Ciao Bella! (A lovely week in Italy) Pt. 1

Just a couple days after the volcanic ash ban lifted, Jack and I hopped on an afternoon flight to Palermo, Sicily. Despite the crazy couple of days filled with packing, studying and cleaning, we successfully moved out of our BU housing in South Kensington and embarked on our vacation in Italy.

We landed in Palermo at around 9 p.m. and my first impression? Gorgeous, Warm, Pretty, so many Sicilians, small, crowded. We struggled just a little to find our hostel, but we eventually made it to a small place called Ai Quattro Canti. At first, walking up to the 3rd floor in a building such as this worried me.

When we finally arrived in our room, I quickly realized Ai Quattro Canti actually is a welcoming place for travelers with a friendly owner named Giuseppe. After three days at Giuseppe’s hostel, I highly recommend this place if you ever find yourself in Palermo.

Thanks to Giuseppe’s suggestions, we ate to our hearts’ content, took a daytrip out to Cefalu, visited the Catacomb and simply relaxed in the sun.

One of our nights there, Giuseppe personally took us out to dinner where we enjoyed a huge plate of pasta with mixed seafood, grilled fish, swordfish, prawns, tomato/olives/mozzarella salad and most importantly, an UNLIMITED supply of wine. Honestly, my mouth still waters just thinking about it.

Then who knew… Sicilians love their karaoke machines!

During the day, walking around Palermo gave us this strange feeling that we have not experience before. We have traveled to major cities Europe, such as Berlin, Paris and Brussels, and in all those cities, English helped us survive and order the right food just fine. In Palermo, however, Jack and I were total strangers to the locals. Too bad we didn’t know ANY Italian, whatsoever!

Even when we visited a gorgeous coastal town called Cefalu – about an hour away on the train from Palermo, sandy beaches served as a relaxing home to the locals, not tourists.

Clearly tourism hasn’t invaded Sicily too terribly. Subsequently, we did receive some elongated, yet curious, gaze from dark-haired Sicilians, but nevertheless, being complete foreigners taught us Sicily’s culture, cuisine and attitude quite effectively.

Speaking of unique Sicilian cuisine… Arancine was my personal favorite. How to describe it… A fried ball of rice with sometimes curry or sometimes cheese and prosciutto? All I can say is, DELICIOUS.

After a relaxing stay in Palermo, we took an early flight up to Rome, a bigger city, extremely different than Palermo. I still giggle when I say this, but we stayed at a hostel near Roma Termini, named FUNNY PALACE. I mean… how can you not chuckle just a little? Mabri, the owner, almost as cool as Giuseppe, told us absolutely everything about Rome, and upon learning we only had 1.5 days in that fabulous city, he mapped out a nice little tour route for us.

More importantly, he said, “Free breakfast tomorrow at a Cafe around the corner, just say you’re staying with Mabri.” Then he said, “The Pizzeria on the left, say you know me, 10% discount!” And when we looked at him in amazement, he topped it off with, “The restaurant right here, 15% discount!” Oh Mabri…

So we started our tour of Rome with a bus ride to the Vatican:

Gorgeous building. But just wait till you see the chapel… Not just a chapel, but the SISTINE CHAPEL. The ceiling boasts awesome artworks just like they say in books, articles and journals.

And I may or may not have taken a picture of this… Felt a bit rebellious since the guard there gave me such a hard time about my not-so-short shorts while letting in girls in skimpy dresses without a problem. FINE. BE THAT WAY. (Still angry? Use your own judgment).

Then we moved onto Pantheon

Then my FAVORITE, Trevi Fountain. Probably the coolest fountain I will ever see. Kind of want it for my backyard. Is that a possibility? Rome, can we negotiate something?

Afterward, a wonderful picnic dinner at Spanish Steps! While watching the gorgeous sunset, we sat on the steps with wine, cheese, bread and prosciutto. Surely people walking by gave us funny, curious, approving looks, but we regardless loved our budget-friendly romantic dinner.

Walking around Rome for about eight hours nonstop did require quite a bit of energy because when we finally got back to our hostel at around 11 p.m., I’m pretty sure I was sound asleep at about 11:05 p.m. The next day, we woke up early to go see the Colosseum, Caesar’s gate, etc.

Ancient ruins and remnants of Roman architecture attracted so many tourist groups bright and early. We walked around, absorbed the sights, ate a gelato (obviously…) and hopped on our train to Florence.

Ahh Firenze… Much to say about that beautiful city, but for now, to be continued.

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