Grazie, Sicily.

It’s almost summer here in the U.S. I love this season, but every year at this time I regress a little, back into feelings of sadness surrounding my father’s passing. Though I wasn’t his exclusive care-giver, I was with my father every day for seveal months, and felt like I lived at the hospice home where he spent his last 6 days.

As anyone who’s attended a parent (or any beloved person) in decline knows,  ‘the end’ releases a flood of emotions. Beyond the profound grief, I felt cast-adrift from the months-long anchor of being ‘present’ for whatever might be needed. It took me a bit of time to recover my sense of Self and what I needed. When I did, I turned to my ‘answer’ to so many questions in my life, Travel.

The reason why I settled on Sicily started with seeds-planted years prior, when my father and stepmother traveled there, afterwards sharing their photos and reminiscences. It was also definitely a kind of homage to my father. And even though early summer might not be considered the ideal time to travel to Italy and Sicily, that was my available timeframe…

So, I took off on my own:  my first time traveling solo internationally. The initial flight was direct, San Francisco to Naples. As the plane descended over “Napoli”, the early-evening light shrouded Mount Vesuvius in a dreamy, sherbet-colored mix of pale blue and orange. An extraordinary vision. Once in Naples, I was then supposed to then catch shuttle to Sorrento. But due to the delayed Air France flight out of SF (everyone enjoyed first-class meals and unlimited champagne, once we were airborne), I’d missed the shuttle.  My (amazing) travel agent connected me with a private car (yes, I’ll use that company again, no question!) that got me to Sorrento in about 40 minutes:  a hair-raising high speed ride on a glittering, congested freeway that looked like a luminous gold and red snake stretched out along the Bay of Naples.

It began in Sorrento: the feeling of being held in a nurturing embrace that I was so in need of. The sea-salt smell of the air; the warmth of the people; the light filtering through the ubiquitous lemon trees (and real Limoncello); Sorrento’s proximity to Capri (which was a fantasy-like beauty unto itself); all of this jump-started the healing process, getting me ready for Sicily.

The flight from Rome to Sicily was a short hop into the vastly different “vibe” between Italy and Sicily. Everything slowed down. I’d checked-out Lonely Planet beforehand, so my itinerary was set:  Palermo, Taormina (a shimmering jewel of a city tucked into a breathtaking coastline), Messina; little seaside villages called Isola Bella and Cefalu On just the level of exploring a new place, for me, Sicily was totally unique in its beauty, art, food, relics and social atmosphere. And in terms of the indescribable calm and peace it let me borrow for a week, it was – and remains – a very special experience that restored my health and my heart.

As any Sicilian will tell you, Sicily is proudly distinct from Italy. As a traveler, I don’t think of the two as being in competition with each other; but I will say that, if your goal is to bask in a slower, super-savory, southern-Mediterranean experience that lets you just be lazy and indulgent, Sicily will prove lovingly unforgettable.

Taormina, Sicily

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