Life in Sicily: Finding the Balance Between Modernity and Antiquity

February 1, 2016
italy, italy stories
Life in Sicily: Finding the Balance Between Modernity and Antiquity

I decided to move to Sicily without a whole lot of consideration. I saw an advertisement for an English teacher in a school run by an Irish woman. Considering that’s my own nationality, I saw the words: Sicily, Employment, Free Accommodation, and Easy Communication and booked my flight (although I waited until I’d received the position, of course).

I arrived in Catania airport on the first of November, with only a little Italian in my tool belt and inadequate clothing for the rain and cold that greeted me. Rain? Cold? But Sicily is in the heart of the Mediterranean! Be that as it may, the winter months in mountain top towns such as Nicosia, my home in the centre of Sicily, receive relentless blasts of cold winds. With this first failure to prepare properly, I expected other things to go wrong.

It is impossible to hold on to frustration when you are met with such an expressive landscape which simply demands your attention.

Granted, they did, but there is a kind of magic in Sicily; no matter how infuriating the lack of transportation or the ineptitude of certain services, the landscape, people, food and culture more than outweigh the negatives. In fact, they cast a kind of sublime glow over all experiences in Sicily. It is impossible to hold on to frustration when you are met with such an expressive landscape which simply demands your attention.

High mountain peaks drop in great descents to a tranquil sea. Mountain towns and villages pepper the otherwise sparse landscape of central Sicily and in the night, these little dwelling places glow in the distance while stone ruins are lit up by the lights of houses in what is both an eerie and romantic setting. Mount Etna reigns supreme over the entire island, impossible to ignore and obliging you to forget the fact that you have been waiting one and a half months for a letter to arrive from home.

With this in mind, there seems to be a tension between antiquity and modernity in Sicily—as if they haven’t quite managed to bridge the two. By this, I refer not only to the architecture but also to the attitudes. The people who occupy this landscape replicate their surrounding territory: volcanic. It took a considerable amount of adjusting to this. Sicilians are charming, passionate, generous and caring but explosive. And it is for this which a solo female traveller needs to be prepared to encounter.

Life in Sicily: Finding the Balance Between Modernity and Antiquity

Life in Sicily: Finding the Balance Between Modernity and Antiquity

My experience has mostly been positive but it does bear a warning: you will be stared at. A lot. Women will fear you taking their men, and jealousy seems innate. Obviously, these generalisations are stereotypes but ones which hold a grain of truth as I have found it. Having said this, I am in a unique situation. The town of Nicosia in which I live has a population of 15,000 people.

Of these, the percentage of foreigners is minuscule. Therefore, my pale skin and freckles naturally make me a spectacle for the enviably tanned Sicilians. However, I was not quite prepared for how a woman travelling alone would be viewed.

The most common reaction I have received is suspicion: “But, WHY are you here? And ALONE?” My answer of “because it seemed like an adventure” has not generally satisfied these questions. I have come to realise that it is curiosity more than anything that attracts their attention to me.

There is an intensity about Sicilian people which is both overwhelming and riveting.

Life in Sicily: Finding the Balance Between Modernity and Antiquity

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In fact, I think Sicilians’ curiosity and desire to know about everyone in their vicinity stems from a desire to build a strong sense of community, and to include any strangers into that. I certainly have been embraced by a number of Nicosiani who have become important in my life, and the speed at which I was welcomed into their families and homes assures me of Sicilians’ kind, generous, nature. There is an intensity about Sicilian people which is both overwhelming and riveting.

I have fallen in love with it. As if the landscape and language aren’t swoon inducing as they are, add to this heady cocktail the mouthwatering food and it is hard to imagine leaving.

 

Life in Sicily: Finding the Balance Between Modernity and Antiquity

Related Reading

The Truth about Safe Travel in Sicily

Have you traveled to Sicily? How was your trip? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Life in Sicily: Finding the Balance Between Modernity and Antiquity photo credits: Jane F. 

About Jane Farrell

Jane FarrellJane is a writer and teacher who travels and studies with obsessive compulsion. Currently living in Sicily, she is working on her Italian to prepare for the next adventure

3 thoughts on “Life in Sicily: Finding the Balance Between Modernity and Antiquity

  1. Avatar
    AnneEllen Devlin
    February 4, 2016
    Reply

    lLooking forward to the next episode and then your point of view as the seasons change and the long hot summer unrolls its red carpet!

  2. Avatar
    Mary
    February 2, 2016
    Reply

    Reminds me a little if when I first moved to Waterville Jane ?. Enjoy your adventure, have lots of fun.

  3. Avatar
    Paula Farrell
    February 1, 2016
    Reply

    A most enjoyable snapshot of life in Sicily. I hope you visit other places so I can read more from you.

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