Category Archives: 5-100

Get out the door: Where to Run in Sicily

Running in Sicily is a lot like running in the U.S., except when it’s not. First, you have to decide where to run: by the sea? up the mountain? in the river valley?

By the sea:

Very few established paths, and none that link up to create a run of a distance over 6 miles, unless you drive down to the beaches south of Catania. For me, I either have to run down the mountain to the sea (which means running back UP the mountain on the return), or drive up or down the coast to reach the sea.

Up the Mountain:

Great options, as long as I am willing to work for the views…I can go for miles and miles and never get bored with Mt. Etna on the west always beckoning me higher and the Ionian Sea on the east flirting and winking at me until I return home.

In the river valley:

This essentially means running on base or near base to me. Both options are great – on base, there is a loop that can be modified to make a 5-mile, 6-mile, or 7-mile loop. Running along the highway by base is pretty much an out-and-back situation, at least of the routes I know now. On the weekend mornings, there are always packs of bicycles whizzing by and giving friendly encouragement; umbrella girls dot the highway; and Italian drivers whiz by as well.

I find running on the roads here to be slightly more nerve-wracking than in the states, but only by a fraction, and part of that might be due to my perception of safety.

Drivers in the U.S. go out of their way to show you that they see you:

US Drivers_Running

Drivers on Sicily are typically very aware of their surroundings, including just how close they can get to any other object without striking it (the narrow roads, and closely parked cars offer lots of opportunities to learn this lesson), so they don’t bother getting so far away from you:

Sicilian Drivers_Running1

Sincerely, I am more comfortable with a Sicilian driver passing me so close that I could reach out and touch the vehicle. For all the pazzo (crazy) in the driving over here, Sicilian drivers act predictably and they are much more aware of their surroundings and aware of the size and capability of their vehicle than the average U.S. driver. But, it took some getting used to!

As I adjusted to the Sicilian drivers, I became more comfortable on the roads, by the sea, up the mountain and in the river valley. And, as Jenny Barringer Simpson says, “If you just give yourself a chance and get out the door, your mind and body will surprise you most of the time.”

Happy running!

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Sigonella Directory

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…
…on Sicily
…in Italy
…in Europe
…in Europe and Asia
…in Asia
– Acronyms
– 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

Geep!

– 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


Base Living

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.

Housing:
Inspection
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.

Getting Around

Driving

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

Ferries

Flying
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…
…on Sicily

Acireale Carnevale

Aeolian Islands: Milazzo to Lipari, Canneto beach (views of Panarea and Stromboli), best cannolo ever, Vulcano,

Agrigento
Valley of the Temples
Turkish Steps
Bagliesi Winery

Caleca Ceramics Factory, Caleca Ceramiche – near Patti, Sicily

Caltagirone

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

Ortigia

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!

Siracusa

Snowshoeing on Mt. Etna

…in Italy

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

Milan, meandering

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,

…in Europe

Amsterdam, and eat bandeja paisa

Barcelona, mmmm eat at Escriba

Brugge, Belgium

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

Istanbul, Turkey
cay, ayran, kunefe, Topkapi, menemen, nar suyu, commentary

…in Asia

Taiwan
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

Acronyms

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)

Italian Words:

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)

colazione: breakfast

Family words

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

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Power of Attorney

Great.

Dave just gave Maki power of attorney.

This guy:
IMG_4040

I’m very nervous.

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Pontiff Post Hat Trick: Pink Smoke

To wrap up the Cinquecento Project coverage of tonight’s events in Piazza San Pietro, I had to let you know that a group also released pink smoke in protest of women’s continued exclusion from the priesthood.

ii-pink-smoke-vatican
Source.

Check out the story here.

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Papa Francesco: First Latin American Pope in the History of the Church!

Pope Francis!

The Cardinal formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio is now Pope Francis. As I typed, Wikipedia literally updated his entry from Jorge Mario Bergoglio to Pope Francis.

Popes choose their names to represent the leadership they will bring. Pope Francesco is hopefully going to follow the tenets of San Francesco d’Assisi. I don’t know all of them, but his history is one of an open mind, a strong appreciation for all of the creatures of this world – human and non-human, and disregard for the trappings of wealth.

In other news, hearing “Hail Mary” or “Ave Maria” in Italian is the most beautiful version of the prayer I’ve heard in my short lifetime. “Ave Maria…piene di grazia…”

I tried to get a photo from tonight’s events, but haven’t seen anything pop up online yet. For now, here is a photo of the cheerful man who just greeted St. Peter’s Square as the new pope. Papa Francesco!

papa francesco
Source.

Benvenuto Papa Francesco!

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Wiggle wiggle pinky toe!

Wiggle wiggle pinky toe!.

This Freshly Pressed blogger has an inspiration sure to melt even the coldest, most cynical hearts. Check out his blog post about the power of wiggling his pinky toe.

I’m considering a new mantra. “I am worthy” was a recent mantra and it was great. But just like saying “chiming” over and over again eventually makes me think I am saying gobbledeegook, using the same mantra loses its power after a time. “Wiggle wiggle pinky toe!” might be just the ticket to get my off the couch and moving toward my goals in 2013.

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The Holidays have Landed

Although I am open to listening to Christmas music all year long, I find that I willfully hold off in September and October so that it seems more festive when I start listening to it in November.

Yesterday, both to and from work, I listened to a mixed CD that my sister Jenni made for me last winter, filled with Christmas songs or songs that mention snow or winter, or both. It was fantastic. The timing aligned with the onset of the cold season here in Sicily. Yes, I just went to the beach on Monday, November 5th. And, no, we have not yet turned the heat on in our house. Cut me some slack, weather is relative, and for Sicily, it is getting cold!

After I cracked the door with the winter music, I reminded myself of the early mailing deadline for my post office (December 3rd!), and the Christmas gifts I still exchange with my family. A mix of siblings, cousins, and parents that is boring and complicated to explain, but pretty darn fun to shop for. Of course, the most enjoyable shopping is for the darling nieces and nephew!

With these thoughts in mind, I was enticed to purchase a holiday planning guide from the financially savvy women at Daily Worth. This is the same website that prompted my musings on debt. The Peace of Mind Holiday Guide can be purchased as a PDF ($9.99) or an ebook ($4.99) by clicking on this link.

Because I am still one of those crazy readers who hasn’t purchased and e-reader, I opted for the PDF. I am confident I will get an e-reader someday, and maybe someday soon, but I am historically a late-bloomer when it comes to technology. I was still on cassettes when everyone else had switched to CDs; the last of my college friends to switch to a cell phone; didn’t join Facebook until 2008; late to the smartphone party…and still waiting to dive into the e-reader pool.

The PDF version is a 41-page document that focuses on enjoying the giving that you do during this season. It offers tips and tactics to avoid the stress and overspending that are hallmarks of the U.S. tradition of holiday overindulgence. Just like we tend to eat one too many Christmas cookie, many of us buy one too many gifts…and to what end?

My goal in purchasing the planner is twofold: (1) to investigate Daily Worth and (2) to investigate my holiday spending habits.

Why investigate Daily Worth? I have been receiving Daily Worth emails for approximately a year and I appreciate the nudge they give me to refocus on finances. I understand and appreciate the complexity of investment tools available, as well as the necessity to be engaged with my financial reality in order to execute a successful financial future. Yet, I am dismayed and disgusted by the blatant greed represented by the parts of the financial industry that focus on more, more, more. I feel like Daily Worth helps me find an entry point in the discussion that I haven’t been able to identify in any other place, online, with financial professionals, or among friends.

Yet, Daily Worth also makes me wrinkle my nose as it assumes my consumerism level is much higher than it is; it offended me with its post-election edition; and it has just a tad too many advertiser posts mixed into its regular email content. Thus, I frequently consider discontinuing my membership and am constantly investigating Daily Worth content for reasons to stay with it or to quit it.

Investigating my holiday spending habits is a more understandable and probably a shared interest among many of us. Not only do I appreciate having a game plan going into the season, but perhaps I will accomplish the tasks associated with spreading season’s greetings far and wide in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling liked I missed opportunities to connect. Too many years, December 19th rolls around and I realize there is no way I will reach out in the way I had hoped to do. Although I soothe that burn with the recognition that I do actively reach out to my friends and family all year long (and recognize other milestones with them), there is a special joy that comes with participating in a cultural celebration. For better or worse, my annual cultural celebration is centered on the Christmas traditions of gift-giving, sparkling decor, sharing warm sentiments, and snuggling up with loved ones against the cold, and sometimes snowy weather.

As I make my way through Daily Worth’s planning guide, I would be delighted to hear from anyone who has advice to give. How do you manage the demands of the holiday season? What traditions are your favorites? What traditions did you ditch long ago? Share your experiences in the comments!

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