The Cinquecento Project wants to pay it forward to incoming military and civilians to Naval Air Station Sigonella. I started the blog in part because of the dearth of information available as I attempted to plan for my transition to Sicily and the lifestyle of an OCONUS military spouse. Ha! I didn’t even know what OCONUS meant until I was over here for a few months. Check out the acronyms section below if you aren’t in that loop yet.
To help anyone who just wants to get information about Sigonella without wading through my more personalized posts, I culled my posts for the following information. Of course, since there is no typical military spouse, even my Sigonella-specific posts are somewhat personalized. I attempted to organize it into useful categories. If you have a question I haven’t answered, post a question in the comments and I will spend the second half of my time in Sigonella to fill in the gaps, as I can. I always have an eye to OPSEC, so I may not be willing to post all of the information you are seeking.
No matter who you are or where you are coming from, you can find a place for yourself in Sigonella; all it takes is a positive attitude and a willingness to be open to new cultures and experiences. Lean into the discomfort for your first six months and lickety-split, you will be assimilated and loving la vita dolce in Sicily!
Cinquecento Project Posts:
- Basics about living in Sicily
- Basics about NASSIG Amenities
- Getting Around
- What to do/Where to go…
…in Europe and Asia
- Italian Words
Sister and Brother Sicily Blogs:
- Sicily Ciao
Basics about living in Sicily
- if you are a civilian or military spouse interested in working or furthering your career in Sigonella, check out In Gear Career Sigonella Chapter
- summers are hot, the sun is relentless
- the best oranges of your life (unless you are from a citrus hometown)
- be aware of Ferragosto: business grinds to a halt for the month of August; August is the month of vacation for all Italians and many from the north come to Sicily for the beaches
- Sicilians smoke and they don’t hide in corners the way smokers in the U.S. do
- horse meat is enjoyed, donkey meat is a delicacy
- Sicilians take International Women’s Day seriously!
- avoid McDonald’s
- Leroy Merlin
- Trucker’s strikes (“sciopero” is the Italian word for strike) can be empty threats, or they can be very real and cause long lines at gas stations (no truckers to deliver more gas), and traffic jams due to protests at the toll booth, and more consequences: Here are my posts about the most intense strike in order 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
- gelato; gelato; gelato; granite; gelato
- military spouses do it all with resiliency
- eat figs, mmmm
- Poste Italiane, pay your parking tickets here (you can pay for a parking ticket at any post office in Italy, it does not need to be in the same city where you received the ticket)
- you may be in temporary lodging for 56 days
- Eat a granite and brioche for breakfast and feel Sicilian
- Military Members and pets
- Fall in love with Mt. Etna, and eruptions, eruptions, more eruptions, Mt. Etna webcam, and another, Mt. Etna smoking, Mt. Etna ash
- bonfires and fireworks for festivals and any celebratory occasion
- Permesso di Soggiorno, or Sojourner’s Permit: go to legal, apply for it, then forget it (unless you are taking a trip that requires it)…just don’t stress out about it, if you know you *need* it, call back to the office; if not, just relax and use your no-fee passport and visa and chill out; if you must, carry the letter that you applied for your Sojourner’s permit with you when you travel
- shopping, Ikea, more shopping
- history is all around you(!!!): stories from the Odyssey
- things burning on the side of the road should not alarm you during dry season
- don’t be surprised if you consider decorating with wine barrels
Basics about NASSIG amenities
Yes, we have a Commissary, and a Navy Exchange, as well as Navy Federal Credit Union and a Community Bank (government contracted bank on base, operated by Bank of America, runs on 10-year contracts, renewed recently (~2013)), there is an autoport (although many car-guys trust Mario, who runs a garage across from Marinai), dry-cleaning is available on base, there is a laundromat, barber shop, flower shop, hospital, 2-screen movie theater, bowling alley, skateboard park, and more! Also, remember that Sicily is beautiful and you have to learn to overlook a bit of trash here and there (cuz littering is a thing here).
Tips for Adjusting
Postal System: with a few key tips in mind, you can have a lovely time in Sicily, receiving regular mail. Tips: Tip #1 – inform your creditors of your new address and always have an email back-up; you will NOT receive bills ahead of time, so do not rely on a paper document to remind you to pay your bills, PLAN AHEAD for this…schedule a regular payment, or pre-pay, or mark your calendar and call and ask how much the bill is when you know it has been issued…whatever it is, don’t rely on a paper bill showing up in the mail; Tip #2 – let your friends and family know that (a) a 1st-class stamp is all they need to get an envelope to you (under 1 ounce), (b) use Priority and the package will reach you in about 6-12 days, (c) if they use media rate or standard (fka Parcel Post) the package will take up to 3 months to reach Sigonella; Tip #3 pay attention to the shipping method when you purchase goods online, if the arrival is important to you, ALWAYS, always, always choose Priority! – the vendor cannot provide overnight service due to the distance (so it isn’t worth paying for it), and Priority will almost always get it here in two weeks or less; if the vendor uses FedEx or UPS, I recommend you (a) find an alternate vendor, (b) use a service like APObox, (c) negotiate with the vendor to use USPS for delivery, or (d) ship to a friend/family US address and have them use USPS for delivery. This is important because the companies who have contracts with UPS, DHL, FedEx or any other private carrier will revert to the slowest USPS method if they even offer service to the APO/FPO address, which means up to 3 months delivery time to Sigonella.
Gym: As of this writing, the gym on NAS I is much nicer, although both have their ups and downs. If you prefer the gym on NAS I, put your name immediately on the wait list for a locker, it may take 2-8 months for you to get a locker. The pool is at the NAS I gym, although there is a current project to restore the pool on NAS II. NAS II has sand volleyball courts. Both NAS I and NAS II have fields. NAS I has a track (behind the school). Both gyms have machines for cardio and weights; NAS I has classrooms for group exercises (yoga, pilates, zumba, etc). They also put together the Base 2 Base series, a group of runs that feels very much like home to any runners out there, I started with the POW/MIA run.
- your dryer might be outdoors
- you will sign five original leases (wait, which one is the original?)
- your bathtub and shower will be different sizes than you are used to
- Base Housing, the majority of base housing is in Marinai (scroll to third photo on link)
Indoc: When you arrive on island, I recommend sitting through the indoctrination class the base provides you. Many of you will opt out, feeling that your time could be better spent exploring on your own; however, I regularly use knowledge I gained in indoc and colleagues and friends often say “How did you know that?” and I answer, “From indoc.” At the very least, I encourage you to participate in the InterCultural Relations (ICR) portion, which provides you survival Italian resources, a chance to step into the community with a guide, and information about ordering food from Italian vendors (e.g. “I want a pound of sliced provolone” does not compute with Sicilian vendors, and believe me, you want to buy their provolone!).
Library: There is a great OCONUS library system, complete with interlibrary loan, an NKO loaning library (your sponsor will have to get you registered unless you have a CAC), a coffee shop, friendly and knowledgable librarians, about 20 desktop computers for community use, study tables and carrels, a decent dvd section, ample travel book and travel dvd collections and strong wi-fi.
- My philosophy on driving in Sicily
- Telepass – get it if you live north of the toll line, it’s worth it!!! Traffic jams can be killer…, but just like getting back on a horse you gotta get back on that freeway
The major airport for eastern Sicily is in Catania (CTA) and is named Fontanarossa, which means “red fountain.” Space A from Sigonella can get you to Norfolk, via Rota, Spain. Or, in the other direction, you can get to Souda Bay, which is on Crete (an island of Greece).
There are also some regional routes that offer affordable prices if you fly through the Trapani or Palermo airports.
What to Do/Where to Go…
Aeolian Islands: Milazzo to Lipari, Canneto beach (views of Panarea and Stromboli), best cannolo ever, Vulcano,
-Valley of the Temples
Caleca Ceramics Factory, Caleca Ceramiche – near Patti, Sicily
Catania Bellini Opera House
Catania Fish Market
La Caverna in Acireale
Cefalù: home of the annual international gelato festival, I went twice so far.
Gambino Winery – a winery run by a warm Sicilian family, with delicious wines, a great tasting room, and ample hospitality – enjoy!
Locanda COS near Ragusa
Ottobrata in Zafferana – this is a huge Sicilian festival, and it runs strong for each weekend in October, when the mountain town of Zafferana features a different Sicilian specialty each weekend. Go early and make sure you leave before dark to avoid 2-hour long lines leaving Zafferana
Shalai – this spa and fine-dining restaurant in Linguaglossa is amazing!
Snowshoeing on Mt. Etna
Amalfi Coast; we flew in and rented a car in Naples to visit Pompei and the Amalfi Coast, enjoying lovely sunsets, too
Lago di Garda, you don’t have to run the marathon, though
Roma – a favorite of mine, enjoyable as a couple, with parents, or even just an overnight on your way someplace else…
Tuscany, we had a great trip there with friends in 2011, good food,
Amsterdam, and eat bandeja paisa
Barcelona, mmmm eat at Escriba
Estonia, culture abounds, Tartu, scroll to the wall drawing
Geneva, Switzerland, we had a fabulous time in this expensive city; plenty to see and do and eat and shop (if that’s your thing), great opportunities for day trip to the mountains for a hike (though we did not fit that into this trip)
…in Europe and Asia
- cay, ayran, kunefe, Topkapi, menemen, nar suyu, commentary
-Taipei, guava and popcorn, Taiwanese junk food, European style bakeries, Mr. Cheeseburger Face Man, cute kids, Zelda and Taroko Gorge
-Lyudao, Lyudao (Green Island), Lyudao II, and more Lyudao
CAC: Computer Access Card
CONUS: Continental United States
NASSIG: Naval Air Station Sigonella
NKO: Navy Knowledge Online
OCONUS: Outside the Continental United States
Space A: Space Available (access to open spaces on military flights)
antipasto/antipasti: appetizers; traditional Italian antipasto plate usually has cured meats, cheese, olives, and maybe some local specialties such as sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.
AutoGrill: restaurant and bar on the autostrada, always has interesting tchotchkes, free bathrooms, fresh panino, and nutella
bar: a coffee shop; usually you order at the cashier, get a receipt and take the receipt to the coffee bar where the barrista will make your coffee drink
Caprese salad: tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil (for some reason, the majority of places that serve the Caprese around Sigonella do not always include basil)
Greetings: Buon giorno, salve, ciao, buona sera
mare: sea (signs saying “mare” indicate if you follow them, you will be led to the seaside)
panetteria: bread shop
riposo: rest; this is the Italian version of the Spanish “siesta” period; logistically, this is the time when shops close for the hottest part of the day, and gives Italians time to be with family before returning to work for another 4-5 hours; riposo period is very real in Sicily and you will notice changes in traffic and many shops will be closed; there are more malls and large stores that are staying open straight through riposo; just check the schedule of a store to avoid any frustration