Inception, Sicilian style

You know how Inception is about a dream inside of a dream? Well this is like a vacation inside of a vacation.

Around 6:30 on Monday morning, I haul my carry on down four flights of stairs and onto the street, where I meet Arianna, Bianca, Vito, and their friend, Patrizia. We pile into the car, head to the Ancona airport, and wait to board our plane to Sicily. We’re flying on Ryanair, a ridiculously cheap airline that flies throughout Europe. We scan our tickets and, as we walk towards the plane, I notice several people running. “That’s odd,” I think to myself. “Why does it matter when there are assigned seats?” Well, as I discover upon boarding the plane, there aren’t assigned seats and it’s a complete free-for-all. We snag two rows and let Bianca sit by the window, since it’s her first time flying. Once everyone is situated, the plane rumbles down the runway and within a few minutes after takeoff, I’m lulled to sleep by the whirring of the engine.

The next thing I know, we’re landing in Sicily.

A hop, skip, and a rental car later, we’re driving from the Trapani airport to our destination: San Vito Lo Capo, a small, seaside town in north-western Sicily. Upon arrival, we unpack our swimsuits, down a light lunch, and walk three blocks to the beach. The water looks like something straight out of a travel ad. I stroll along the shore and dig my toes into the pristine, ivory sand. Some of the sand is pink, and Vito tells me later that this is because of nearby coral reefs. We spend the rest of the day lounging around on beach towels and soaking up the intense Sicilian sun.

We wake up bright and early on Tuesday morning for breakfast, and by 8:30, we’re at the beach again. Arianna and I leave the shore to walk around downtown. We notice several light displays that line the street, and we decide to return that evening to see them lit up. On our way back to the beach, Arianna tells me how she likes walking through the back roads and side streets of a town, since that’s how you learn about its true personality. We decide to zig-zag back, and as we pass some of the locals, I ask Arianna if she can hear the Sicilian dialect. She smiles and nods. I don’t notice it—it all sounds the same to me. Later that night, we return to the downtown area. It seems as if everyone in the town has come to walk through the local shops and check out the restaurants. Before heading home for the night, Bianca rides a few of the attractions they have for younger kids, including a miniature mechanical bull.

Bianca riding the mechanical bull.

Bianca riding the mechanical bull.

Wednesday, we spend the entire day at the beach. As nighttime comes around, we pile back into the car and begin the 45-minute trek to the Sicilian town of Erice. Our final ascent is a road with some pretty serious switchbacks, and by the time we reach the top, we’re driving through clouds. The temperature is significantly lower than it is at our seaside getaway, and I become painfully aware of it as I stand there in my cardigan and sweatpants. The scarf wrapped around my neck helps a little.

The cobblestone streets are narrow and steep, but we navigate our way to a Maria Grammatico bakery near the center of the town. The display case is stocked with piles of delectable goodness, like biscotti, cakes, and pies. And then I spot them: the Sicilian cannoli. Vito orders two cannoli and two lemon tarts for us to split. The tarts are still warm, so we eat those first. Then I pick up my half of the cannolo. The wafer cracks as I bite down gently and my mouth fills with the creamy, sugary filling. They say happiness comes in small packages, and I’m convinced that I’m holding one of those small packages in my hand, wrapped in a fried wafer and dusted with powdered sugar.

I almost want to take a bite right out of the screen. Almost.

I almost want to take a bite right out of the screen. Almost.

As we leave the bakery, I notice a map of the United States and a list of cities that have Maria Grammatico products. To my delight, there are three stores in Boston. I ask the lady behind the counter about it as I leave, and she shows me the fudge bar that they ship to the States. Here, you can buy it for a euro (roughly $1.25). In the States, it costs $9. I guess I won’t be buying one when I get home. We return to the cobblestone streets and begin our hunt for the castle. After some detours and a few more hills, we find it. Words can’t adequately describe the view from there, but check out the pictures of it at the end of this post. They speak for themselves.

Thursday is again spent on the beach. In the morning, Arianna and I walk the length of the beach while waist-deep in the water (which is a pretty solid workout, as my legs tell me afterwards). As we walk, Arianna sings part the chorus of an Italian rap song,

“Sapore di sale

Sa-sa-sapore di sale,

Gua-gua-guarda là che mare

Gua-gua-guarda là che mare.”

Essentially, “the taste of salt, looks beyond the sea.” As I try to sing along, I keep saying sapone instead of sapore (“soap” instead of “salt”) and male instead of mare (“bad” instead of “sea”). It throws the meaning off just a little bit. Later, Vito and I walk along the beach and give each other language lessons. He teaches me about some of the dialect from his region, and I tell him about how Bostonians use “wicked” as a synonym for “very.”

“So, for example,” Vito says, “you could say that the water is wicked cold?”

Yes. Exactly. I can’t help but grin.

That night, we head back into town for a dinner of couscous with fish. Couscous is a dish made with small, steamed granules of wheat, and it’s usually topped with meat, fish, or vegetables. It’s traditionally a North African dish, but Sicilian couscous is also famous for its authenticity. After dinner, we walk through downtown one last time before returning home and packing our suitcases. Early on Friday morning, we wave goodbye.