62 hours in Catania, Italy!!

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Blake Nicholas
November 3, 2023
Image of Local Market

During one of the most wonderful times of the study abroad semester, the highly anticipated "fall break," students in the IES Abroad Vienna program are allowed to take a week off to relax and recuperate after a long week of midterms. I decided to take this time to visit three locations in Italy and Spain: Catania, Barcelona, and Seville. Reflecting on the fact that my fall break is coming to an end, I thought it would be fun to share the moments from my first few days in the gorgeous region in Southern Italy, none other than the timeless city of Catania.

I arrived in Lamenzia Terme on only three hours of sleep, because I had a 6:00 AM flight out of Vienna. My friends and I may have been a group of a few sleep-deprived twenty-year olds, but something about our layover on our way to Sicily gave us the travel invigoration to appreciate an incredibly charming. town close to our train station. As we strolled through the humidity of this rainy, rustic town and perused the buildings, it felt refreshing to be in such a tropical climate (no shade to the cold and dryness in Vienna, but you know hahahaha). It was nice when we stumbled upon a local bakery where the owners only spoke Italian. We had to rely on hand gestures to communicate that we wanted some of their delicious pizza, but eventually they understood what we were trying to say. One of my friends commented that something about the similarities in facial expressions and body language across different cultures felt rather comforting and unifying. I concurred.

When we finally arrived in Sicily, the first thing on our agenda was to get some late night dinner. This is where I got the famous Pasta al Norma, which is by far one of the best meals I have had so far on my fall break. We went straight to bed after this though because we had to get up bright and early the next day for a walking tour.

(By the way, as someone who has been traveling internationally since my early childhood, I think walking tours are absolutely the way to go when traveling. It gives people an opportunity to become familiar with their surrounds and learn about the history and contemporary culture of the environment that they are traveling to for a couple days).

One of the most fascinating parts of the tour was when the tour guide also directed us through the Basilica Cathedrale Sant’Agatha. Here, we learned about how the Catanian delicacy of ricotta cheese comes from the symbolism associated with the purity of Saint Agatha. Also, since I am currently taking a class called Austrian Art and Architecture in Vienna, and it was to demonstrate applied knowledge when I could identify the gothic pointed arches within the Basilica. We also could see Mount Etna in the distance, from the Basilica, and this is when our tour guide informed that much of Catania is built on the volcanic rocks that flowed from Mount Etna in the 17th century. Finally, we headed over to the local market that was covered by some of the most beautiful, prismatic umbrellas I have ever seen. This is where we saw plenty of fish, seeds, and fruits being sold at the stands and where my friend and I decided to stop for some delicious pomegranate juice.

After our tour, my friends and I took a bus down to the beach to soak up some of those wonderful Sicilian sun-rays. Since we were so far south, the water was surprisingly warm. I noticed that the sand was most definitely smoother than it is in San Diego and it was great to just lie down on my towel and relax. Since I am being relatively transparent about the study abroad experience, I did have to cut my precious time at the beach a bit short to work on a project that I have to work on for the duration of the entire semester for class. However I made it back in time for some dinner and a great night out on the town.

The next day I decided to take some more time to catch up on work, but it was really nice to go to the Chiesa Badia di Sant'Agata in the evening to watch the sunset and the city lights glow as the sun faded into the coastal darkness. Finally, we went to a park known as the Villa Bellini at night. The architecture of the gazebo was ornate and it adorable to watch couples hug under its lights. This is when one of my friends commented that she loves seeing people in love. She remarked that even though she and I did not know the couple we were looking at, it was really special to watch someone's love come into our lives even for just a few minutes. I think so too.

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Blake Nicholas

I was born and raised in San Diego, CA, and go to Occidental College located in Los Angeles. I am a philosophy major and an interdisciplinary writing minor. In most my free time, I like to dance. My favorite styles of dance are ballet and lyrical :)

2023 Fall
Home University:
Occidental College
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