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I visited Sicily many times between 2009 and 2015. Each time I felt compelled to write, not about the resplendent locations and history, but about my observations, feelings and hopes for the future.

Acireale

Waiting for the bus to leave Catania Central station, I shed my clothing down to a t shirt and roll up my jeans to just below my knees. I am suddenly struck by the fact that I started solo travelling at the age of 14. Nowhere as interesting as Sicily certainly, but a journey taken with the single-minded purpose of reaching an unknown destination.

The driver indicates that he is ready to depart by saying, “Ok lady.” I readjust my clothes and climb on board choosing a seat immediately behind the driver, because although curious and excited, I’m relying on the goodwill of strangers to help me find where I am staying. Because, I have now discovered, my phone is not working on Italian network. So, I can neither phone or text Gloria, my Airbnb host.  Amid my mental chaos a Franciscan nun sits down next to me. Her habit is made of stiff, grey buckram, impervious to any stain or weather. It spills out from her onto my seat. We are going all the way to Acireale together.

I consult my printed off Airbnb map. Only a couple of streets are named next to a vast expanse of blue sea. So, I ask the nun if she knows the Via Pacino. She shakes her head and  shows the bus driver my map. He calls merrily out of his window to people in the street,  "Via Pacino, Casa Gloria?” His enquiry is met with shrugs and smiles. He calls the mobile number printed on the sheet on his phone and Gloria answers. She is shopping in Catania about fifty minutes away, and where we have just come from. 

Getting off the bus in the centre of Acireale, I call Gloria from a coffee bar on the owner’s wife’s phone. She gives me a set of indistinct directions that I decide to ignore. I gather what I believe to be a more coherent set from an intelligent looking young man, who concludes his step-by-step guide with an, “enjoy your journey.”  And so I do, for the first part, wandering passed white domed churches and through neat parks and squares that lead on to a fish market that is just finished for the day. The streets are being brushed and washed down, a fishy smell is lingering.

Read more: Notes on Sicily