Friday, November 18, 2016

Ciao Sicily, Buon Giorno Mainland Italy

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ciao Sicily, Buon Giorno Mainland Italy

     My flight from Catania on the island of Sicily to Venice on the mainland of Italy was not until 3. 35 pm which meant that I had to be at the airport in Catania at 12. 35 pm. Somehow I seem to have misread my time of departure to 1.35 pm (probably because it was written the European way as 15. 35) and, therefore, decided that I would leave my Hotel Gorizia in Catania by 10. 35 am.
     This still left me a couple of hours of the morning free. I sat in the bar today to eat my breakfast of a croissant and a cup of coffee and then I wandered around the Piazza del Duomo to take a turn at the famous fish market which Lonely Planet extolls as a Must-See sight. It was just a hop, a skip and a jump from my hotel so take a turn there I did. I could well understand why I saved it for last--fish markets are really not my cup of tea. I cannot stand the smell and the basic untidiness of it all. I am not so keen on the sight either of baskets of fresh fish with glinting eyes. So I merely stood on the parapet overlooking the market, took a couple of pictures and beat a hasty retreat. The fish market is behind another one of Catania's landmark fountains--again, nothing very impressive about it either.

Leaving Catania:
    I had found the bus stop for the Alibus that would take me back to Catania airport the previous evening. It was not too far from my hotel but I was not sure exactly where I should wait for it and few people on the street could guide me. Eventually, in very tiny letters I spied the very tiny sign that pronounced the bus stop for the Alibus and when I saw it arrive, about 20 minutes later, I was most relieved.
     In about 45 minutes, I arrived at Catania airport and that was when I found my airline check-in counter had not even opened. I realized I had mis-read my time of departure and was much too early for my flight. Well, there was the Arrivals Lounge where I could sit at restaurant tables and it was there that I had myself a gelato to pass the time. I found a very nice Italian middle-aged woman for company and in my barely-there Italian I managed to have a very nice exchange with her.
     Finally, when the time was right for me to get to the check-in counter, I did go in and got my boarding pass, etc. The flight to mainland Italy was uneventful. Darkness fell swiftly over the land and the sea and when we were landing a couple of hours later in Venice (Treviso) airport, it was pitch dark.

Arriving in Vicenza:
     My friend Annalisa had arranged for me to have a shuttle pick me up from Treviso airport and drop me to Vicenza where she lives and where I was to spend two nights at her home with her family. However, she had booked my shuttle to pick me up at least an hour after I landed--so I had some more waiting to do at the airport.
     When it was time for me to pick up the shuttle, I was told to go out on the street. But where exactly? There was no signage anyway to inform me where I ought to go and no one (not even the folks at the Welcome Center) could give me proper or specific directions. My entire arrival in mainland Italy was shrouded in confusion and misery. Confusion because nothing was clear and I felt terribly baffled by everything and miserable because it was dark and bitterly cold. Despite being well-clad in a long knee-length down coat with hat, gloves, scarf and warm socks, the contrast in temperatures from Sicily to mainland Italy was so shocking that I felt deeply uncomfortable.
     After I waited for what seemed like eternity, the shuttle arrived and the driver picked me up. He told me that he had been trying to reach me on the number he was given--but that did not happen to be mine! Anyway, to make a long story short, I did eventually reach Annalisa's place in Vincenza and had a lovely reunion with her, her husband Giorgio and her son Giovanni--who had grown and changed so much since I last saw him that I could not believe I was looking at the same person..

Dinner with the Family:
     Annalisa had a lovely home-cooked Italian meal ready for my tasting pleasure--which made it the best part of a rather stressful day. There was a delicious pumpkin soup for starters which she served with crusty bread. It was a hearty, filling soup and was followed by a mixed green salad and a torte for dessert. Everything was wonderful. But, best of all, it was grand to be in my dear friend's company again, to catch up with her and tell her all about my travels in Sicily, to find out what Giovanni was doing (a business degree in English at the local university) and about our plans for the next day. Since I had a trip to the Holy Land planned back to back with my visit to Italy to give a lecture at the University of Padua where Annalisa is a professor, I could not linger long at her home in Vicenza but would be returning to the UK in two days' time.
     When we'd had our fill of food and conversation for one evening, Annalisa showed me to my room. I have used this room on previous visits--so there is a wonderful familiarity about it. It explains why I fell asleep with very little difficulty.
     Until tomorrow, cheerio...                   


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