After our cruise to the Greek islands, we weren’t ready to go home. So, we flew to Italy instead! Of course, our summer escape to Italy was planned ahead of time. It was really fun for one part of our big trip to end and the next part to begin.
We flew from Athens to Catania in Sicily, Italy. We actually needed to go to Palermo, Sicily but there were no direct flights from Athens. Instead of taking another flight, we decided to take the train through Sicily. We got to see so much of Sicily from the train. Not surprisingly, the countryside is very beautiful!
Going to the train station was our first taste of what was to come in Italy: lots of stairs. We made it to the train station from the airport and the train we needed was leaving in 5 minutes. The next one wouldn’t leave for another 3 hours. We got our tickets and then ran to the train. That’s when we had to go up and down stairs. My suitcase weighed about 42 lbs. That doesn’t sound like a lot but I could not lift it upstairs in any quick manner (I know, I’m kind of weak). Travis lifted both suitcases at the same time to get us to the train on time.
Once we got to the train, we weren’t sure if it was the right one, but it was the only one there. Thankfully, a girl was getting on the train and I asked her if this was going to Palermo. She confirmed it was the right train. Phew!! We got on and the train left in a matter of minutes.
In Palermo, Italians spoke very little English. There were exceptions (like hotel front-desk employees) but waiters in restaurants spoke only a little English. This is NOT a negative point. I loved that we were in a non-touristy area! We may not have come across any American tourists in our area, which was a nice change. I love immersing myself in a new culture.
Something I did not expect when arriving in Italy: how hard it would be to order pasta, or actually to pick one to order. I thought I would recognize the names of dishes. I was wrong! Here is a picture I took of pasta dishes to try to translate them when I was back in our hotel with WiFi.
This little place with handmade pasta was family-owned and was right across the street from our hotel. The night we ate here was the only night they were open during the 3 days we were in Palermo. We got lucky that we got to have their handmade pasta!
The next day, we walked around Palermo. We went to a park where I saw a cactus tree. I have never seen a single cactus before going to Greece. Now, I was in Italy and there was a cactus tree! Travis was laughing at me because I was so interested in all these cacti.
We sat down at the park cafe where Travis had a beer and I had champagne. That’s all we ordered, but they brought out three different snacks with our drinks, for free! That is something I noticed in both Greece and Italy – they give you free snacks with your drinks, like nuts, chips, and little cookies.
That night, we had an amazing dinner at a little restaurant called Gigi Mangia that was literally just a door within a strip of stores and restaurants. But inside was an entire restaurant where walls were filled with Sicilian wines. Travis had ravioli and I had a seafood risotto with caviar. We asked the waitress for wine recommendations with our meals and they were amazing pairings!
Mondello Beach, Sicily
The next day, we went to Mondello beach near Palermo. Here, the water was the bluest I’ve ever seen. Even more so than in Greece! The water was very shallow for about one hundred feet but the waves were big and came up to your head. It was a fun time!
This beach is in between two fortifications, one of which you can see in the photo below. Travis was talking to a local and found out that they were built during WWII.
The next day, we flew to Venice. Travis had already been to Venice ten years ago, but I had to see it for myself. I could have taken a million pictures here. It’s the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen!
Do you want to know something about Venice? It has lots of stairs! You may have already known that. We got lucky and didn’t have to carry our suitcases through the streets of Venice (and up and down the stairs) on the way to our hotel because of our private boat ride from the airport.
Once we arrived at our hotel though, there was no elevator and Travis had to carry the suitcases up about 100 stairs. Thankfully, one of the employees helped him carry mine. I actually don’t mind stairs in general, but carrying a 42 lb suitcase is a different story. I made sure to get Travis a beer afterward.
We spent our day in Venice walking around, taking pictures, eating street food and gelato, and drinking lots of wine. We visited the Leonardo da Vinci museum and many different shops.
Venice was very different from Palermo because it was filled with tourists. St. Mark’s Square was packed!! Unfortunately, I feel like there is not much culture left in Venice, which is really sad. Travis and I managed to find a local spot close to our hotel. It was a little bar that college students liked because of how cheap it is. You could get a small glass of wine for 60 cents and a little sandwich for 1 euro. It seemed that only locals were in there. Travis and I like to go where the locals go, so it was nice to find a spot like that among all the tourists.
Our summer escape to Italy was really a dream. I can’t wait to go back to Italy. I have actually never said that about a place. Usually, once I see and experience something, I’m ready to go and experience the next place. But Italy… I want to go back and see more of it!