On Island Time: My Take on Sicily
By: Kate Sefton
Being in Taormina felt like being in a new country.
The Italian way of life that I have become accustomed to over the past few months was completely different than the way of life in Sicily.
The culture in Sicily was very different from that in Florence. Coming from America, I thought that the Florentine way of life was drastically slowed down from my typical pace (both physically, in terms of walking, speed of service, etc) as well as metaphorically. The lifestyle in Sicily, however, made Florence seem upbeat, lively and fast-paced. Being in Sicily really felt like I was living the island way of life. I grew up in Chicago, which was very fast-moving, and so for vacations, my family and I would always go to Islands. For a week, we would lie on the beach and relax. Being in Sicily reminded me of those times. The people were also much more patient.
Even the way they dressed was more relaxed. In Florence, you can see a wide range of fashion from leggings to couture. In Sicily, however, it was more common for people to be in jeans and a t-shirt, than anything high end.
For some strange reason, 60 degrees in Sicily felt like 75 degrees in Florence. I’m not sure what exactly it was about it that made me feel that way, but it was so nice. The atmosphere overall was so beautiful. The only similar place I’ve seen is Hawaii. Everything seemed very well kept in Taormina, showing me that the people who live there seem to really care about their surroundings. In Florence, however, it is very common to find people who leave dog poop on the ground, or just toss their trash and cigarette butts on the ground. They seem to not respect their surroundings quite as much. It was nice to be around people who took care of their space.
Socially, everything was very different from Taormina to Florence. One of my absolute favorite parts about living in Florence is that anywhere I go, at anytime, the streets are filled with people talking, laughing, singing and simply enjoying one another’s company, everyday of the week. In Taormina, however, everything seemed to shut down around 9:30pm. After our homestay dinner, the son of the family walked us home, we were asking him about nightlife and he told us that there really was not a whole lot to do in Taormina. He was planning on leaving for college and going to Messina to play basketball because life in Taormina is too slow.
I noticed an interesting juxtaposition between Taormina and Catania. In Taormina, the siesta time is taken so seriously and businesses actually do close down for a couple of hours in the middle of the day. In Catania, this is true as well, but our tour guide told us that many businesses in Catania have stay open because they can no longer afford to close. Catania also seemed a little bit run down and dirty, which signifies to me that they are not in the best economic shape. However, I know that the mafia is rampant in Catania, so that definitely has an impact on their economy.
Italy is the only country in Europe that I had been to prior to coming abroad. I had only gone to Rome in the summer, so I thought that all of Italy was super touristy and busy. At the beginning of our trip, Florence was no more busy than any city in America and it was so strikingly beautiful. Now it is much busier, still beautiful, but is more fitting of my prior thoughts about Italy. Sicily, however, was totally different. We were the only obvious tourists that I could see, and the beauty was like nothing I’ve seen in Europe.
Kate Sefton is a student studying in Florence, Italy for the semester. She originally hails from Chicago, Illinois and is attending the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where she is a Junior in the Carlson School of Management. You can usually find her anywhere the sun is shining with a book in her hand, or on Instagram (@katesefton).