Scicli, A Small Town in Sicily

Written By: Arlene Ridolfi Valentine - Jul• 11•16

I remember thinking as we got off the bus in Scicli (pronounced shee-klee)……this is going to be an easy town to love.  We are here for the month of July with the specific intention to slow down, reflect upon where we are in our life right now and craft together an idea of how we’d like to live in the retirement (or semi-retirement) phase that we are now facing.

Scicli, via Mormino Penna

Scicli, via Mormino Penna

Having this as our first view of the town helped cement our decision to find a place in Sicily that offered small town life, had good bus connections to other parts of the island and was near, but not on, the sea.    We hadn’t counted on being bowled over by the beauty of the place and the absolutely compelling warmth and openness of the people who live here.

Our Scicli Neighborhood

Our Scicli Neighborhood

This is our street……a two-way street by the way…..with any corner turn requiring a full three-point maneuver.  Not that there’s a lot of traffic, mind you, but when there is I’m not the only one sticking her head out the door to keep an eye on things.  It’s fun.  And it’s also amazing how one’s focus can shift from worrying about money or jobs or kids or just about anything at all to simply enjoying the pleasure of the small things that stack up to form an ordinary day……

Veggie Heaven

Veggie Heaven

like what to have for lunch, for example.   The food here is going to get lots of attention in this blog….for sure I’m going to run out of fancy-food-description-phrases.  This salad, for instance, our first taste of Scicli served under an umbrella in that beautiful main piazza pictured above, was so simple, so satisfying….each ingredient is local, full of flavor, carries its own weight in the mix…..we’re swooning and we’ve only been here for a couple of hours.

Nightfall at Home, Scicli

Nightfall at Home, Scicli

By the time evening rolled around, we had taken a walk around the center of town, gathered a few grocery staples, unpacked and very, very happily turned in for the night.



Night Train to Sicily

Written By: Arlene Ridolfi Valentine - Jul• 10•16

We had heard some pretty scary stories about taking night trains in Italy.  But a night train from Naples to Sicily……not just a night train but a night/boat train……was just too tempting an adventure to resist.  Once we knew we could book a private cabin for two, we never gave it a second thought.

Night Train Cabin

Night Train Cabin to Sicily

And so it was that we found ourselves at midnight in the Naples Stazione Centrale, along with about fifty other diverse travelers, hovering around a track that was empty except for a giant chugger of an engine.  Right on time, a few large, boxy train cars were pushed into place and locked onto the engine. Suddenly, the place had the aura of an Orient Express departure……there were porters, train men, and each car had its own manager…..a trenitalia official who checked each passenger’s ticket against a photo ID, showed us to our cabin and gave some basic information about breakfast, etc., and then continued on the journey with us as our own private hall boy!

Sleeping Cabin Sink Set Up

Sleeping Cabin Sink Setup

The cabin is very compact in a cozy sort of way.  The little built-in sink/mirror/washing station opens out when needed and contains toiletry sets of toothbrush, paste, comb, towel and soap.  When closed, it’s just part of the art-deco shaped wooden wall.

Sleeping Cabin Berth

Sleeping Cabin Berth, Night Train to Sicily

The berths, one lower and one above, are comfortable beds with firm mattresses and good pillows.  We slept so soundly we never noticed the transfer of the train from land rails to the ferry boat rails for the short sail across the Straits of Messina.  We woke up as we reached the shores of Sicily…….and when we  looked out into the hallway

Sleeping Car Morning Paper

Sleeping Car Morning Paper, Night Train to Sicily

we found a morning sicilian newspaper left on the window rail outside our door.  The porter soon arrived with a simple breakfast of coffee and rolls………and we joined many of the other passengers who were standing at their doorways

Morning Arrives on the Night Train to Sicily

Morning on the Night Train to Sicily

enjoying breakfast, reading the news, or in the case of Russ……..just watching the magnificent Mount Etna sending up her smoke signals as we sped by.

Night Train to Catania Passing Mt. Etna

Night Train to Catania Passing Mt. Etna

A few minutes later,  we reached the end of the line…..Catania……where we found the bus that would bring us to our destination…..Scicli.

We like night trains……seems like an old-fashioned, slow-travel kind of way to get from one place to another.  We have been on others in the USA and in England…..and the good news is that Italy holds its own in terms of comfort and reliability.  Surprise, surprise!

Retirement? Or On The Road Again……….

Written By: Arlene Ridolfi Valentine - Jul• 07•16

About us

June 30, 2016

We are about to leave our Florentine home of 13 years behind us as we set off for a new adventure.
First, a month in Sicily. Not touring. Just staying put in one place….a small town, not a beach town (which in July is a very crowded place to be)….but a beautiful town. Baroque is the word that first comes to mind when people speak of Scicli.
We have not been there before but we have found an apartment for the month of July so that we can try to transition from life in an italian city to a more quiet and traditional way of italian life before we sample USA life again.   It is, for sure, a bittersweet moment for us.
After having retirement loom ahead of us for a number of years, it was finally time. For sure, it was the right time to retire, although the future plan is not so sure.  We’ll have to make it up as we go along….something we have done many times before.

Retiring from teaching at the International School of Florence was a sweet/sad experience for Russ….as the photos of the year-end faculty party show,

ISF Faculty Party 2016

ISF Faculty Party, Florence Italy, 2016

the school community is like one big family. As you can easily imagine,

Russ Retiring

Russ Retiring from ISF

all of these yearly parties feature really good food and wine, lots of laughter, and some inevitable shows of emotion when final goodbyes are said.

I suppose it was actually helpful to have an enormous task ahead of us…….we had to focus on the future, i.e., moving out of a place where we have lived for 13 years……because we channeled all that emotion into positive memories as we packed up and got things ready for shipment.

Packing Up

Packing Up

We arrived here with 5 suitcases, an easel and a cat carrier which housed our beloved Niomi, the little red abyssinian/somali who settled into italian life far sooner than we did.  We used to joke that in the beginning she was the only thing that kept us aware of the giant move we had just made.  We are leaving with 19 boxes and 6 suitcases……..a bit more baggage for sure but all of it made much, much

Packing Station with View

Packing Station with View

lighter by the beautiful and meaningful  life experiences we have had here.  Even the packing up was made a bit sweeter by leaving the door to the garden wide open.

One Last Chore

One Last Chore

And on that note, the beauty of living in a city like Florence… vibrant, alive with history and art and beauty……..while still being able to get outside alone with one’s thoughts while cutting the grass, Russ finished his last chore and we set out for the train station……..

Next stop Sicily.

Florence…..Ready, Set, Go

Written By: Arlene Ridolfi Valentine - Jun• 09•16

That’s how I felt as I struggled to find my camera in time to catch this series of shots that illustrate the intricacies of gardening, Florence-style.



These little Ape (ahh-pee) trucks are everywhere in Italy and for good reason.  They provide transport on narrow city streets and they are very economical to run.  This is a four-wheel model, but the three-wheeler is even more common.  Ape is the Italian word for “bee” and it’s an appropriate name because that’s what these mini-trucks sound like.  I couldn’t quite decipher what I was looking at as the little vehicle buzzed along in my direction at a very impressive speed,



but by the time it got this close, I could see that someone was getting a delivery of a few very healthy potted trees.



The mystery of a city like Florence is that on many streets that look just like this one, there are wonderful gardens behind the buildings.  It’s always a surprise to enter an apartment from a busy street, only to walk through to a leafy green oasis that separates two city blocks. I watched as the gardeners turned into one such arrangement…..a place I know.

Just another citizen getting ready for summer!