It’s the 8th century BCE. Colonists have arrived in Sicily from Corinth, a city-state between Athens and Sparta, to establish settlements. On this southeastern part of the island, across the Ionian sea from the motherland, rises the great capital city of Syracuse. Allied with Corinth and Sparta, Syracuse will one day help dominate Magna Graecia, growing as large as Athens in the 5th century BCE.
Yes, you read that right.
Taking the Italian rail across the Strait of Messina from Sicily to mainland Italy requires what could be one of the coolest experiences in transportation: riding a train that boards a ferry.
As the SAIS bus from Palermo to Catania drove through the narrow streets of the mountaintop Sicilian town, the bus driver began honking repeatedly to warn others that we were coming through. Elderly Sicilians stood on their balconies, their faces without expression as the bus passed. The driver honked again, a double-tap, yelling, Siamo qua! Buongiorno! (“We’re here! Good morning!”). Several of the passengers share a laugh.
A bright red panini truck sits at the end of a narrow street, blasting dance music at full volume. A car sits behind it and both make it hard to pass even though I am walking. Soon, a woman will drive down the alley from the other end, finding her way blocked by both the panini truck and the car behind. She’ll raise a single hand in protest at the driver of the car in front of her. He’ll shrug, his mouth full, a large sandwich in his hand. He is having lunch and can’t be bothered. It isn’t until a second car comes barreling down, halting to a stop with the driver bolting out and screaming that things actually start moving. The panini truck, still playing club music, will resign and jet off to another alley. The man behind it will shove the rest of the sandwich into his mouth and clear the path himself.