Sicily – Cantania

Port of Catania

The night crossing had been largely without incident. Dined onboard the ship. It was of the Grimaldi line and a well maintained vessel it was. Had a cafeteria on board which was pricy but good quality. Unfortunately after a couple of hours the night had been rainy so not too much time spent above decks. It was grand to have a nice warm berth in my own cabin. The morning views were good with Mount Etna in the distance as we arrived the port of Catania. Weather was hot and clear. In addition to booking a hostel I had rented a car for the week as it was said that the public transport wasn’t very reliable and one couldn’t really see the cool roads as the busses stuck to the main highways.

The port with Mt. Etna in the distance
Docking – check out the bumpers on the dock

The first task was to clear customs which was not so rubber stamp easy as coming into Rome. The police here took entry seriously. Indeed not a few people and their luggage were throughly searched. Not finding anything in my packs they let me pass. Headed out with my pack to the hostel. Several blocks away in a moderately busy part of the city. Mostly 3 – 4 story buildings hundreds of years old. Found the hostel…or I should say the courtyard and massive door to the hostel. It had a smaller wicket door built into the larger one. Fortunately a nice lady understood my gestures and the name of the hostel and let me in as there did not appear to be a doorbell which was being answered. Once in the courtyard there was another door which led into a vestibule where after climbing a brief set of steps there was access to an antique elevator which, while working, barely fit myself and my pack. It did however take me up a couple of floors to the hostel…Casa Verdi on Giuseppe St. The hostel was very homie. It was being run by travelers who were working for a place to stay for the most part. Everyone had pitched in to make a communal lunch of a piaia dish. They immediately invited me to join them. Not wishing to disappoint…I accepted and enjoyed. After settling in it was time to check out possible parking spaces for the rental car and then get it. Headed out for a walk of several blocks and a map challenge. Found it.

Old customs house being renovated – Catania, Sicily

Once at the Eurocar agency it was to be a bit of a wait as they tried to give me a beat up dirty old junker which was not accepted. Went across the street to a cafe for some java while they went to get another car. This one was newer but still dirty. Did not accept it again until they washed it. Not a very good job of washing but by now it was time to take it and go as it was getting late in the day and I still had to find a place to park on the crowded city streets. Found one a few blocks away and crossed the fingers that it would still be there and intact in the morning. After parking the car found a good market just a couple of blocks away.

Local market

I had promised one of the guys to venture up the volcanic Mount Etna with hime and do some hiking. His name was Chris. He was in his late 20’s and he had never driven a stick shift car. Said I would teach him. In the meantime a group of us were headed out to see a band playing outside at a university across town. We walked there and it was great to get a feel for the city at night with some friendly folks.

Party on dude….

Ok…if the pictures look a little blurry…I’m sure it was us instead of the photographer. We DID have a few drinks and a few dances. Left them there as it had been a long day and the adventure of backtracking a few miles of a strange city at 1 am had a certain allure. Made it with only minor problems, a few ruffians who were easily discouraged as well as one or two ladies of the night. Once the rough areas had been traversed there were a few blocks which were closed to cars and filled with tables and restaurants which were equally filled with revelers as it was the weekend.

Back at the hostel the party there was in full swing. Had another beer or two, put in the earplugs and crawled into bed. Glad I couldn’t hear my snoring.

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