January 23, 2017: Train Day to Sicily

I got effectively no sleep last night.  I did not get into bed until almost two and was up by four.  At four thirty I gave up on resting at all and just took a shower to get a jump on the day and get out of everyone’s way so that we could get ready as quickly as possible once Dominica and the girls were up.  This is going to be a long, long day without a real chance to rest.

It was a bit of a scramble to get everyone out of the door by a quarter till six in the morning, but we did it – just barely.  We had to lug our luggage down the street and over to Cavour where the Uber was going to pick us up.  We were right on time and he was waiting for us.  We were on the wrong side of the street so he swung around in his Renault van and we fit in nicely.  Plenty of room for everyone and the luggage, we didn’t even need to use the third row seating to do it.

The drive to the train station, Stazione Termini, was only a few minutes and most of that because of construction.  Fourteen Euros and we were good to go.  It was before six thirty and we had more than an hour to camp out and relax before our train was scheduled to depart.  That’s what we like, better to be a little bored than in a panic.

We had time to build a luggage fort for the girls that they played in.  They thought that that was great fun.  We got coffee and snacks for now and snacks for the train.  Plenty of time for a walk around and scoping out the train station.  We got there only a few minutes earlier than ideal and not knowing how Uber was going to work in Rome, we did it perfectly.

We boarded the train right on time and off we went.  No issues this morning.  It was still dark out when we got underway and would be dark when we arrived in Sicily, too.  A long day, but no changes so we just get to sit back and relax all day.

The ride went well.  Long, but well.  Our luggage all fit into the end luggage area so we were able to keep a decent eye on it easily.  That was very good.  Our backpacks went into the overhead above us.  We had a table just for the four of us so we all faced each other as a family.

We got to go through Naples, which was neat.  What a huge city.  Napoli is actually larger than Roma, just by a little.  And both are much smaller than Milano up north.  Those three dominate the country as the big power house cities.  In Napoli we got see to Mt. Vesuvious was is pretty cool.  We have seen a lot of volcanoes in the last year!

The trip south went well and was interesting.  The train route really does hug the coast once you leave Roma so we got to the sea for a large portion of the trip, which was neat.  Southern Italy was far more industrial and depressed than I would have imagined.  Hundreds of miles of beaches and we never saw a single person out enjoying some of the best sea front in the world.  Just old run down houses and condos in one little depressed town after another.  I knew that south of Napoli, Italy got pretty poor but I really did not know the extent to which the coast itself was not even developed.

The highlight of the trip was getting to the port of Messina where our train drove onto the giant ferry to cross the strait between the Italian mainland and the island of Sicily.  How cool.  We have done nearly everything with trains, but this is a new one.

On the ferry Liesl was fast asleep so I stayed on the train with her while Dominica and Luciana went up on deck.  It was a good thing that they did as there was a tiny storm and the water in the strait was really rough.  We were getting thrown all around down on the train in the bottom of the ferry. Dominica was getting a bit sick even up on top in the air.

The strait is tiny, so small that they regularly consider building a bridge to cross it, so the crossing was maybe fifteen minutes of actual time on the water.  Not bad at all.  Once docked the train just pulled us out and we were right into the Messina station where our half of the train was separated from the half that was heading to Palermo and we went down the east coast of the island towards Siracusa.

Eastern Sicily was much, much nicer than western southern Italy.  Beautiful towns and we got to see the mammoth that is Mount Etna, Europe’s most active and imposing volcano.

We were all pretty sleepy by the time that it was dark and we pulled into Siracua, the final stop of the mainland train.  It is nice riding to the end because there is plenty of time to unload the kids and the luggage of which there is so much.

Thankfully Siracusa is a terminus and we were able to walk on ground level around the end of the tracks, no need to go up and down a ridiculous amount of stairs.

We were going to book another train to take us on to Noto, but there was a taxi van waiting right outside of the station, so I went and talked to them and they said that for eighty Euros they would take us to Noto, so we did that.  A bit more expensive, but we could go there straight away.

The taxi took no more than half an hour and we were up into the hill town of Noto.  It was very dark so we really got no view of the area around.

Google Maps, as always, was useless. It could not show us a way to get to our house and kept trying to send us on roads so narrow no car could go down there and some were stairways!  We would days later figure out that Google Maps has the road names all wrong in this town and many are in the wrong places.  Our driver had no idea where to take us and had to use our GPS since he didn’t have any.  This is a good reason to use Uber, they have this stuff ironed out a bit.

The driver and I wanted to get dropped off at a spot that he found where it seemed reasonable for us to walk.  Dominica would have none of it and made him drive us all around trying to follow her GPS.  It would turn out later that the driver and I had found the spot literally closest to the house on the best ground.  We did not know that we had, but from looking at maps it appeared to be the best possible option.

So we drove around a bit and ended up parking on Cavour and blocking the street for quite some time as we unloaded onto the tiny, tiny sidewalk and then worked to drag everything that we own up a very uneven cobblestone street with traffic constantly making me move over to the wall to let them pass.  It was terrible.

Thank goodness the housekeeper for the house got our message that we were nearly there and looked for us out on the streets.  It turned out that we were never going to find the house given that the maps were totally wrong.  There was no way to ever find it.

Even with her finding us, it was an ordeal to get all of our luggage to the house itself. There was just so much and no good way to move it.  I was in some serious pain by the time that we got into our new home for the winter.

The house is really nice.  Solid old stone structure and a lot of room.  A nice big living room, good bedrooms for us and the kids.  The bathroom upstairs is ridiculously small, to the point of actually being a joke.  The girls can use it, but neither Dominica nor I can, at all.  We actually cannot physically get to the toilet in it!  It has a nice shower, though.  The downstairs bathroom is really big, which is good.

No Internet was on when we got in.  None at all.  Apparently they forgot to turn it on before we got here.  So our first night is one without any Internet.  Not such a big deal, we get 3G and sometimes LTE inside of most of the house, so we are able to let people know that we have arrived and are safe and we can let the landlord know that we have no Internet.  We are pretty tired so not looking to be up very late, anyway.  By the time that we were really into the house, it was likely nine or ten at night.  We are exhausted, especially after getting essentially zero sleep last night.

The really big shocker for us is that there is only two hours of water, per day, in the house.  That’s right, I said it, only two hours of the day is there running water and twenty two hours of the day, there is not.  The only water available during those times is what is in the hot water heater (which we’ve not seen, it might be an inline) and what is stored on the terrace in two, big Rubbermaid cisterns.  There is a total of 2,000 litres that gets stored up there, if all goes according to plan.  Enough for the basics, but just barely.  Showering, laundry… these things are going to be difficult.

Well, our new adventure in Sicily has begun.

There is no food in the house, obviously, since we just arrived so we decided to go out to eat on our first night. Dominica set to unpacking some things and I did a walk around the vicinity to see if there was anything open.  I found one thing, a trattoria, that was really close to our home that was open and looked nice.  I walked quickly home, got everyone dressed and ready and we walked the girls down there and went out for dinner.

It turns out that the place was pretty fancy, as it would turn out nearly everything in Noto is because it is mostly a tourist town, and we were the only people in the restaurant, likely all evening.  We popped in and asked, in Italian, if they were open and they assured us that they were and we ordered their antepasti buffet, which was seven amazingly different antepasto piatti mostly made of seafood.  The girls tried octopus (pulpo) but did not care for it.  There was a lot of really neat stuff.  We enjoyed it a lot.

Then we had pasta for dinner, all of us.  It was all amazing and we were very happy with dinner, although it was not cheap and we were not looking to spend any money unnecessarily.  But it was what it was, we needed food and it was the only option.  Tomorrow is going to begin the search for groceries.

After dinner we got home and were off to bed.  Dominica and my bedroom is the not the master, but is the ground floor room with the main bed, it is off of the living room.  The girls have the upstairs master suite that doubles as my office.  They have the en suite pointlessly small bathroom.

Finally, time to sleep.  Fingers crossed that someone will get us Internet access in the morning.