Observations From Spending A Week In Sicily

While I now live in hotels full time, I spent a majority of the first half of May staying with friends in Sicily, and figured I’d share some random thoughts/impressions:

Small town life is awesome

My friends live in a small town outside of Catania and there’s something I love about just finding myself in a random small town without tourists.

It’s no different than where my family grew up, really. My family is from Germany, from a tiny town outside of Frankfurt with just a few thousand residents. Growing up I would spend at least a month every summer there with family, and I always have fond memories of that. Everyone knew everyone, and the talk of the town partly centered around who didn’t go to church on Sunday. It’s so different than my everyday life that I just absolutely love it.

So while I’m not sure I’d like to live in a small town long term, there’s something so refreshing about spending some time in a “simple” town. You’ve gotta love a town that’s simple enough so that if you say you’re going to meet at “the bar,” everyone knows what you’re talking about.


Sicily is adorably run down

Sicily is known for being somewhat rundown. As weird as it sounds, it’s rundown in a way that adds to its charm. Like, after spending a couple of weeks in Sicily I feel like the rest of Italy is almost sterile by comparison.



There’s nothing run down about the nature, though — the scenery is just gorgeous!


The land of cappuccino ridicule

I’m an absolute cappuccino-holic. I don’t like them sweetened or anything, but rather serve them to me however they come. So naturally I’m thrilled when I can go to a local cafe with my laptop and get work done while sipping cappuccinos.


What’s fascinating about cappuccino culture in Italy is that it’s acceptable to drink them in the morning and late at night, but during the day they’re almost off limits. Rumor has it that if you order one after 11AM they’ll spit in it.

That wasn’t quite my experience, though I did find there to be (endearing) ridicule associated with ordering one. I was called a “bambino” (baby) when ordering one during the day, and once they even made me one as if I were a five year old, with all kinds of sprinkles and powder, because only a baby would order one during the day.

It was all done in good fun, of course, though I couldn’t help but laugh at how high context coffee culture in Italy is.

Granita and brioche is a thing — SCORE!

I’m sad that I only figured this out on my second to last day in Sicily. Granita is a type of frozen Italian dessert, kinda sorta like ice cream. And brioche is, well, bread. I love ice cream and I love bread, but I never thought it would be socially acceptable to eat both together.

So imagine my delight when I was at a cafe and ordered granita, and I was asked if I wanted brioche with it. I thought I was going crazy. You’re asking me if I want bread with my ice cream? Like, how is that even a question?! Of course I do!!!

My friends proceeded to explain that apparently it’s a “thing.”

I don’t know how I’ll ever go back to eating just ice cream or bread…


Buy a drink and get free food

I love maximizing value, in whatever form it may come. One of my favorite discoveries in Sicily was how they serve snacks with alcohol. If you order an alcoholic drink, they bring you a smorgasbord. And if you order another drink you get an even bigger smorgasbord. And if you order another one… well, you get the point.

So basically the cost of dinner in Sicily is roughly two alcoholic drinks of your choice. 😉


Bottom line

Now that I’m officially “homeless,” I love being able to spend longer periods of time in one place. Even if it’s just a week, it’s nice to get a better feeling for an area while not falling too far behind with work. And over the past two summers that I’ve been there, Sicily has really grown on me…

Filed Under: Travel
  1. Ben (aka lucky),

    When you are done with my dream life, please make sure to return it safely to Dallas… 😉

    dcgators (aka Gilbert)

  2. Did you stay at a hotel while in Sicily or were your friends kind enough to let you stay at their place? I guess there aren’t too many chain hotels in the area.

  3. Great observations, especially on the cappuccinos. I’ve gotten the dirtiest looks and calls of crazy when ordering at lunchtime. If you are cappuccino crazy you next time you are in Tuscany have to go to this tiny hotel cafe in vescovado di murlo, Near Siena- the mom Renza makes the most amazing ones on the planet

  4. As i live in Frankfurt I wonder which of the small villages near Frankfurt you are talking about, would you mind sharing it?

    Furthermore: Sicily is beautiful. Been in Taormina last year for a week and absolutely loved it

  5. Looks like you were in one of the “Aci’s” while you were in Sicily. I used to live in Aci Treza while I was there for my tour with the Navy. Great to see the pictures, and read your observations of such a great place. Really enjoyed my time there… Just a different type of lifestyle.

  6. Was the Sheraton Catania a hotel you stayed at? (You mentioned it before.)

  7. I love that you are homeless and basically live wherever you want, for however long you want. Just when desperate pleads for readers to use their credit card sign up link, repetitive posts about things everyone knows, and deceptive titles to get readers to click on their blog have become the yawn of BoardingArea and, sadly, the definition of BoardingArea, your posts bring much needed life and diversity.

    If you are to start your own website, I will support you 100% on that decision!

  8. @ Hong Kong Airline News — Ended up just staying with friends, so didn’t stay at a hotel at all.

  9. OMG, I had no idea about that cappuccino rule. I know I broke it everyday when I was in Italy last month. So what is acceptable to drink during the day?

  10. When you launched your no-fixed-address lifestyle I have to say I was hoping for more posts like this rather than reviews of chain airport hotels. So, please — more like this! And more in depth. You must have more to say about Sicily after a full week there.

  11. Enjoyed this post! Would also like more like this, and would like to learn more about what you did in Sicily!

  12. Great post Ben. My Dad’s parents were both born in a small hillside town (think The American with Geo Clooney) in Abruzzo. My Mom’s parents in Rome & Sienna. I have been fortunate enough to visit quite a few times and while Rome is great, I most enjoy the small towns of my ancestry.

    Your mention of Sicily being rundown yet adding to its charm brought a smile. It reminded me of my first couple visits to our Abruzzo town and me thinking, how could anyone live here…..there’s nothing to do. As I’ve gotten older, I so much treasure my time in those small towns. It is very difficult to leave and head back to strip-mall USA, where every town looks the same. My goal is to retire, at least part-time, to Italy. Anyway, Thanks again for a great post.

  13. While it’s true that Italians only drink cappuccino around breakfast time (and most not even then), I’ve never seen someone made fun of by cafe staff for ordering one. I’d take that as a _good_ sign that you were treated like a local person.
    For a real treat, ask for a Cafe Marocchino.
    Gelato and brioche is usually served in the form of a sandwich, with a bun-shaped brioche slide in half and the gelato loaded into it, and an alternative to a cup or a cone. That probably would not work with granita, though.

  14. Two weeks in Italy, working hard and earning lots of money.

    How much in income taxes will you owe Italy for this stay? 🙂

  15. Will be in Sicily in August for 11 days, Catania as my home base, with a nice quick stay at Hotel Timeo in Taormina 🙂

  16. I love Italy, being Italian I went back to the home land when I graduated college. Spent a whole month there. For a week, we went to Sicily. What I found on this trip was, Italy and Sicily aren’t much different then the US. West Coast and East Coast are the same but different, and Sicily was very much like Hawaii in the attitude, “farlo più tardi” do it later or “farlo domani” tranlate, “So it later” or “Do it tomorrow.” which hawaii is all about. Ever since that trip I have been back to Italy for the past 30+ years. It’s a toss up on where I want to live when I retire.. Italy or Costa Rica.

  17. Sure sounds like you’re the one throwing a tantrum pouting that Lucky has a career, JD.

  18. Ben, nice write up. I really enjoyed getting those Sicilian tibits of info on cappuccinos & free bar food with a drink. I appreciated the thoughts you shared regarding the simpler life one can at times find in our travels. Do more posts like thanks.

  19. I too was lucky enough to live there when I was a child. My father was a Navy pilot. We would bring our little sailboat to that exact spot (hasn’t changed in 30 years) and sail out to they cyclops rocks and swim. It is a special and simple place for sure!

  20. Ben- next time you’re in Singapore… if you see an ice cream vendor on the street (say like on Orchard Rd… they’re typically on a motorbike with a sidecar), get yourself an ice cream sandwich. Yes, that’s ice cream between two slices of bread!

  21. Nice job on giving us at least a sense of the local color. Pieces like this nicely round out the air and hotel reviews. Keep it up Ben!

  22. We had the same free snacks experience in Florence. Order one round, tiny nibbles. Order another round, get substantial apps.

  23. Even though I’m from a very large city, I also had spent many summers in a small town in southern Russia where my grandparents lived. It was nice 🙂 Spent a year as an exchange student in a small town in the US and that wasn’t quite as nice and all the young people mostly counted days until they could leave town.

    Out of curiosity, what are the primary industries in that area – agriculture, fishing?

  24. @ Ivan Y — Yep, that was the impression I got. It’s a small fishing town basically, and Sicily does have a lot of agriculture.

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