A sleepy MESSINA

We’ve been traveling without rest since 3PM Saturday.  It was now 4PM Monday.   It was time for sleep.

Messina is the port city Sicily, and there’s not too much to brag about.   Surely one could find adventure , women, maybe even a party to attend, however, we didn’t.  We did get lost walking the hilly city in the rain, pack up our bag out of the smoky hotel (didn’t exactly splurge) and set the navigation for Sicily’s west.  With a small pit stop in for a game of charades with locals for in search of gas, we made to destination: CINISI.  Here in Cinisi we’d celebrate the conclusion of 2013, and cheer in the new year, the sensation of fresh-starts, the relief of beginning anew.

The Coastal Cariati

Cariati was one of those tiny towns in the south of Italy nobody visited.  Without the intentions of sounding rude, everyone asked why we would.   It wasn’t for some-seven or so more hours that we realized what an extravagantly ridiculous reason we had…. Though never translated to the villagers, “We wanted to see the sun rise over water.” which only added 4 hours to our stick-shifting road-trip through rural, hilly, Italy.  7:30 AM, you could have found us walking our delirious bodies along the sandy beach of the Ionian Sea, taking photos with the sun’s rise.  The sky, a canvas for strikingly vibrant colors and the puffed up cumulus clouds, coated in magnificent light.  Maybe it was worth it.

We dragged ourselves off the beach, up the cobblestone, over the train tracks and into a Macelleria-butcher shop.   A cute old man, as cliché-old-school-Italian as they come, made us prosciutto-mozzarella-tomato sandwiches.  His good-natured amiability is the real reason to travel.  The people.  The places are great, sometimes beautiful, other times breath-taking, yet, nothing compares to the good souls, found around the word, and only on the trails.  Don’t worry about taking the right path, none leave you left in the wrong.

Every person in the town could have been casted for The Sopranos.

Stocked on Italian Abracci-cookies, water and espresso, we re-entered the auto-strada for more binge-partying.   Our destination was Vila San Giovanni, the port of mainland Italy, in the southern region of Calabria, that would cross us over to Messina, Sicilia (Sicily).  The “Messina Straights” are treacherous, read about them.

We had been on the road 14 hours when we started winding UP and down, CuRvInG left & riiiight, for 140 kilometers.  We brought our fiesta to a pause and walked around the town of (unidentifiable).  We were beckoned into a bar / café, happy to oblige.   These are very common in Italy, serving both alcohol and caffeine, stand-up style.   Being from New York practically gave us celebrity status.  Knowing how to speak English gave some of the towns-people clout.  When someone can’t communicate with us, they say, in Italian “wait, I have someone who speaks English, I’ll go get them!” with delight in their voice and achievement in their heart, scurrying off to fetch the local oracle.  Never brilliantly articulated, we share the simple ideas of the moment, some smiles, and almost always some form of food.

It was time to carry on, we drove for a few more hours, boarded the ferry in Messina, found a hotel, and alleviated ourselves of the confinements of that damn vehicle.   T passed out, I found a bar.

Night Through Naples

Our Ford Fiesta partied its way south, into Napoli, the city a vast number of Italian-Americans believe home to their family, once upon the late 1800s.  Truth is, most emigrants have Napoli claimed as a home town only because it was the port city they departed from and they didn’t speak the English to correct Ellis Island officials.

Naples is infamous.  We only caught a glimpse.  Half passed midnight, the streets converged into a tranquil episode of the chaos.  We swerved around the double / triple parked compact cars, and dodged the people that appeared sporadically from out behind the obnoxiously parked cars.   Classically Italian architecture buildings shimmered holiday lights in these dark hours.  Trees were wrapped in festive color, a glibber to the gloom casted over the city.   A shade of mystique bellowed.   The night was flooded with street lights and shadows.  Prostitutes walked haggardly in heels up, and back down the littered streets.

We parked in an alley.  T sensed something not right when she pointed out the massive pad-lock on several vehicle steering wheels we crept past.  We picked a hotel we’d try for a night’s stay.  But, after walking in the echoing corridor and up the wide staircase, to the second floor, neither us, nor the host felt the connection.  We thanked and ciao’d them a bella notte. 

A pizzeria offered to stay open an extra 30 minutes for us to refuel on prosciutto pizza and coffee.  It cost next to niente.

Keys in the ignition, we re-ignited out party and roared down the road.   Onto the auto-stada and along the Amalfi Coast, several hours later, we arrived on the water of Cariati.  We witnessed a 7AM sunrise over the Ionia Sea.