When Emanuele wrote on his Facebook wall about our plan to move to Sicily he received an avalanche of comments from his (Italian) friends. Almost everyone said things like: “you guys are crazy to come to Sicily” or “you won’t last long there.”
Well, I can understand where they come from. There are many good reasons why many Sicilians (especially the younger generations) leave this island and move elsewhere (mostly abroad). Here are a just a few to start with:
1. In Sicily it can be hard to find a job if you don’t have the right connections (i.e. family and friends, or friends of friends, etc.). Even if you finally find a job you will likely be treated as a slave and if you complain to your boss, chances are he or she will tell you “if you don’t like it, there are hundreds of people ready to take this job.”
2. Italy scores high on corruption rates and let’s say it honestly: Sicilian Mafia is still a reality. Corruption damages the economy of the country and hinders the development of capable people. Of course the majority of Sicilians are honest people and they hate corruption and criminality. However, even those who are honest tend to exchange their rights for favors (it’s a kind of cultural thing), ending up in all sorts of compromises and indirectly supporting unfair and sometimes unlawful mechanisms.
3. The economic crisis is starting to hit Italy hard and Berlusconi’s right-wing government instead of pursuing high-income tax-evaders and cutting the politicians’ salaries and benefits, is taking austerity measures which will mainly affect the middle and the lower classes.
4. There is a lot of negativity, so even if you are an optimistic spirit full of ideas, it’s easy to get crushed by the pessimism that comes from everyone.
5. Bureaucracy can drive you nuts. To sort out my medical card in order to get access to the national health care system, it took me a week, lots of paperwork, stamps and signatures and a visit to 3 different offices.
6. If you are an environmentally-minded person you’ll cringe seeing pieces of rubbish lying here and there on the road sides outside the town, you’ll feel frustrated seeing people making unnecessary use of plastic (i.e. plates, cups and cutlery), and finally you’ll be perplexed to find about the high taxes you have to pay to support a nonexistent waste management system.
The list could go on as this land is full of problems and contradictions, and by now you too are probably saying: “you guys are crazy to come to Sicily”. So why Sicily? Why Siracusa?
1. Siracusa is for me a special place – I fell in love with this city over 4 years ago when I set my foot on it for the first time. In Siracusa you breathe and feel history at every corner, just like you could in Rome (just so you know, the two cities were founded more or less at the same time). The island of Ortygia, historical and cultural centre of Siracusa, is an extremely atmospheric place made of narrow lanes, picturesque courtyards, baroque buildings and breathtaking views on the Siracusa harbor bay.
2. There’s sun almost all year round (which we desperately needed after long years in the rain of Ireland) and even in winter it never gets too cold down here.
3. Siracusa’s sea is simply amazing. Some beaches around here have crystal-clear waters that remind me of Fiji, but unlike Fiji, the food here is delicious… hmm, no, let me correct this: the food is sublime!
4. Siracusa is a good place to live as an aspiring digital nomad. I know our friends are concerned with how we are going to survive here considering it’s so difficult to find a job, as I said above. The fact is we’re not looking to work locally, but to consider global, virtual jobs and work on a couple of personal projects that may become a source of income in the near future.
5. Being close to our family felt like the right thing to do at this stage of our lives (especially considering there’s a baby on the way). Sure, we will never be able to be close to both families as we are from different countries, but we are happy to be close to at least one.
6. We love the simple pleasures that we can enjoy here – walking to the street market under the warm morning sun, eating fresh fish and vegetables, taking a swim in beautiful blue waters, meeting nice and friendly characters, go for a walk at sunset close to the sea or among the narrow streets of Ortygia…
Well, I guess our round the world trip and our on-the-way-baby changed our priorities. We know Sicily is not perfect and many things frustrate us, but the good things easily outweigh the bad ones. And then again, is there such thing as perfection in any country in the world? Sometimes, having a so called “great job” (meaning earning good money or having a high position), living in a country where everything seems to work perfectly, doesn’t necessarily mean having a great life or being happy. Somehow, this became obvious to us while we traveled in Asia – if you ever get a chance, watch a documentary called Happy, as I believe it clearly illustrates this concept .
We decided to be happy too and work hard to create the lifestyle we dreamed of while travelling. We knew that we would not find this happiness in the life we left behind. However, despite my enthusiasm, some people still look at me as if I’m crazy, and I must admit that every now and again, even if for a split second, I wonder whether I’m doing the right thing or not. But then I become aware of how this negativity affects me and I see things clearly again: I know this is the way to go!
What about you? Do you ever wonder if you are doing the right thing? Have you ever been in a situation where people advised you against doing what you wanted to do so badly? Were there ever any situations in your life when your choices didn’t make sense to people around you? How did you react? Please leave a comment below if you fancy sharing your experiences with us!