I don’t have travelling experiences like this very often. Not since my friend Darren and I arrived in Paris for the first time in 2000 have I thought to myself, what am I doing here, what made me think I could just do this!?! My mom and I were totally unprepared for Sicily. We booked our tickets from the comfort of our home and gave little thought to that portion of the trip other than getting on the plane.
Tuscany was planned and easy, 2 nights in Venice, 3 in Florence, a night in Lucca and 3 on the road in hill towns around the region. All extremely beautiful and all totally easy. You can look up the street and expect that most people speak some or are fluent in english. There are tourists everywhere, you can’t go anywhere without seeing others like you, which isn’t a big deal, but it is easy, the road is paved. We had out guidebook and we were set.
Sicily- we arrived at 7am from Pisa on a flight that required us to be at the airport at 4am. Trying to be creative about our budget and realizing that we usually don’t end up going to bed before midnight anyway, we decided to wait in the train station for 4 hours before our flight. Needless to say, we were dirty, hadn’t washed our clothes in weeks and probably smelled like the homeless people we ended up hanging with all night.
The airport in Trapani was small and it was a Saturday. we got off the plane and confidently walked out to catch the bus. Elsewhere, Ryanair had provided easy transportation door to door to a place of interest, but this was not the case here. At this airport there was no information booth and no bus. We walked out and quickly realized that people were getting picked up by friends and family and everyone was leaving and going somewhere. It was at this point that I felt it, that we could possiblly be the only people in the whole place who were tourists, who needed to take a bus and no one spoke english. I kept checking the bus schedule, but it was different on Saturdays and someone had warned us that sometiems the busses just don’t come in Sicily. A woman finally appeared and said she needed to take the bus. The thing is, in situations like this all you can do is trust people- trust that the woman knows what she is talking about, trust that the next bus, if not this bus will come for you and more importantly, trust yourself that what you are understanding from your 1 weeks worth of italian is giving you the correct information. The bus finally came!
All four of us got on, mom and I, the woman who was waiting with us and one other lady plus the driver. The driver was really charismatic and though he treated us like circus animals (Americans in Trapani? Why? What are you doing here?), he was very helpful. We told us where to go and even took us on the bus to a hotel he had reccommended in the city center (probably why the busses are never on time). He called his friend who spoke a very little english and picked him up to translate a little more for us. The hotel was great, right in the center of town, right where everyone strolled at night. He reccommended a place to eat that we went to and loved and we made it to the ruins at Erice that he had told us about. Had we not gotten on that particular bus, we would have never had the experiences that we did in Trapani.
When we first got in, we went right to bed for 5 hours, woke up around 5pm and went for a walk all raround the city. We strolled with the crowds and tried to go to the restaurant, but it was full that night. we decided to order out pizza from this place that looked like a mob scene and spent 10 minutes getting up the courage to go inside with al those people who did know what they were doing, another 30 minutes waiting inside to get to the counter, and then 15 minutes waiting to be acknowledged when at the counter. After that another hour for the pizza to be done. I was scared to speak talian in such a large crowd of people, but my mom made me and I’m glad she did, it was good pizza. Sicilian style of course, we got proscuito and parmasean and took it back to our room and ate it while we watched Home alone in italian and went to sleep.
The next day was a Sunday, the most difficult of the days to travel on. Most things were closed and after finding our way to the station, realized that perhaps the bus didn’t run. However, we recalled one of the train conductors saying something abot a feniculare and a 3K walk. We headed out of town toward something we thought we heard, passing all the people with their families coming out of church. 3K later, we found it, a large ski lift that went to the top of the hill, Erice! In the lift, we gave ample high fives and headed to the top. It was sunny and clear. teh town was beautiful, old and tricky. We found a bus back and made it to the reccomended restaurant that night for some local pasta. MMMMMMMMMMM Sicily.