When the tour guide tours Sicily
I first met Sue when I was a solo traveller myself. I was visiting Ortygia, Sicily for the first time and Sue was my very outgoing and friendly neighbor. I feel so lucky to now call her my Cummari. This is her story...
I remember arriving in Sicily for the first time as a tour guide.
I had been sent first to travel by myself before I met my first tour group. I had two weeks to explore (by public transport) the places I would work as a guide.
I had contacted someone on Trip Advisor for advice. It looked impossible to travel the distances and to see the places I needed. Even the expert on Trip Advisor was skeptical that I could cover the distances in two weeks.
With all the information at hand, I had imagined the Island to be small, and Palermo to be a tiny city with a central square, where men with black leather jackets and caps would be sitting, drinking coffee and planning mischief. That’s what the movies and books said.
My first destination was Ortygia. I got so lost. An old woman stopped in her small car and asked me if I needed help. “Jump in”, she said. This would be the first wonderful contact with a stranger I would have, the first of many. These moments moulded my future with the Island and its amazing people.
When I stepped into the main Piazza in Ortygia, the most beautiful sight was in front of me. A Greek temple (temple of Diana), turned into a basilica, turned into a mosque and the main Duomo (Catholic church), towered in the night sky. I was in love.
I knew immediately that Sicily was going to be a magical part of my life.
The second day, I had to take a bus to Noto and then take a train back to Siracusa. On the way back, the one carriage train stopped in the middle of nowhere. A conductor and driver, who I had not even seen, came out of the drivers cabin. They came to me and told me to go with them. I thought I was going to be murdered and left for dead in the Sicilian countryside.
As a female solo traveller it was scary, but as I am up for anything, I followed. We walked to a field, they handed me a plastic bag, and we picked the nespola fruits from the tree. It was the most amazing surprise. We laughed, gesticulated and filled our bags. I never minded Sicilian trains being delayed after this, and I often hoped that some other traveller was having a little adventure like I had. It was the most amazing welcome to an Island to which I would lose my heart.
As a solo traveller, and as a female, travelling around Sicily is a wonderful experience, so unlike the narrative in guide books. The respect, kindness and patience of my terrible Italian skills always shocks me.
Sicily is now a regular part of my life. Over the past nine years I have spent time leading groups, travelling, and just being.
I am never bored, uninspired or sad. It is an uplifting place where the energy is positive and friendly, though I do feel this is mostly down to mutual respect.
Sicilians do not suffer fools gladly, you get out what you put in. If you embrace their incredible history, cuisine and people, vibrant Sicily will embrace you.
It will open your soul and mind forever, and once you have experienced that, the last thing on your mind when you leave is how and when you will go back.
Written by guest author, my friend, Sue Guthrie.
Sue is a British born nomad, writer and award winning tour guide who has lead tours in Sicily for 8 years. She is also an expert tour guide in Ethiopia. Sue can be found all over the world, but she feels most at home in Sicily (and Italy in general).