Goodbye London, Hello Sicily...Meet The Family

Catania Travel Blog

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Flying over Italy
Said goodbye to Fran in the morning when she left for work, and Alister drove me into Knightsbridge with the intent of going to Harrod’s or Harvey Nichols. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and I knew he hated shopping, so I suggested we go to Hyde Park and get some 99 Flake ice creams, so we did. There was a really lovely restaurant in the park, on the lake, so we grabbed a couple of wood-fired pizzas there and then he took me to Gatwick Airport.

On the plane I met Renato, a Sicilian living in London for bank work. He was very nice (sounded and sorta looked like Raul Julia) and gave me lots of advice for Catania, etc.

When I arrived, my cousin's husband, Lino, was waiting outside customs, and my cousin, Mariolina, was waiting at the car outside.
Il Duomo
I had my hair in a ponytail and Lino said he was a little confused ‘cuz he was looking for the curly hair. Lino made sure that I got my rental car and GPS. I had reserved the Fiat Idea - it seemed small enough to maneuver the tiny streets here, yet could hold our luggage. Lino thought I should take another Fiat model that they offered, which was “uguale, ma più bella” (same size, but better looking)! I told him I had to stay with the Idea because of the adorable Italian TV commercial with George Clooney. He said George Clooney doesn't come with the car.

After one stall-out (I’m not used to driving a stick!), I followed them to my hotel, Le Dune. It’s a cute place with Saltillo tile floors and Mediteranean colors. The parking situation was terrible though - I got the last space, and the whole parking lot was extremely tight and confusing.
The elephant statue - symbol of Catania


They asked if I was hungry, and of course I was, so we dropped the bags in the room and Lino drove us to a pizza place in Catania and parked. I thought they said we were going to eat pizza at their house, but turns out it was Mariolina's sister Sevi's condo. They had called her in the car and she said she was sleeping, but I guess we were going to barge in anyway. She lived 2 flights up, and then inside the condo there was another flight up. It's lovely - HUGE, bright and modern. No a/c though, and it was extremely humid out, so it was a little stuffy.

Mariolina introduced Sevi's husband Ale (Alessandro) and Lino & Mariolina’s daughter, Elvira. Sevi brought me a glass of wine, and we chatted in the living room - Savy can speak some English, and actually Lino can as well, although they much preferred letting me struggle with Italian! We went into the dining room and they opened up 3 pizzas - one with eggplant (delish), one with ground beef and potato (not my fave), and another with veggies and prosciutto (also delish).
My cousin Sevi and her daughter Anna
Sevi & Ale had eaten, so they sat on the couch in the dining room chatting with us. Sevi is really funny - I was getting a kick out of watching her (and Mariolina’s gestures) - our family (in Sicily and in America) is really animated. Mariolina made a crack about how last time I saw Sevi she was really fat and now she’s all skinny. “With no tits.” (Mariolina has huge tits, like most of the rest of the family.) They made some kind of reference that I had ‘em, Mariolina had ‘em, etc., only Sevi has the little ones. She grabbed hers and shook them, making some kind of jokey comeback that I didn’t understand, but the gesture cracked me the hell up ‘cuz it was like everyone’s impression of me singing My Humps in my show.

Then we drove Mariolina and Elvira back to their condo, and Lino ostensibly was going to drive me to my hotel, but all of sudden he brightened up and said, “Let’s get a gelato.
Sicilian melons at Catania Market
” We went to a place called C&G (Cioccolati e Gelati), known for it’s chocolate flavors, but I got Torroncini and Zuppa Inglese (both delish). Lino insisted I try one of the chocolate ones, which was indeed fantastic.

Then he took me to an Italian soda kiosk in the middle of town. I got a mandarin and lemon, and he got a coconut one. Apparently a Catania specialty. It was like a cocktail the way they mixed it all fancy. Then he gave me a mini-tour of the city, which was a lot prettier than I remembered. The streets were wet like they had been hosed down for a movie set, so all the lights were glimmering. I saw the church, the university, the elephant statue and Bellini’s house. Gorgeous archictecture, and not the dusty, polluted square that I remember from 20 years ago.
Ale and Anna in front of the entrance to the ruins of the amphiteatre
Then he dropped me off at my hotel.

Yesterday, it was a little rainy so I had breakfast and waited for information from Mags & Liz to go pick them up at the airport. Got word that their plane wasn't coming in, but I didn't want to drive to Taormina by myself, so I texted Savy to ask if I could stay with them for a night (they were giving me grief about getting a hotel in the first place). I got their address, and eventually figured out the rented GPS (Magellan) and braved the driving to mid-city. I really can't stand the narrow streets - I'm always nervous about hitting something, but otherwise, it wasn't too bad. The drivers are indeed crazy, but it's kind of like driving in Manhattan, but with worse signage.
There is an entire city underneath Catania
And the GPS wasn't powered up properly, so I kept getting a battery low message that I had to keep turning off so I could continue getting the directions. Nerve-wracking.

I found their place, and Ale came down to help me find a free parking spot, and to help me squeeze into it (I couldn't do it without taking out a few cars). I met their 18-month-old daughter Anna, we chatted for a bit, and then I went down to my guest room and just relaxed. Savy made some pasta for Anna for dinner, and for us she made a delicious porcini risotto. Went to bed early and checked again to see what was going on with Mags and Liz's flight.

Today, having found out that their plane STILL hadn't left, so after breakfast of toast, homemade blackberry jam and a latte (they have a professional espresso maker from a cafe!) and Ale, Anna and I and went to the Saturday market in Catania.
The Greek amphitheatre ruins
HUGE. Sunny this morning, too, so we bought some clams for the pasta tonight, and fresh bread, and a Sicilian melon for dessert (never saw it before), and then we took a little walk around to see some of the sights, like the Duomo, the cathedral, the university, etc., by day. Ale suggested we sit down at a cafe and get a hazelnut granità and an espresso to pour over the top of it, and some brioche. Delicious. Savy finally joined us, and we walked back home, picking up a few more things for the house.

I'm still waiting for word from my parents to make sure they've arrived safely -- hopefully I can meet them at the villa tonight!! I understand it's very difficult to find this place, so I'd prefer to drive there before it gets dark!
AmberVM says:
It looks like your having a kick ass time! The pictures so far are amazing!! I'm sooo jealous! Please tell your Mom, Dad, Liz, & Mags we say HI!!! Miss ya!
Posted on: Sep 30, 2009
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Flying over Italy
Flying over Italy
Il Duomo
Il Duomo
The elephant statue - symbol of Ca…
The elephant statue - symbol of C…
My cousin Sevi and her daughter An…
My cousin Sevi and her daughter A…
Sicilian melons at Catania Market
Sicilian melons at Catania Market
Ale and Anna in front of the entra…
Ale and Anna in front of the entr…
There is an entire city underneath…
There is an entire city underneat…
The Greek amphitheatre ruins
The Greek amphitheatre ruins
The church on top of the ruins
The church on top of the ruins
Catania streets
Catania streets
My hazelnut granità, espresso for…
My hazelnut granità, espresso fo…
Sevi, Ale & Anna with the remains …
Sevi, Ale & Anna with the remains…
The Duomo
The Duomo
Top of Bellinis grave
Top of Bellini's grave
Bottom of Bellinis grave
Bottom of Bellini's grave
Interior of the Duomo
Interior of the Duomo
Statue close-up
Statue close-up
Famous Italian soda kiosk.  Appare…
Famous Italian soda kiosk. Appar…
I dont know why theres a statue …
I don't know why there's a statue…
Sevi feeding Anna her pasta
Sevi feeding Anna her pasta
View from the guest room at Sevis…
View from the guest room at Sevi'…
Catania Hotels & Accommodations review
If you need someplace to stay near the airport, or near the city without being IN the city (and if you've driven around Catania, you'll know this is W… read entire review
Catania
photo by: Traveling_Brian