Stewart Collins

WEBMASTERS - click to find out how to appear here!




Synergise INSTANT
Car Hire Quote




EUROPE > Italy > Sicily

Sicilia: Through the Eyes of a Child

Stewart Collins

Article © 2008 Stewart Collins

T/T #89
FreeStyle 6.5
Article

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape


I soon departed the familiarity of my schoolmates' company into the open arms of the Finocchiaro's. A culture shock, a different way of life, this was Sicilia, through the eyes of a child.

What memories the word 'Sicilia' still conjures up in my mind. The plane descending upon Catania Airport, our childish insecurities reaching new altitudes. I remember my mind was awash with fear, expectation and that innocent sense of wonder we all hope will never fade.

"Loro sono qui!"
"Ahh, che bello!"

The warmth of the Sicilian air paled in comparison to the warmth in their eyes. Mario, Grazia and Christina, smiling, bursting with that Italian energy and vigour. Three strangers, yet stunningly familiar. For the next week, our new friends, and our new famiglia! I soon departed the familiarity of my schoolmates' company into the open arms of the Finocchiaro's. A culture shock, a different way of life, this was Sicilia, through the eyes of a child.

Messina, Sicily - click to enlarge

Messina, Sicily
©iStockphoto.com/
Nathan Gutshall-Kresge

The I.T.C Jacci in Messina was my new school. The corridors were full of chaos, the kids ambling around without a care in the world. There were no signs of exam pressure or boredom; it was refreshing. The classroom walls were covered in colour and various inscriptions. The first thing they wanted us to do was to carve our names into the wall. The teachers seemed more relaxed, more willing to actually entertain their students whilst learning. We entered the theatre hall, sitting alongside all the foreign students, whether French, German or even Norwegian. All the Italian students put on a production of Disney songs, all in English, especially for us. Wow, these kids actually had talent! After the event, everyone introduced themselves, and before I knew it I had 100 new friends. I remember Francesca, a complete lunatic with the nicest hair I think I have ever seen. I remember the clumsy Umberto, who they said looked exactly like me. We all toured the Centro di Messina, crossing the Piazza and bought ice creams from the Gellateria. An ice cream in one hand, a vibrant city all around, new friends, a kid couldn't ask for much more. Well, except for tickets to the Sicilian Derby. Oh yeah, I got those as well!

Over time memories grow hazy; yet others remain embedded in our hearts forever. We neared the Messina FC stadium, the pride of a city. The atmosphere was nothing less than electric. I could almost taste the passions and desires that engulfed me. Messina FC v Palermo FC, the derby, an inferno of history and rivalry that resembled the volcanicity of Mt. Etna. We took our seats, the sound was like nothing I've ever experienced. My eyes stung with the colours of the terraces, blinded by the heat of the Smokey fire crackers. I stood side by side with Christina's father, separated by the language barrier but united by the power of The Beautiful Game. For those brief seconds we understood each other. The giallo e rosso warriors battled against the opposition. Those familiar defensive strategies of Italia Calcio, complemented by brief moments of skill, technique and genius. The final whistle... 2:0... we won!

"Forza Messina!"

For those 90 minutes, the spectators abandoned their languid, tranquil pace of life, adopting the mayhem of the occasion. Messina FC had won the game, it had also won itself a lifelong fan.

Volcano erupting - click to enlarge

A memorable volcanic eruption
©iStockphoto.com/james steidl

Another fiery memory. We ascended the mountainside, the rusty truck weaving around the icy roads whilst driving through the clouds. Yes, I was petrified, yet awe-struck by the sights outside the window. Houses, people living alongside the volcano, going about their daily routines. It amazed me to witness the possibility of man and nature cohabiting in such a way. I wished I lived there! Higher, and a little bit higher, we stopped off for the traditional snowball fight, and there was me getting shouted at for throwing a ball of ice instead of snow!

Eventually we reached the highest point. We had not scaled Kilimanjaro, but it felt like it. I strolled around the souvenir shop and settled down to a steaming cup of Cappuccino, just how it should be made. The night crept up on us, the flavours of the coffee still tingling around my mouth. The truck made its descent home and our journey had come to an end... or had it? I turned my head to the image of Etna erupting with ferocity. The burning oranges, reds, purples, yellows mesmorised us for those few minutes. We couldn't speak. The lava reflected off the snowy hillside and flowed through the crevices of the pitch black rocks. Etna was bidding us farewell, and I felt privileged to be in her presence.

The Aeolian Archipelago, or 'The Islands of wind', were scattered across the sea. We got off the ferry and entered the mythical sight of the King of Winds. The island of Vulcano seemed like our own hidden jewel. Wonderfully unique, it was the birthplace of sights and smells I never realised existed. We walked and played along the beaches, the black particles of sand clinging to our skin. In the distance were the baths, teeming with acua calde, and emitting a strong odour of sulphur into the air. We bathed in the muddy waters one moment and washed ourselves off in the cool seas the next. The island contained its prize possession, Vulcano. The name itself is where we derive our modern day term "Volcano". Within this mighty Volcano lived Vulcano, the God of war, its eruptions the side effects of his work, creating the weapons of the gods. We explored the craters, carefully treading through the golden rock particles and towering above the visible layer of sulphur that immersed our feet at ground level. As a child, these visual spectacles seemed almost alien. Natural wonders that were a world away from the bustling city centre. The islands of wind not only amazed us, they educated us.

In those few days, I grew up. I could now see first-hand the power of sport, art and nature upon relationships. No longer were these people strangers, they were close and personal friends, friends that I keep in contact with to this very day. The school, my home, the sights, the sounds, and most importantly the Sicilians themselves. In my opinion, to travel is a hobby; to live in the heart of Sicilian life is an honour.

See also: Sicily — History Encapsulated by John Gregan.

See also: Sicilian Vespers by Nicky Gardner.

WATCH A
RELATED VIDEO

click for video

Click the camcorder symbol above to watch a video related to this destination.

Best of Sicily.com
A guide to Sicilian travel and all things Sicilian. Strong on maps.

GOLD

sicilia.indettaglio.it
A site about Sicily and Sicilian people. Very detailed destination guides with good pictures.
GOLD

If you enjoyed reading the above article then you will probably also enjoy Paris by Stewart Collins, and Cambridge, also in Europe, and our latest articles covering the Orinoco Delta, La Mata, Marbella and Beijing.



Sandman
Ian Kingsley
A gripping psychological thriller with characters that reach out and grab you. Sandman touches our primary emotions: jealousy, love, fear, hatred, and grief. The dialogue is authentic, and, along with the scene-painting narrative, youíll feel like youíre on the beach witnessing the unfolding action.

book cover image



 
Himalaya
Michael Palin
In this his most challenging journey, Michael Palin tackles the Himalaya, the greatest mountain range on earth, a virtually unbroken wall of rock stretching 1800 miles from the borders of Afghanistan to south-west China. High comedy indeed!

book cover image



 
The Playgroup
Janey Fraser
With an opportunity to prove herself, Gemma can't wait to take over Puddleducks Playgroup. But the new head of the infant school, Joe Balls, soon tempers her enjoyment. Meanwhile, Nancy is in turmoil. Her only son has just started at the playgroup and her husband has taken a temporary posting to Vietnam. There never was much hope of conceiving her much-wanted second child so what is she to do now? A tumultuous term lies ahead for all.
book cover image



 
Dead Men
Richard Pierce
Birdie Bowers, an infamously secretive painter, is a woman given a dead manís name by her obsessed parents. Her namesake was one of Scottís companions on his fated expedition to the Antarctic. Almost a hundred years after his death, she is determined to discover what really happened to him accompanied by Adam, a bored computer geek, who falls in love with her. But Scottís tent is now under 30 metres of ice.
book cover image



Publishers & Authors - Find out about guaranteed visibility in our Departure Lounge Bookshop
Please note that book covers may vary from those shown above


Your linking text here
Click Here!

Page C1089