have to leave Harvey alone too long before he meets up with a woman!  They’re talking about how she lives in Milan and has visited Sicily many times – she loves it there.  We listen as she asks us if we are going to Palermo, Segesta, Agrigento, Siracusa, etc.   At first there is a disconnect, because her pronunciation of these places is different than what we think it is.  It’s actually sort of funny, because with all the trip planning and reading, I’ve had an idea of what the places names actually sound like when they are pronounced, but I had it all wrong!    As she speaks Agrigento, the name sounds so fluid, beautiful, almost sexy.  Agrigento – say the “gento” like a jento – soft.  Siracusa – the “cusa” is pronounced like a bird “cooing”.  Siracoosa.  I am falling in love with the sound and rhythm, the lively softness to my ears.  We practice the pronunciation with the woman patiently repeating and we’re all smiling as we parrot her.  I feel like my ears are waking up.  I find myself consciously listening to the rhythm, accent and inflections as well as the words – so much fun!

Ever heard of Taralli?  The flight attendant hands us our drinks along with a small package labeled “The Taralli of southern Italy probably derive from Daratos (not Doritos), a kind of bread widely eaten in ancient Greece”.  It’s shaped like a small donut, the size of a U.S. quarter.  The label reads “made of superfine softwheat flour, wine, vegetable oil, olive oil, salt”.  I’m looking for the preservatives on the label – you know the words that you could never spell in a spelling bee let alone  pronouce.  It seems this is a snack with no preservatives!  Imagine that.  It tastes sort of like a pretzel, but with more taste and more chewy.   A nice balance with a soft drink.  Harvey chose a glass of orange juice.  We were a bit surprised when the flight attendant handed him a rosy red glass of juice.  She said that it was made from  red Sicilian oranges!  There was no pulp, tasted sweet, not acidity.  We’ll look and see if we can get fresh red Sicilian oranges and look forward to tasting them.  We’re fresh orange and lemon aficionados!  

We hold up our glasses with our friends we are traveling with, Barry & Karen and toast the upcoming trip.  We take our first photos.  In just a few days, Barry & Karen will be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary – so appropriately, here is their photo with them kissing.  In 14 days, we’ll be celebrating our 42nd wedding anniversary, so Barry takes our photo – yes, you guessed it with us kissing.  Somehow it seems appropriate that our first photos of us for this trip is each couple  showing affection for one another.   In my imagination, Italy is a romantic country and we’re feeling the vibes even before we arrive.

It’s been a journey to get to our little hamlet of Scopello this late afternoon.  Our flight from Miami had been delayed, causing us to miss our connection in Rome to Sicily.  So with a short nap in the airport lounge that we had access to with our Platinum American Express and the free food vouchers from Alitalia, we made the best of our 3 hour layover in Rome.  By the time we got to the Palermo airport we had had an additional nap on the flight over from Rome and had our second wind!  We were relieved that all of our luggage fit in the Hertz rental car.  BUT, as we drove off Harvey said the car didn’t have much power and we were smelling something very powerful - we were only minutes away from the rental station when a policewoman waved us over – we understood her to say that our car was smoking – and sure enough when we got out of the car it was!  Well, with several security people, police, a taxi driver and a shuttle driver – we understood that Harvey would be driven back to Hertz – so many people lending a helping hand! - to make a long story short, by the third rental car we happily drove off and were on our way to Scopello with Barry’s trusty GPS guiding us along the way.  It was a perfect example of a company taking a difficult situation and making it positive.  Hertz did a great job of giving us a  great car and we really appreciate their commitment to taking care of us.  Just great service.

When we arrived at Scopello and La Tavernetta B&B we were greeted with smiles and made to feel very welcome.  Our rooms with balconies and views of the sea and simply charming.  Our dinner was superb!  Wine, wine and wine!  Yes, but also pasta al dente, perfect, with a pesto of tomatoes, crunchy pine nuts and olive oil; fresh flavorful and robust tomatoes with olives and onions; eggplant carbonata, pasta with mussels, shrimp and garlic – and crusty bread!  Oh my gosh, with the friendly service and fresh food – we were in heaven.

A short spin around the small charming town and we’re back in our rooms.  Oh boy, we are ready for showers and a good night’s sleep.

A perfect day!


Cell Phone Tip:  Harvey purchased an Italian SIM card with service from TIM in advance of our trip from Telestial on-line.  The Italian government requires all SIM cards to be registered (for security – terrorism), so by providing the passport information in advance of our arrival (about two weeks in our case), our expectation was that our unlocked cell phone would work immediately upon arrival.   Sure enough, just as advertised, when Harvey turned on the cell phone it worked like a charm.  In the Rome airport, we found a TIM customer service desk and effortlessly purchased a data plan for 10 Euro for 1 GB data for 30 days.  We plan to use the phone for Google navigation.  So, we’re all set!  Very easy.  We’ve now used the cell ] to call our B&B and it worked like a charm! 
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chiuhungchen on

Thanks for great stories (it's a lot already in the first two days)! I feel like I'm traveling with you guys :)

Ellen on

Great descriptions, and it does feel like I'm watching a reality show as I read! "Eat, Pray, Love", watch out! Here cmes Marge!

Annie Gonzalez on

Hi Margie....thank you for sharing your beautiful experiences!

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