The journey from Salerno to Catania was a long one. Although it was just one train, we had a brief stint on a ferry too, so I stocked up with drinks and snacks before boarding because the 7-hour journey would be hell if I was hungry! The first part of the journey passed smoothly. I was sat with a couple of old Italian ladies who chatted away to me even though we both knew I had no idea what they were talking about. There was a brief time where my internal panic levels went through the roof as the elderly lady opposite me rested her bare foot on my chair. Yes, a bare foot. Thankfully it wasn’t much more than 20 or so minutes, but as someone who has a real thing about feet, it wasn’t overly appreciated.
As the train pulled up to the port, everything was shut down on the train – power turned off, toilets locked, and a/c turned off. Before long the train was being boarded on to the ferry, which blew my train-geek mind, and we enjoyed the crossing over to Sicily above deck with the hot wind blowing in our faces. It’s a quick crossing at just 30-35 minutes, and not wanting the train to leave without me I made my way back to the train as soon as we pulled in to the port in Sicily. Unfortunately it was an absolute sweat box as there’s no airflow in the hold of the ferry and there was no power on the train, so no a/c. Toasty. It was the longest 10 minutes ever waiting to get off the ferry, and after pulling in to the terminal station in Sicily we had another 20-minute wait with no a/c before moving on. I have never been so happy to have air conditioning as when the train was turned fully back on!
Although we’d been on time so far, the train was inevitably delayed as they so often are in Italy, arriving at Catania an hour late. I made my way to my B&B quickly as I knew they were waiting for me, and enjoyed a quiet evening. Coming from Salerno with the pleasant heat and welcome sea breeze, the heat in Catania was very…present. There was no breeze, and the 30c temperatures at night were difficult for me to enjoy. I made a quick trip to the supermarket to make sure I had enough water and after a cold shower, had an early night so I could make the most of tomorrow.
The plan – get up early, explore until it gets too warm, have a time out somewhere cool over the hottest part of the day then carry on exploring.
The reality – slept in because the heat had wiped me out, wore the breeziest clothes I had and as soon as I stepped outside the heat hit me hard. I was going to struggle today, but must power on as it’s the only day I had in Catania. One minor thing I’d forgotten was that it was Sunday, and it seems Catania isn’t a big enough city to warrant everything being open on a Sunday as with the rest of the week. No problem, as first stop of the day was to the old Roman Amphitheatre. The remains are below street level and although I couldn’t go inside, it was still interesting to see.
Then it was on to continue the hunt for bikini bottoms to match the top I’d bought ages ago in Barcelona. With no luck on the main shopping street of Catania, I cut my losses and wandered up to La Villa Bellini, a small park in the city centre. After a quick walk around, seeing a mini photoshoot of some kids dancing and taking some photos of a guy who wanted to chat just a bit too much, I made my excuses and wandered back to the hustle and bustle of the main shopping street.
Always on the lookout for anything that interests me – aka churches – I spotted a grand-looking church down a side street and made my way down to investigate. The further I ventured from the main street, the less touristy the street became and the more dirty and…dodgy. Nearing the church, it became apparent that a christening was just leaving the service and I decided to head back and not intrude. Passing shops with dusty windows you can’t see through, and others selling raw meat on tables outside the store, it didn’t feel like the kind of neighbourhood I wanted to explore.
Stopping for a coffee and water on the main street to keep me going in the heat, I made a plan for the afternoon. After a quick bite to eat in my room, partly to save money and partly to cool down in the a/c, it was time to visit the Roman Theatre. There were just a handful of other people in the site at the same time as me, and it felt very eery to be wandering the corridors alone.
I explored the different areas of the theatre, and climbed up to take a seat in the stand. The audio guide was actually really informative and interesting, giving enough detail to be able to imagine the theatre back in its heyday. Before long the heat was tiring me out again so it was on to the cathedral before I was too tired to explore. Not sure if it was due to the heat or the fact it was a Sunday, but the streets were fairly deserted, and I passed just a handful of people as I wandered down to the cathedral, where I found that it was closed. On a Sunday?!
Not wanting to linger in the heat for too long, I decided a walk along the harbour would be nice and hopefully have something resembling a breeze to help with the ever present heat. After walking for a while, I soon realised that I was far from any kind of harbour that would bring the dreamy breeze while surrounded by pretty boats. In fact, I was just walking alongside a chain fence with trees on the other side…I didn’t even know I was next to the sea!
Again deciding it was too hot for this, I slowly made my way back to the city centre, trying to find some shade to walk in on the way. Stopping for a bit in the deserted Bellini Square, I wondered how different the city would feel with people milling about and some kind of atmosphere. Instead, it was just me and a handful of people in the surrounding cafes, before I called it quits and made my way to the main street for the best ice cream ever. Was it because it was the best ever, or because it was the most welcome thing in the heat? Doesn’t matter!
Taking a quick break in my room to cool down with the a/c again, I did a bit of washing – backpacker life – before heading out again in the cooler air to grab a bite for dinner. It was much livelier once the sun had gone down, with lots of people checking out the markets and heading for food, but the day had truly wiped me out so it was back to the room for a quick catch up with my mum then an early night ready to move on to Palermo tomorrow!
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