Sicily, Italy: Adventure report

Recently, my companion and I ventured to Sicily. We landed in Palermo and then drove to the small coastal village of Scopello. We waited for our Airbnb host outside of a local bar; it wasn’t clear if we would only get the keys or have to follow them back to the house. It was the second one. We followed her; after some twists and turns in the road and a glimpse of a medieval tower, we stopped at a gate with different colored trash cans. A bit more, and we drove into a dirt driveway. It was a jungle. Palm trees hovered taller than the house. Plants with big green leaves dominated the yard. Lizards scurried around. After a quick tour, we were left alone — ready to start our adventure.

The fridge was empty, with no food, our next goal was clear. We decided to get a majority of the food that day; it would allow us to relax more for the rest of the trip. After a quick rest, we went.

On the map, we looked for a familiar grocery store — Aldi, Lidl, or anything; life is more comfortable in a new place when you can cling to something familiar, even small things.

We found a Lidl. At this store, if people wanted to touch produce, they wore a plastic glove. Otherwise, the workers were concerned; this was a new experience for me.

After finding most things, I was stuck again in a familiar situation: looking for the damn eggs. Where are the eggs? Perhaps there are no eggs! After searching and searching, I finally gave up and asked someone. He understood English but spoke in Italian and pointed in a direction. From this, I narrowed it down to three aisles, but still didn’t understand; I confusedly wandered around, until finally, I saw it: a box with a picture of a cartoon chicken, and I knew I had won the game. Finally: the quest was complete.

This is pretty much what it looked like, but this is a recreation. I didn’t have the energy to take a photo.
Sidenote for future me: I think the cashier was a little annoyed at us because we didn't weigh the fruit and print labels ourselves, so she had to weigh everything for us. This is normal from where we're from but less common in other places. 

It was dark, and we were driving back to the house. We passed the bar and followed the same roads, but there was no gate with the trash cans. We turned around and checked again; still none. This mysterious gate had vanished. Tired and unprepared to sleep in the car, we searched the map and concluded that our saved location marker did not match reality, so we contacted the host.

After troubleshooting and a video call where we pointed the camera at the road and drove as the host said stuff like, “keep going,” yuup!,” and “goooo goo!” We had made it back to the magic gate with the trash. And another quest was complete. And a lesson learned: check that map markers match reality before leaving.

We explored the local area and beach. At the beach, this tower was again visible; it was impressive. While standing in the water, I had a moment of awe: depending on how old it was, people long ago have stood here too and looked up at it. It was an eerie feeling.

My one wish for the trip was to stand on top of the tower and view the landscape and then visit the same beach, allowing me to look at both places with a new sense of perspective.

The next day we expanded our exploring. First, we previewed the nature reserve because we planned on hiking there early the next day. The park ranger told us the park was closed due to a chance of fire, but we could check on the website tomorrow.

I couldn’t find specific details about visiting the tower online, but there was a medieval fishery nearby, so maybe they were connected. When we arrived, the tower was behind a locked gate, and the fishery was closed for the day because they were hosting a wedding party. I could hear happy music radiate from there.

With our extra time, we decided to investigate the old town. It also had an old tower. The path looked very long and steep, so we decided to save it for next time.

As we walked toward the main street of the old town, the sound of happy music slowly grew. The area was alive with shops and people. It was another odd feeling seeing old buildings used to sell trinkets or ice cream. People in fancy clothes arrived at a restaurant; they were probably from the wedding party. While wandering the alleys, we came across greenery that grew onto the walls, and tiny birds were chirping inside. They were also having a wedding party, I’m sure—filled with singing, dancing, and drinking. It was probably lovely.

Then we went back to the house and the beach.

Later, I laid in bed, prepared to sleep. But suddenly, my companion tells me there is a fire outside. I jump up, confused. After briefly searching for my glasses but not finding them and not knowing how dangerous the situation was, we left. Outside there was a glowing orange fuzz in the distance and a faint sound of popping; it was hard to tell how far away it was.

We walked down the driveway, stunned. It wasn’t clear what we should do; we had trouble accepting reality. While walking, we encountered a tan man with curly brown hair, wearing a green shirt and shorts. He was also on vacation with his family, but originally from another part of Italy. We combined to investigate; we were trying to determine if it was a controlled fire or a wildfire. We stood around for a while, clueless. We tried to figure out if we were safe. Should we pack our bags and get in the car? As we walked, the fire became more visible; it was across the field. And it was growing.

The man commented, “it is strange that the fire is in lines.” There were several straight long lines where the fire was burning. He stated that bad people sometimes start fires on protected land to ruin it, so then they can then buy it and construct buildings there.

I felt somewhat vulnerable, as it was dark, and things were extra blurry without my glasses. For a moment, there was a fear in me. I imagined the worst-case scenario. There was a chance that if we didn’t react appropriately, I’d die in a foreign country, and my body would have to be shipped back home to my parents. Yikes. And then a snapped back to reality.

We walked further and out of the trash gate. Another man was walking outside to investigate the fire; he briefly looked at it and started to leave. Our guy spoke Italian with him. The gist of the conversation was: the other guy was a local, and he wasn’t worried about the fire because the wind was blowing away from us. This guy was in a swimsuit and no shirt or shoes, so I wasn’t about to trust him with my life.

My companion called the emergency services, and they told us to remain calm and that people were coming to put the fire out.

Later, a few police vehicles whizzed past, and we began to walk back toward our houses. I was wary to trust that the situation was under control because even though they would try to stop the fire, they could fail.

Suddenly, a woman came out of a house and joined us. She was a bit worried. She told us that she was a local and had this house for years, and there have been fires before, but none this close before. The size impressed her.

It felt like the wind had changed directions, and the fire was growing. It looked like it was closer to a house between us and the fire but still some distance away. The woman was looking at her phone, communicating with someone else who lived in a different part of the village. She said there was a separate fire in a nearby area as well and that when there are multiple fires at once, this is an indication that it is no accident. She also mentioned that in past years there were fires in other places.

We watched the fire some more. A police car drove up to the house near the fire and probably checked if anyone was there. While we were standing there, some fire trucks passed. The man felt comfortable enough with the situation he returned to his family; we stayed with the woman for a while. I felt weird to leave her alone in the dark. The fire was getting smaller. It seemed it was getting under control.

At this point, it was getting late, so we said our farewells. While walking back, I saw other people standing outside in the dark looking at the fire or their phones. As we got closer to our house in the distance, we could see smoke from the second fire.

In the morning, we were too tired from the ordeal to go hiking. So we relaxed and went to the hot springs instead (Parcheggio Terme Libere Segesta.) The diagram indicates how I recommend parking if you come from the same direction. You can go down a little further, but we were in a rental car, and it didn’t seem worth it to us. From this direction, you have to cross a small stream, but it isn’t bad. Also, there were indications that there are multiple hot springs in this area, but we only found one.

The next day was our hiking day. We got up early in the morning, wore good shoes, took two liters of water per person, and some food rations: boiled eggs, quinoa, and vegan burger—a lot of sunscreen as well.

On our way to the hiking place, we could see the burnt field from yesterday. It was pretty big, and near some houses.

While hiking, we noticed the trees in the park were charred, but it must have happened years ago because greenness already came back. The way into the park was difficult; the path was uphill and narrow. For the first half of the journey, big stones made the ground uneven, so each step had to be made carefully. But since it was so early, there was barely anyone else there. We hiked for about 1 hour and 45 minutes in one direction.

We stopped at Cala Della Disa, which was a small cove with a pebble beach. The water was refreshing.Since we started our hike later than planned and rested on the beach longer than expected, we had to hike some of the time during the high heat. Otherwise, we would have to stay there until 5 pm or so. We started back around 11:30 am.

About halfway back, we passed the museum, and we rested there. While eating, I noticed tiny ants crawling around underneath me. One of them found a crumb of food. The ant was pulling it. It moved, but very slowly. Soon another ant joined, and the speed increased, and then another, suddenly they were moving fast. Then a bee circled me and descended. It was heading toward the piece of food. As it got closer, the ants fled, and the bee picked up the food in its arms and flew off. 

We started again, now there were many people on the trail, and most of them went in the opposite direction. Once, I stopped to allow an old couple through, but they refused me, shortly explaining that I shouldn’t stop for people as I was going uphill. From there, I was aware of a new concept: who has the right of way. Each time someone passed, I was stuck trying to decode their facial expressions to determine if we had pissed them off. Was I inconsiderate of them? Or were they of me? I didn’t like my new curse of knowledge.

After getting back home, we enjoyed some well-deserved rest. Also, in the old town, there was a shop that sold some great pastries. 🤤 So we ate some of those too.

The next day was split between relaxing at the beach, packing, and cleaning up the Airbnb.

One question for people who know about Italian culture: is it normal to not have a cutting board? We have been to two different Airbnbs in Italy now, and neither had a cutting board. I tried to search this but didn't find any good results. K, thx.

Then early in the morning, I went to see the sunrise because my companion had recommended it to me. They also told me about the path we usually went to the beach, which had many flowers, was alive with bees busy at work. This was something special only in the morning. The sunrise was nice also.

Then we traveled back and all that stuff, blah blah blah.

Thanks for reading, if you liked the story, click that like button or whatever.

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