Chapter 36: Venice & Sicily

A city made of islands and a city on an island.

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Wednesday, May 25th

Today we had a 9:30 train to Venice. Luckily, unlike air travel where you need to arrive 2 hours early, you can get to the train station 10 minutes before departure and be just fine.

So that’s what we did. Yet another reason that trains are, and always will be, infinitely better than planes. Four hours later we were in Venice. We got a boat taxi to our hotel (we were staying in an island off of the main Venetian islands) and checked in. This place was super nice, and Grady and I had a separate room from Mama Ruth.

We grabbed a late lunch at the hotel, then took the shuttle into town. We walked around the main areas like San Marco’s Square for a while, before Mama Ruth suggested that we ride a gondola. Gondolas are the biggest tourist traps in Venice, but whatever. A bit overpriced imo, our “captain” didn’t seem all that interested.

Once we disembarked we walked back to the shuttle dock area to head back to the hotel. We grabbed dinner at the hotel as well before calling it a night.

Thursday, May 26th

Grady and I got up at 10, met Mama Ruth in the dining room for breakfast, and then the two of us headed back to Venice. I had to get (another) Covid test for tomorrow’s flight. After knocking that out, I took him all over the main island. We covered several miles and deleted a few gelatos, then we caught a water taxi to Murano, one of the side islands.

Murano is cool, it’s basically split down the middle by one main canal, and the buildings are super colorful. We ate pizza at like 4:00 here, then caught a water taxi all the way back around to our hotel after 5. I hit the gym then headed to the lobby to work on some stuff for a bit, while Grady and Mama Ruth hung out.

I went to bed at like 10 because we were waking up at 5:30 for our boat to the airport, but I was up earlier than that to finish updating some newsletters. This time change isn’t great for scheduling your work.

Friday, May 27th

Early flight to Palermo, Sicily in the AM. We took a water taxi directly from out hotel to the airport. I didn’t realize they have a dock at the Venice airport, considering that it’s on the mainland. Makes sense though.

The flight was pretty short, 1:25 or so, and we were in Palermo. The flight approach was beautiful. The northern coastline of Sicily is covered with mountains and hills, with small beach towns and villages dotted every few miles.

We were about to grab a taxi to the hotel, when I realized it would probably be easier to just rent a car. Sicily is pretty small and the public transportation isn’t great, so a rental was the move. We grabbed a mid-sized manual Fiat and headed to town.

It was a ~30 minute drive to the hotel: 20 minutes on the coastal highway and 10 minutes through town. Driving through Italian cities is chaotic, to say the least. Minimal lines on roads, and no one pays attention to them anyway. It’s a total free-for-all. Made it in one piece though.

After we checked in, we explored the city on foot. We grabbed lunch at a way-too-fancy restaurant before visiting the city’s largest cathedral. Grady and I bought tickets to go on the roof. Immaculate views.

We ended up walking through one of the… rougher parts of town on the way back to the main street, and Mama Ruth just called a taxi to get us back to the hotel. We were pretty tired after walking around most of the day + getting up early, so we took a nap then grabbed pizza at a nearby restaurant. Sicilian pizza is, in my opinion, phenomenal. Highly recommend.

That was about it for Friday. Huge night in the city.

Saturday, May 28th

Another day, another Covid test. We are flying to Spain tomorrow, and the Spanish government’s travel site was a bit vague on whether or not you need a Covid test to enter. If you have an EU vax pass, or EU equivalent, you’re good. Is a US vax pass considered an EU equivalent? No idea.

I found a pharmacy that offered some nose swabs, so we got up at 9 and headed straight there. After three negative tests, we swung back by the hotel for breakfast. I had to spend the next hour working through a boarding pass issue with Ryanair, as Grady’s ticket was listed as “adult” and I couldn’t check him in. After finally getting all of that stuff sorted, we set out for the day.

We didn’t really want to just walk around Palermo again, plus it was going to rain on and off for most of the day. Luckily, we had a rental car. I googled “best stuff within driving distance of Palermo,” and found a solid list. We ended up driving an hour to see the archeological park of Segesta.

A side note: it was like Grand Theft Auto driving through Palermo both on the way out and back in. Grady and Mama Ruth were not fans.

Segesta has a 2500 year old temple that was built by the Elymians. The Elymians were one of the first peoples to settle Sicily, and they hated the Greeks. They were constantly at war with the nearby Greek colony of Selinunte. Ironically, they commissioned a Greek architect to build this temple (hence the Greek-like design.) Why? No one knows.

However, the coolest part of Segesta isn’t the temple. It’s the amphitheater on top of a mountain. The view from the theater is awesome; you can see hills and valleys for miles. The craziest part? They still host live concerts there today.

Grady and I hiked 1-2 kilometers to the top of the hill/mountain to the theater, while Mama Ruth took a shuttle bus to the top. We took a lot of pictures up there and stuff, then started walking back down. About ½-way down, we got dumped on by a thunderstorm.

When the rain let up a bit, Grady and I went to check out the temple too.

If you’ve never been to Europe, 90% of all tourist exhibits are churches or temples. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.

We finished up around 3:45, and decided to look for somewhere else to check out. I found a small beach town called Cefalú, about an hour on the otherside of Palermo.

In hindsight, we should have just stayed here the whole weekend. Highly recommend checking out Cefalú. Even in cloudy weather, the beaches and town were beautiful. Mama Ruth got her hair dried at a salon there (naturally) while Grady and I got gelato and explored the town for a bit.

Here’s a couple of pics.

We headed back to Palermo around 6:30. They grabbed dinner in the hotel, and I headed to a nearby outdoor gym to workout. Except when I got there, it was closed. Pretty messed up to close calisthenic gyms, imo. So I just walked around the dock/pier area for a good hour or so to check out the coast.

Palermo is a really pretty city. I feel like people sleep on Sicily, but in my opinion you would have more fun renting a car and driving around the island than you would visiting the hot spots like Rome and Venice. My $0.02.

Quick turn around in the AM, headed to Barcelona. Catch you guys later.

Catch you guys later.

- Jack

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