We docked on Sicily early in the morning. We had just taken a ship from Malta to Sicily and we were lucky to make it across the Mediterranean Sea before the storm truly hit.. The rain began when we landed and didn’t stop for two weeks. As the rain began to pour down we ran from the ship dock to find cover in a café and ask for directions to the bus. We were headed to the mountain villages of Modica and Ragusa where our plan was to rent a dirt bike and tour the countryside by moto for a few days. Arriving in Modica, it became obvious that our plans were going to have to change. The rain was coming down in sheets and the streets were flooded. Water poured off the mountainside and filled the narrow streets of the steep town with calf-deep rivers of water. The typically gorgeous, warm mountain town was shuttered up against the storm. Rain continued to pour the next few days. The buses and trains stopped running due to landslides and our only option to leave the small deserted town was by taxi. After swallowing the exorbitant cost of a taxi we headed off to Syracuse in hopes of better weather.
With our plans for seeing the countryside foiled and five months pregnant at the time, we didn’t have many options other than to settle into city life for a few days. The weather in Syracuse wasn’t much better, but with cities across Italy experiencing major flooding and landslides ending up in numerous fatalities, we were just happy to escape the topographically dangerous mountain region of Sicily as the storm wore on. Making the best of the unfortunate situation, we spent a few days touring around the beautiful city of Syracuse before moving on to Catania.
Catania was gritty and dingy in the most alluring way that some Italian cities can attain. After a few days wandering through the graffiti-covered streets and a wild goose chase for street horse meat that sent us to the far reaches of the city, we began to understand Catania’s mafia-riddled past. The dilapidated buildings and lack of green spaces and parks speaks to the mafia-controlled urban planning efforts undertaken by criminals. Catania is a complicated city with deep-rooted social problems but it is also a glimpse into a Sicily that is actively pushing back against the mafia control that has been present since before WWI.
Graffiti is a common adornment to the dilapidated mafia-owned buildings in Catania.