My husband Ed's love for words does not include sitting down and writing down his feelings on paper, but he can pick the best Hallmark card that can convey his emotions for any specific occasion.
So when I asked him about what he missed most about our time stationed in Sicily, I was surprised how fast he could make this list. Are these the things you find yourself missing, too?
1. Gelato. One of the best discoveries while living on the economy in Italy was Gelato alla Siciliana. A single scoop of ice cream in places that had a huge influx of tourists would cost at least 2.50 euros. For five euros, we could purchase and enjoy two quarts of creaminess from our neighborhood superette. Your choices can either come in one big flavor or the typical three flavors, consisting of Cioccolato, Pistacchio, and Caffe.
2. Girarrosto. On our way home from the base we would stop at a Rosticceria in Belpasso for a fast food meal of grilled chicken stuffed with French fries, and served with olives and special oils. All we needed to do was get our rice cooker ready and steaming for us in minutes after we got home.
3. Vino. Ed enjoyed a wide selection of wines from all regions of Italy and France, including all of Napa Valley- -tax free at the NEX. Living in Sicily introduced him to the good life of drinking wine with his meal. He had a preference for reds, but did not limit himself to familiar labels. He learned quickly that you can’t go wrong with wines that had been cultivated in good soil, for as long as you keep your nose and palate open to try a new vintage every now and then.
4. Cappuccino. A dead giveaway that you’re an American tourist is asking a barista in a coffee bar for a cappuccino after 10:00 a.m. Thank goodness for those vending machines strategically placed inside the break rooms on base.
5. Panini. Living on the economy taught us to patronize local panificio, or in our case, a macelleria that sold Panini and a variety of cured meats. We’ve been fortunate to have met locals who went out of their way to accommodate requests. For where would you hear of a macelleria that would make the time to put together sandwiches as they pack a bag of chips and a cold can of Coca-cola at no extra fee? Not only did that save us a couple of euros, but the freshness of the sandwiches can’t be beat.
6. Lido - Ed and I both grew up in a tropical setting where the beaches are plentiful and easily accessible. We had not seen anything as beautiful as the three seas that surround the island of Sicily. The Tyrrhenian, Ionian, and the Mediterranean seas radiate a kind of blue that can only be seen here. I spent many mornings of our best summer ever, enjoying the clear blue waters, staring at the same clear blue skies- wishing I could hold them in my heart forever.
7. Autostrada. My husband loved the expressways in Sicily. He learned early on that the posted speed limit is optional and that a flashing light from an approaching vehicle meant you have to wait before merging. Italians are very passionate about driving. The fun of driving is heightened by the interesting landscape. Apart from roads that zigzag and swerve, the ever-changing view from Ed’s windshield, kept us fully charged and awake during those personal explorations.
8. Pasticceria. Cornetto, canolli, and some other wild Italian pastries are the stuff that Ed’s dessert dreams are made of. He’s not hard to please though. Any dolci offered to him was greeted with a smile and a grateful nod. On one of our early-morning walks after transferring to a TLA, we managed to locate a bakery in Motta Sant’Anastasia that produced flavorful doughnuts. It became a standard breakfast item during those few mornings before our scheduled PCS back to the states.
9. Calamari. Fried squid served crispy hot, drizzled with fresh lemon and punctuated with a side of French fries made hours under the blazing heat of the sun after dipping in eighty-degree waters really wonderful for us. Giardini Naxos’ special hole-in-the-wall place also provided us with some of the best aranchini and lasagna in all of Sicily.
10. Aranchini, Bombe,and Cartucciata. The ABC’s of snacking for my husband was a good Aranchini, Bombe,and Cartucciata. It was routine for us to stop at a pastry shop the night before for a selection of the ABCs that made up Ed’s lunch for the week. Fried rice balls or Aranchini, and fried pastries that had been stuffed with cheese, ham, and savory pasta sauce, would be his typical lunch or snack- much to the delight of the Italian translators that shared an office space with him at the security department.
I don't blame Ed for missing Sicily. I do too. I had to write a whole book about it called, “My Sicily Scrapbook, Memoir of an Accidental Expat.” What else do you find yourself missing about living overseas?
Rossella C. Yumul is a retired Navy wife who recently published a memoir regarding life in Sicily during her husband’s tour of duty in the region My Sicily Scrapbook: Memoir of an Accidental Expat.