yesterday Tuseday our first-ever overnight guest arrived! Our friend Mike (who we stayed with in Naples) is on the island for work, so he is staying with us so we can all hang out. If we haven’t scared him off by Friday, his wife is also going to join us and we are going to Carnevale for some party-time.
We also took the kids to Carnevale in Acireale on Sunday — post on that to follow
Mike’s arrival kicks off about two-and-a-half weeks of guests, and we are pumped. My mom gets here Saturday, followed by my dad and sister a week later. Mom will be here almost two weeks, while my dad and sister will have about six days.
So, what to do while they are here? I’ve been struggling to decide because there are just too many things I want to show them. We’ve been here five months and have already seen some very cool places, plus there are still plenty more that we hope to see soon. My family has been pretty consistent in saying they are “up for whatever.” Thanks for the input, guys!
Anyway, I’m trying to organize a perfect few days here on the island while also minimizing the amount of time we spend in the car, since they don’t have a lot of time (Dad and my sister anyway). Owen goes to school Monday, Wednesday and Friday too, so we’ll be working within that restriction since I won’t want him to skip all three days. I figure longer visits (and at warmer times of year) will be the time to do things like visit the Aeolian Islands to the north or drive the two-and-a-half hours or so to Agrigento, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the southeast that is apparently one of Sicily’s biggest tourist attractions thanks to its well-preserved temples. So far, this is where I’m at:
- Taormina. The first place that we visited about five days after we visited, Taormina is only about 40 minutes from our house and absolutely gorgeous. The Corleone scenes of The Godfather were filmed in and around the city. I’m hoping we can take my family on the cable-car ride to the city center, as the cable cars were closed when we were there. We’ve been meaning to go back since our first trip there, so this is a definite yes.
- Siracusa/Ortigia. I didn’t blog about this trip, but we visited Siracusa a couple of weeks after arriving when we were still in the hotel. We saw the archaeological park in Siracusa at that time — lots of Greek/Roman ruins there — but didn’t have enough time to property explore Ortigia, a island connected to Siracusa by three bridges. There’s still tons to see (and some places I want to eat!) so I’m excited to go back with the family. It is a quick one-hour drive from here on a nice highway, so an easy trip during the week.
- Catania. Driving in Sicily’s second-largest city might be insane, but isn’t that part of the authentic Sicilian experience? I’d like to take the family to the fish market and Elephant Square some morning while they are in town, especially considering the city is only about half an hour away. I assume the highlight for my sister will be watching me attempt to parallel our gigantic van in the city.
- Agriturismo lunch. So far we’ve been to one of the famous, three-hour, multi-course eating extravaganzas at a local farm-to-table restaurant, and we’d like to take the family to a Sunday lunch while they are in town. I’m thinking of making reservations at one that is also a winery because two birds, one stone
- Caltagirone. We haven’t actually been to this central Sicily town, which is known for pottery and pretty scenery. It is only an hour away and we’ve heard good things, so I think we’ll go out there one day (probably just with my mom because of the others’ time limitation).
- Eating out. So, food is one of the things Sicily does really, really well. It also happens to be one of my favorite things to do while traveling. I definitely want the family to get to sample everything Sicily has to offer food-wise, but we actually haven’t been eating out much ourselves since moving into our new house. The reason? Restaurant hours. We have a nice restaurant just down the street from us, but it doesn’t open until 8 p.m. For most other restaurants, 7/8 p.m. seems to be pretty standard. Considering our kids usually go to bed between 7-8 in the evening — and meals are usually about two hours long at least — taking them out for dinner is pretty rare. I’m booking a babysitter for a couple nights while they are in town so that we can go out and actually enjoy ourselves while they are in bed. I’m hoping with can try some places in nearby Acireale, and also take everyone (kids included) to one of our favorite places when we were living in Motta. Bonus if we also take the time to explore the castle in Motta that we inexplicably never got around to visiting during the six weeks we stayed there!
- Hiking. The only one to have spoken up about wanting to do something in particular in my sister, who is interested in hiking Mount Etna. It is still very snowy right now, but I’m thinking we could go to Nicolosi, a little town further up the mountain from us that supposedly has a good spot for hiking in the Parco dell’Etna. The town is also supposed to be cute and worth a visit.
- Our farmer’s market. Our town has a farmer’s market every Monday, less than half a mile down the road for us. It’s got plenty of food, but also tons of stalls selling everything from clothes, household cleaners, pots and pans, shoes, purses, fabrics and more. Fiona and I usually walk over while Owen is in school.
- Every day living. This list is ambitious, but I also want to leave some time for them to see our day-to-day life here. We’ll drive Owen to school (possibly getting stopped by a herd of goats or sheep on the way), go to the bakery I visit pretty much every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, walk into the city center to buy some vegetables and embarrass ourselves by trying to speak Italian. I’ll enjoy watching them try to figure out our insane light switch situation and the six different categories of trash. We can all be peeved when we forget riposto exists when we want to do something. If we get really lucky, maybe we’ll be able to see some more lava from Mount Etna. Fingers crossed.