Sicilia- Our Memorable Trip Down Tranny Alley

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A poplar topic of conversation before leaving on our trip was wondering when the gravity of our expedition would set in. Would it be on the airplane? Or maybe as soon as we arrived in Rome? For me, it was when we boarded the night train to Palermo. I had been fighting hard to stay awake in Termini station and when our train finally arrived, we slouched, worthless on the beds in our sleepercar. An older gentleman got onto the train a little outside of Rome and tried to make some conversation with us. When he found out we were headed to Palermo he warned us in his broken English that “it’s very hard in Palermo if you don’t speak Italian.” “Crap.” It’s not like this was news, like I hadn’t read it several times in guide books, but I was tired now and it was difficult to talk to this guy and I imagined that our entire time in Sicilia would be just that, difficult. So I went to sleep. It was the perfect remedy. I woke up to beautiful sun, craggy coastline and mountainous landscape. Immediately I pulled out a phrase book and started jotting down the important ones like: “vo-ray oo-nah macchiato” and “mee dees-pya-che.” The latter came in handy later when an angry sicilian man was yelling at me for trying to pay with a credit card.
When we hopped off the train in Palermo it was around nine in the morning and shops were opening up for the day, the city was beginning to buzz. A man sweeping in front of his restaurant caught my eye and said “buongiorno!” followed by “good morning!” and then “how are you today?” We were off to a good start.

Palermo has a personality of its own. Because I don’t speak Italian, I can’t say for sure what kinds of conversations I overheard, but I will say they were passionate. The kind that have lots of wild gesturing and arm waving to accompany them. I would think I just witnessed a heated argument but then people would kiss and walk on like they had just been discussing the weather.
Navigating the sidewalks did take a certain level of care because there were doggy doo doo piles everywhere. Like land mines just waiting for an unsuspecting pedestrian. Upon our arrival to A Casa Di Amici (our hostel) there was one especially large heap outside the front door that had been stepped in and then scraped through the street in intervals. We both took a leap of faith over this moose-sized pile of doo and entered the hostel.
The first day at the hostel turned out to be fantastic, the room we had booked was still occupied so we got a free upgrade for the night. Our new room had a LARGE private 18′ x 18′ bamboo shaded porch on the 3rd floor equipped with couches, tables, and chairs. Both of us were exhausted so we spent the rest of the afternoon drinking beers and relaxing on our palatial patio. We spent the next several days exploring Palermo and enjoying the sunshine, the space, and some new friends- the highlights include: 1) A nice afternoon in Mondello, a small beach side tourist town nestled between two large craggy outcroppings. & 2) A day and evening exploring Palermo and Monreale with Erwin, Katrin and Francesca our new friends from Belgium, Germany and Austin, Texas. Who we met at A Casa Di Amici.

After leaving Palermo we headed on to Agrigento, or “Agri’h’ento” as Laura the Spaniard from our hostel pronounced it. Where we paused to look at temples from the 6th century BC. These were impressive until we read that a lot of it had been staged in the 1800’s for our viewing pleasure. Sean complained that it was like disneyland and we left soon after, headed for Catania.
Stepping off the bus in Catania, we followed the GPS on Sean’s phone, it was around nine pm. We noticed a leggy, stilettoed woman stepping into a man’s car on the road and I turned to ask “was that what I think it was?” Sean had barely answered with an unwavering “yes” when we passed two more prostitutes on the corner, followed by four more on the next.

Surprisingly we navigated to the C.C.ly Hostel “The cheap and chic lounge for the young” easily and were greeted by what seemed to be a college dorm party. It was loud, people were drinking, playing video games, and hanging out. We had just booked a room on the bus ride earlier that day so our room wasn’t ready yet but no worries, they sold beer there. We sat down and relaxed with a beer taking in our surroundings. The place was awesome, there was a large group of 60+ year old Czech people with what we later learned was a few gallons of wine in random recycled plastic containers they filled at the shop down the street. They were the loudest of the bunch and asked Sean to take multiple photos of them. A beer or two later our room was ready- so exhausted we retreated.

Catania was beautiful, still lots of poo piles, but a great central piazza with an egyptian obelisk topped with a smiling elephant to ward off the advances of Mt Etna, Europe’s largest volcano.
What really made Catania memorable though was the night Sean and I went out to a nice trattoria together. Il Paglio. It was simple, delicious fresh food from the region that perfectly left you wanting more . On the walk home it was raining and the cars were splashing me so I thought we should take a short cut up a nice little side street to our hostel. First of all, we did not get splashed by cars. We did stumble upon the street you go to to find specific prostitutes. I realized this when I saw a tall muscular “woman” from behind yelling in Italian with the gruff voice of a man. Another person bulging from their lingerie leaned from a door and watched us as we held hands and tried to keep eyes forward. Afterwards, Sean told me that he wouldn’t follow me down random back streets anymore. To which I reasoned: sure that was weird, but neither of us will ever forget our trip down tranny alley.

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