Indeed, exploring the old medieval city of Modica was intriguing, but it was overshadowed by the unscheduled joy rides in vintage iconic Fiat 500 sports cars over hilly, windy and very narrow cobblestone streets.
First made popular in 1957 as a readily affordable automobile, these refurbished convertibles – smaller than a Smart car – still barely fit on alleyways that were unfathomably two-way. Warning: “Do not put your hand outside the car or you’ll end up losing it.” The fact that we were driving through a former 12th century Norman city was just a bonus.
On to another non-itinerary controversy: a meeting with members of an organization that aids young immigrant girls who illegally land in Sicily, where a sign on the port declares “Welcome Refugees.”
Oh, how much we could learn from this small island, I thought. And it was harrowing to listen to 19-year-old Joyce’s story of being lured from her home and family in Nigeria with promises of an education in Europe only to find herself part of an agonizing nine-month ordeal spent in many refugee camps in Libya and Syria along the way under abusive, horrendous conditions as part of a sex-and-drug trafficking operation. She was fortunately saved by the Casa di Maria organization upon her arrival in Sicily; most are not. No one exited that room without feeling emotionally drained. Again!
And then there’s Mt. Etna – at over 10,000 feet, the largest active volcano in Europe. Although the last eruption was in May 2017, we were repeatedly assured we were in no danger of a repeat. I’m a hiker. I’m used to climbing over rocks and roots. But this was my first experience with lava stones and fields – a topography I had never seen before.
As we climbed the almost two miles, we passed two centuries worth of vegetation from tiny tufts of green still recovering from earlier eruptions to huge, long-standing pine trees of old. I’m a travel writer and I’m supposed to be able to bring experiences to life but this was so surreal, other-worldly, so without comparison to anything I’ve seen before that I feel inadequate to capture it in mere words.
Yes, this was on the itinerary, but nonetheless, it was an L&D experience of its own. A stop afterwards for a shot of Etna Fire – a 70-proof concoction – shook me out of my volcanic revelry.
After our farewell dinner, it was hard to believe there would be another L&D moment. After all, it was late – and we all had early planes the next day. But indeed we headed into town to a small, stand-alone outdoor shack where the vendor more replicated a bartender – even more a mixologist, a creator of drinkable art. Tamarind syrup, fresh squeezed lemon, soda water and then the piece de resistance…baking soda. All shaken up with gusto. The whole point? To make you burp. A Sicilian tradition. A very successful Sicilian tradition. Who wouldn’t want to go on such a tour?
If You Go:
Overseas Adventure Travel
2018 Sicily’s Ancient Landscapes & Timeless Traditions
Author Bio: Fyllis Hockman is a multi-award-winning travel journalist who has been traveling and writing for over 30 years — and is still as eager for the next trip as she was for the first. Her articles appear in newspapers across the country and websites across the internet.