AUGUSTA, Italy — On Sunday, I took a plane from Milan to Catania, so I could spend a week in Sicily. AFS Intercultra has what they call a scambio dentro scambio exchange within the exchange.
This is because in Italy, the Northern regions like Lombardy, where I normally live, are very different from the Southern regions like Sicily, where Im currently visiting.
Sicily ( Sicilia) and Lombardy ( Lombardia) are certainly quite different in many ways. Geographically, for instance.
In Brescia, Im right where the Alps begin. Our city is cut off by mountains to the north, but to the south, theres flatter land with fields and factories.
Sicily is an island, and all of the cities Ive visited so far have been right by the sea. The mountains here are actually volcanoes.
The largest is Etna, which dominates the landscape. They say it has erupted a bit four times this year, once just a couple of weeks ago, and they showed me pictures where the orange lava was actually visible.
The land itself is more rough and rocky, but also very green. Theres also a different accent and dialect. In regular Italian lets go/we go is andiamo. In Dialetto Siciliana its ammoninni, while in Dialetto Bresciano it is dom.
Ive also noticed much more tourism here in Sicily. I can go days and days hearing only Italian in Lombardia (with the exception of Milan), but in the four days Ive been here so far, Ive overheard loads of English, French, Spanish and German.
Some parts of Sicily seem like a totally different world from Lombardy, with packs of stray dogs wandering around and litter strewn everywhere. Other areas, the parts closer to the city centers, feel and seem the same.
The family hosting me here in Sicilia is made up of a dad called Baldo, a mom named Cristina and a 16-year-old son named Alessandro. They live in a town called Augusta and theyre all three very nice and making me feel right at home.
We eat great food. Much more fish, which makes sense because theres much more access to fresh seafood here. I eat a lot in Lombardy, but I eat even more here. We have several courses with each meal, each of which would totally function as a sufficient meal on its own.
We have some type of pasta first. Ive had penne with tomatoes and tuna, as well as a pasta with a sauce made of octopus ink. Then the seconda piatta (second plate) is usually some type of meat. Next they bring out a bunch of fruit, mostly citrus fruits, which are grown all over the place here.
I always think fruit is dessert, and then I remember what comes next: a platter of specialty Sicilian delicacies. My favorites are ones made with ricotta and, of course, the cannoli.
By the end of each meal I always feel so stuffed, I think Ill never eat another bite again, but the next meal that comes around is always just too delicious to resist.
My four days here so far have been interesting. The day I arrived, Saturday, my host family and I went with two other hosting families and their students (Anne from Honduras and Alma from Iceland) to see Siracusa.
It was beautiful. There were lots of ornate balconies and doorways (Baroque, I think), and the view of the sea was amazing. On Sunday, I went with the same group to Catania, which is a bigger city than Siracusa or Augusta.
We saw all the main sights, like a long row of busts of famous people from the area, some Roman ruins, churches and piazzas. I got to try some gelato the Sicilian way con panna or with cream. It is regular gelato like back in Lombardy, but topped with thick whipped cream.
That same morning I also saw Brucoli, a small fishing village within the Comune of Augusta. It was very pretty. Everything here is very pretty, in a worn but enchanting sort of way.
On Monday, I went to Taormina with all the other students on their scambios dentro scambio in the area. Taormina is gorgeous. It is up on a mountain and also right by the sea.
The buildings are brightly colored and the shops all have bright window displays. There are lots of stands selling postcards and gelatos. We visited a park with a villa and the remains of a huge Greek theatre.
This morning we toured an Italian navy ship and got to know the city of Augusta. Im having a great time, and its nice to spend this time with some other exchange students that I hadnt met before. We were all at the arrival camp in Rome, of course, but with 300 kids from around the world, it is hard to remember everyone.
This year Ive only really been around the others hosted in Lombardia, so it was nice to meet some from all over Italy and see how their impressions of the country varied.
I am enjoying my time in Sicily very much and will continue to until next Sunday, when my week comes to a close and I head back to Brescia!
Chandler West is a Rock Hill High School student who is spending her senior year in Italy. She writes about her adventures abroad each week in The Herald.