I decided to go away for the weekend so booked myself a home stay room in a small town near the sea. I’ve been craving two things of late, peaceful surrounds away from Catania’s constant noise and a swim in the ocean, and thought this was the perfect place for it. I guess I should have know better when it wasn’t even listed in my guidebook, but call me a dreamer (go on, I want you to), aren’t the most fabulous places the ones you’re supposed to find by accident? I was hopeful.
My arrival was painless enough. Alight at the almost deserted Piazza dei Leoni where I was greeted (naturally) by three concrete lions drinking from a fountain. The barman at Bar Tre Leoni was very helpful and gave me directions to where I was staying. Cool room in a great old house with fabulous furniture, all good so far. Drop bags, pack swimsuit, exit to explore.
As I made my way down Via Vittorio Emanuele II (every town in Italy has a street such named after he became the first king of a united Italy in 1861 since the sixth century) I was disappointed to realise that all the buildings looked exactly the same and had no character at all. Definitely post 1693 earthquake but minus a creative architect. Most of them were run down, closed and for rent. I strolled through a few soulless piazzas that were mainly all concrete with tufts of weeds growing wildly between the pavers. Even the church was ugly.
Never mind I thought, I came for the beach so am sure it will be worth it. Generally speaking I know I’m spoilt being Australian, we have the best beaches in the world. But I still live in hope that I’m going to happen across a little piece of ocean paradise here in Italy. I didn’t find it yesterday. What I did find was a beach so dirty with litter and ugly concrete pylons that I couldn’t fathom spending even five minutes there. What is it with Italians and concrete!
Ok Deanna, I thought, keep walking, maybe there’s something cool around the corner. Nup. Just more beach, this time behind security fencing and inaccessible, and more litter. I eventually reached the old port that screamed of promise if only someone would have the initiative (and money) to do something with it.
Heading back into town I noticed that there were hardly any women about. I began to pay more attention to this and yes, apart from myself, there weren’t many at all. It was getting onto dinner time so I wondered if they were all just inside preparing fabulous Sicilian dishes, and, as is the norm in Italy, the men were hanging out having fun while someone else was in the kitchen was doing all the work. Regardless of the reason, it gave me a rare sense of uneasiness and I decided not to venture out for dinner on my own.
When I woke this morning, and even though I’d paid for another night here, I decided to cut my losses and run back to the safety of my bubble in the city. There really wasn’t anything worth staying for. Being a Sunday my transport options are very limited at the best of times so had practically a whole day to kill and even as I write this I don’t know if there actually is a bus back to Catania today*… the timetable says one thing, a bus driver who rang his colleague told me another.
Avola, a dull little town that sits on the east coast of Sicily, should never be a stop on your itinerary. Avoid it at all costs and keep right on going.
* I made it home this evening. The timetable was more accurate.