This is what you want an immersion homestay to be: a comfortable room, good food and a family that you can understand and is willing to talk to you. And of course to be staying in a beautiful town perched in the hills overlooking the Mediterranean doesn’t hurt.
I arrived yesterday dead tired after travelling 20 hours, including layovers in New York and Rome and an hour and half bus ride from the Catania airport to Taormina.
My hostess Angela greeted me warmly and showed me my lovely room with high ceilings, real furniture and plenty of space for my small suitcase of belongings. A real looking room, not one of the studentish spaces you often end up with.
She then took me upstairs to the living area where I met her husband Aurelio and asked me if I had eaten. I was hungry and she gave me a wonderful snack of eggplant Parmesan and a ciabatta roll. Perfect.
My Itallian was dreadful, everything out of my mouth was at least half Spanish. Even the simplest of phrases. Instead of va bene I would say está bien and so forth. One of the first questions Aurelio asked me was about the cost of health care in the United States. Are you kidding me? I can barely say hello. Thankfully Angela recognized just how tired I was and released me from the interrogation.
I slept for a good couple of hours and went out to explore my temporary home. The apartment is just off the main drag, just far enough from the action to be quiet.
By then the sun was getting low and everyone was out in the streets and bars. It is everything you would imagine of a picturesque small seaside town, quaint crumbly architecture, narrow winding streets, elegant old churches and lots of tourist shops filled with tourists.
Taormina is also the place to get married and in my short stroll through town I passed three weddings, everyone elegantly dressed, music in the streets and people getting their picture taken with a horse drawn cart. A lot to absorb for a first evening.
Dinner was at 8:00 back at the house. Aurelio did most of the cooking and cleaning. We had pasta alla Norma with eggplant and Ricotta Salata (a hard ricotta cheese) which is one of the dishes that I had made before I left. No, there is no comparison to the real thing. Super yummy, most likely with lots of olive oil.
I also met one of my house mates, a woman about my age, Helena, from Prague. Her Italian is about the same level as mine, she can say things but with a fair amount of hesitation. Angela is very patient with us and we had a great conversation, mostly about Angela’s travels in Japan- where her daughter had been studying Japanese- and other places. She has traveled quite a lot as she used to work for a travel agency. I was thrilled that I could follow the conversation and interject appropriate comments and questions. A great beginning.
For links to all the posts in this series see the Taormina, Sicily page.