Why Sicily? Am I doing the right thing?

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.

100 plastic cups cost you only €0.85 and save you a lot of 'washing up' time, isn't that great? It's pity that the city is not equipped with recycling facilities...
100 plastic cups cost you only €0.85 and save you a lot of 'washing up' time, isn't that great? It's pity that the city is not equipped with recycling facilities...
Rubbish on the ground in a piece of land a couple of minutes outside the old town in Siracusa.
Rubbish in a piece of land just a couple of minutes outside the old town in Siracusa.

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.

The upper part of the baroque facade of Siracusa's cathedral in piazza duomo, in the heart of Ortygia.
The upper part of the baroque facade of Siracusa's cathedral in piazza duomo, in the heart of Ortygia.
The interior of Siracusa's Chatedral. On the wall you can see the Doric columns of the pre-existing Greek temple on which the church was built.
The interior of Siracusa's Chatedral. On the wall you can see the Doric columns of the pre-existing Greek temple on which the church was built.
An old-style tailor workshop and his owner Mr. Caramma, who has been living all his life in Ortygia and worked in his photogenic workshop for the last 50 years.
An old-style tailor workshop and his owner Mr. Caramma, who has been living all his life in Ortygia and worked in his photogenic workshop for the last 50 years.

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.

A strong late afternoon sun breaks into one of the many narrow lanes of Ortygia.
A strong late afternoon sun breaks into one of the many narrow lanes of Ortygia.
Sun hitting the western side of via Minerva, the street leading to piazza duomo, where the cathedral is. A few restaurants, coffee shops and gelaterias have tables on this street.
Sun hitting the western side of via Minerva, the street leading to piazza duomo, where the cathedral is. A few restaurants, coffee shops and gelaterias have tables on this street.

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!

Guys fishing at lungomare Alfeo (Alfeo waterfront) one of the most popular landmarks in the city.
Guys fishing at lungomare Alfeo (Alfeo waterfront) one of the most popular landmarks in town.
Looking toward the southernmost tip of the old town.
Looking toward the southernmost tip of the old town.
Even though I'm trying to avoid eating too much of it during pregnancy, Tuna is still one of my favourite fishes - Tuna is a very popular ingredient in Sicilian cuisine and local Tunas are of excellent quality. We took this photo a few days ago at the street market in Ortygia, which is where we buy most of our food.
Even though I'm trying to avoid eating too much of it during pregnancy, Tuna is still one of my favourite fishes - Tuna is a very popular ingredient in Sicilian cuisine and local Tunas are of excellent quality. We took this photo a few days ago at the street market in Ortygia, which is where we buy most of our food.
Grilled aubergines, another typical Sicilian dish, and of course one of our favourite too :)
Grilled aubergines, another typical Sicilian dish, and of course one of our favourite too 🙂
Calamosche, in the oasi naturale di Vendicari (province of Siracusa), with its Polynesian style waters, was awarded the title of 'most beautiful beach in Italy' only a few years ago.
Calamosche, in the oasi naturale di Vendicari (province of Siracusa), with its Polynesian style waters, was awarded the title of 'most beautiful beach in Italy' only a few years ago.

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.

The beautiful waters of Arenella, another marine area near Siracusa.
The beautiful waters of Arenella, another marine area near Siracusa.

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.

Dining al fresco in a stunning historical context is a pleasure you can enjoy every month of the year down in Sicily.
Dining al fresco in a stunning historical context is a pleasure you can enjoy every month of the year down in Sicily.

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

sunset over the Siracusa harbor bay as seen from the western side of the island of Ortygia.
sunset over the Siracusa harbor bay as seen from the western side of the island of Ortygia.
A huge sun setting over the Plemmirio, a marine protected area a few kilometers south of Siracusa.
A huge sun setting over the Plemmirio, a marine protected area a few kilometers south of Siracusa.
The view from our balcony at the end of the day.
The view from our balcony at the end of the day.

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!

  • Paolo

    Maybe Quelo can help
    http://youtu.be/H0l8T9oGW_4

    • Emanuele

      Lol!

  • Well, we don’t know each others, but me and my portuguese girlfriend, we have the same program of you guys in the next 2 years… I know exactly what you are saying and i just think that everyplace could be your home if you just want it… and every place has different problems… than is just a question of priorities…
    I’ll keep following your stories and maybe we will meet one day for share experiences.

    good luck
    ciao

    francesco

    • Romana

      Ciao Francesco, thanks for leaving your comment and for following us. So, another Italian-Portuguese couple? I know from experience it’s a good mix 🙂
      I couldn’t agree more. Every place has it’s own problems, so you just need to understand and evaluate your priorities.
      We would love to meet one day and share experiences with you.

      In bocca al lupo for you too!

  • This is a lovely post, Romana. It sounds like you’ve considered all the pros and cons living in Sicily and I think those pros definitely outweigh the frustrating stuff. It doesn’t matter where you live, there will always be things that drive you crazy. After all, don’t they say that familiarity breeds contempt? 🙂

    • Romana

      Thanks Megan, I’m glad you liked it. I believe there’s no such a thing as a perfect place to live, some places might be perfect to meet some of your needs, other places to meet other. I guess you just need to weigh your priorities. For the moment we are happy to be here, but this does not mean we will stay here forever as our priorities might change 🙂

  • Cristina

    Thanks for sharing your experience Romana. Your post brought tears to my eyes as after 11 years in grey London I feel my soul has been almost completely squashed. My boyfriend and I are also thinking to move to Sicily at some point soon. We just had twins I cannot face to raise my children in this town. How’s life with babies/children in Siracusa? What about school?

    • Romana

      Hi Christina, thanks for stopping by. Your comment made me realise it’s time to bring this blog to live and start writting posts again 🙂 So thanks for that!
      We lived in Siracusa for a year, the past 4 months we have been in Portugal and now we are back here again for the summer and probalby staying for 6 months or so. We have managed to achieve our dream of becoming digital nomads and both of us work remotely for an Irish company for over a year now.
      We love life in Siracusa with our son, because we can be outdoors most of the year and he can play in the beach from April to October. Then there’s the family, our friends, the food and many other things that makes us want to come back and spend as much time as possible here (especially in the summer).
      About school, probably Siracusa is not the best option, but it all depends on what you are looking for. The schools here are like any other normal schools in Italy, but we are a bit picky. We still have a few years before our son goes to school so we are studying several different options and at that stage, probably Sicily will be our home just for summer holidays. I hope this has helped you somehow. Feel free to email us if you have any other questions. Best of luck!