If you know me, you know I have an uncanny ability to get lost. In a house, a store, my hometown. It’s embarrassing. All my friends know not to ask me for directions or follow me to a new place.
Calatafimi, really Sicily in general, presents another level of difficulty in learning my way around. First and foremost, my boyfriend, who was born and raised here, does most of the driving, and I tend to daydream or people-watch instead of paying attention to the roads. Secondly, there are no rules to driving here. I still cannot grasp who has the right of way, where one is allowed to park, or which streets are too narrow to traverse. Stopping in the middle of a busy street in the center of town seems to be completely acceptable. Really, you can stop, park, or turn around just about anywhere, as long as it’s convenient for you. And a left turn here is an act of faith, or maybe a declaration of force. This summer I endeavored to drive to the neighboring town, Castellamare del Golfo, alone with a friend who had come to visit, and if she hadn’t encouraged me to make that left turn, I’d probably still be sitting at the intersection! Thirdly, the roads and buildings in this medieval town were simply not built for motorized traffic. Calatafimi is full of tight curves, steep inclines, and 2-way streets that are barely wide enough for one car. You may have to back up the length of the street to allow a car to pass. Considering all this, everyone still drives incredibly fast. It’s a nightmare for a novice or timid driver like myself.
When I went to college, one of the ways I learned the streets and layout of the town was on foot while training for my first marathon. It was a low-pressure way to get my bearings. Now I’ve begun to do likewise here. My first and most frequently traveled path into town is the 1 kilometer walk to my boyfriend’s parents’ house. I’ve also endeavored to drive into town a time or two, though always relatively stressed. Yesterday, though, was a new feat for me. I not only managed to make it on foot to the castle, town hall, and the main plaza, but I was also able to recognize a friend’s house on the way, and I stopped for a coffee.
This may seem like no special accomplishment for some, but I am quite pleased.