05/09/2012, Marina di Ragusa
Sicily is wonderful! Bon and I are running every second day and as you know that gets the juices flowing. I get so much more done on run days. Yesterday while running down the shore road we came upon an old man with only one leg sitting in a wheelchair on the side of the road watching the sea. I said Buongiorno and he launched right into, what we took to mean, its a beautiful day as he spread his arms at the view. Then he pointed to his missing leg and seemed to be saying we were lucky to be able to get out and about. Bon said "we only speak a little Italian", and he smiled and said "but you understand it really well!". All of this in Italian of course and with a smile on his grizzled old face. We both said arrivederci ran on.
It's spring, temps are in the 70's in the day and down to 60 at night, no rain, only sun, the flowers are out in droves, farmers are cutting the first hay and wheat, the hillsides are green instead of brown and the tourists are not here yet, except us and a few others. The locals flock here from Ragusa on the weekends and fill the villas. It's their beach. The food is outstanding and cheap, the cold beer is delish, decent wine can be had for 1.50 to 3 euros per bottle, the coffee, oh the coffee......., groceries are cheap, the women are beautiful, the men are cool, the passagiata is a joy to take part in and watch, the Italians have a great sense of style in so many things from architecture to housewares, to clothing. It's a wonderful experience to just walk around with your eyes soaking up all this style...... as you can tell there is lots to like.
The marina is emptying out; many left at the end of April, as their contracts expired. We booked an extra month and were unsure if it was wise or not. I now think this may have been one of the best ideas I have had. We have another 3 weeks to go. Katherine arrives next week.
We are working away on maintenance of the boat and have lots yet to do but its fun messing about on Aisling. The social life here is busy. We are meeting some interesting people and having some great Sicilian experiences.
At the moment, life is good!
May 7th...fingerprint day! We were particularly impressed with the preciseness of our appointments- 0925 for Rick, 0931 for me. So the whole process should take no more than six minutes each, right?
Tim from "M" pontoon, an American who has already successfully navigated the Permesso di Soggiorno process, had scoffed at the idea that we actually had an appointment for a specific date and time. "Trust me, it's not a real appointment" he said. "I went to the Questura three times before they finally took my fingerprints." We sincerely hoped that he was wrong. In any case, the wisest course of action seemed to be to show up at the appointed time.
When we arrive at the Questura shortly before nine, a long line of would-be immigrants is already waiting outside the blue gate. Maybe they didn't have appointments? But the officer on the desk is unimpressed when we show him our notices. He shakes his head and (I think) says that we are too late, and that we will have to come back at 7 a.m. on Friday and sign up for a time. Oh oh. But since by now we know that things aren't always as they seem, we ask to speak to Doctor- Professor Carbone.
Dr. Carbone is as gracious as he was during our previous visit. He takes us to the forensics department, where we are told that we must first speak with the immigration department. Alas, back at the immigration department, it becomes clear that we will not be fingerprinted today. Dr. Carbone speaks with the Director and then gives us the bad news. "Your paperwork has probably arrived from Rome" he said "but it is in a very large pile that hasn't been sorted yet. Perhaps in a fortnight...." then reconsiders "....or at the end of the month, to be safe. Be sure to have four passport photos with you when you come back." We exchange worried looks and explain that our contract with the marina will end at the end of the month, but Dr. Carbone reassures us that everything will surely be sorted out by then. And even if it isn't, we shouldn't worry, because it isn't our fault. He is very apologetic about the sad state of the Italian bureaucracy and actually looks relieved when we explain that the immigration system in Canada is probably not much better than the Italian system and in fact may be worse.
Now we are off in pursuit of passport photos. We are told to go to an optical shop near the roundabout, then we are told that the shop will probably be closed, because it is Monday morning, but finally we find the shop and it is open after all. Rick's approach to communicating in Italian achieves even better results than usual. "Per favore, passport photos?" he asks, and the man behind the counter says "We speak English here, sir!" In fact, both the optician Giovanni and his father Pietro (also an optician) speak perfect English. My photos are ready in less than a minute, and when I comment that they are far more flattering than the one in my Canadian passport (which admittedly isn't saying much) Giovanni tells us that he and Pietro are also Canadians.
As Giovanni takes Rick's photos, Pietro tells me his story. He explains that he emigrated to Montreal with his parents as a young boy, but decided to return to Italy in 1980. "I had three optical shops in Montreal and I was making lots of money." he says. "And my parents were not happy with me when I left. But what good is money without the time to enjoy life? You don't get a second chance at living your life!" He explains that when he decided to move to Sicily, he had been advised to set up his business in either Ragusa or Syracusa province. Why? Because in these provinces, there was no Mafia. "It is very safe here" he said. "Twice I have forgotten to lock the shop when I left at night, and both times no one took a thing."
Meanwhile, Giovanni asks Rick how we came to be in Sicily and they discover that they share a mutual passion for the sea. In Giovanni's case, this revolves around fishing. He takes Rick to his computer to show him photos of the many large fish (mahi mahi, tuna and others ) he has caught in the waters off Marina di Ragusa, where his family owns one of the large waterfront villas. But he also tells Rick that the Italian economy is in big trouble, business is slow and he is thinking of moving back to Canada. I doubt his father will approve. "Buon vento!", he calls as we leave, and Rick replies "Fair winds!".
Before going back to the bus station, we drop in at the Hertz office to confirm our reservation for the day before Katherine's arrival in Catania. Then, with a little time to kill, we decide to have coffee in a small bar across the street. All the patrons seem to be men over the age of 70, drinking espresso or buying lottery tickets. Rick asks for "Due cappuccino" and an elderly gentleman corrects him "Cappuccini" he says. "Plurale". When Rick digs in his pocket to pay for the coffee, the elderly man smiles and shakes his head. "Drink your coffee before you pay", he says. "And if you don't like your coffee, don't pay". "Buon consiglio" he adds (good advice). The barista scowls, and points out that I have already proclaimed the coffee to be "molto buono". Not just buono, but molto buono. So of course we pay.
It has turned out to be a good morning after all. Suddenly, all worries about fingerprints have evaporated. As we walk to the bus station in the warm sunshine, I think how lovely it would be to spend a few months here every year. Even if the entire Permesso di Soggiorno scheme turns out to be a bust, we're allowed to stay in Italy for 90 days every six months. And maybe, just maybe, someone at the Questura will eventually find our paperwork!