The following post was written by a dear family-friend who came with her husband and son to visit me a couple of months ago.
Visiting Hillary in Belpasso:
It’s always a challenge to see a person head off on an adventure, whether it’s your child or one you’ve come to love. You pray for them, Skype with them, read their emails, read their blog and while you may know the facts about their new life, it’s hard to picture it.
That’s why I traveled to see each of my children at their colleges–so I could fix in my mind where they were and what their life was like. Hillary lived with our family in 2014 as she prepared to return to Sicily.
We enjoyed having her in our household and spent lots of hours talking, dreaming and praying about her life to come on the flanks of Mt. Etna.
As my mother was born on the other side of the volcano from Belpasso and I’ve visited her hometown twice, I had a sense of Sicily. Still, when the opportunity arose to actually visit Hillary in Belpasso, my husband, adult son and I jumped at the chance.
We were there for five days in March 2015. We didn’t spend all that time in Belpasso; with a rented car we traveled around the island seeing impressive sites.
We stayed at B&B Primaclasse, not far from Hillary’s new apartment, and walked the streets, met Hillary’s friends, sipped drinks in her favorite coffee bar and took pictures.
I’m sharing some of them here, along with my impressions of Belpasso.
First, Belpasso is a narrow town spread along the ridge of a hillside, on the Southwestern slopes of Europe’s most active volcano, Mt. Etna. The town is only about 12 blocks wide, but several miles long.
From our balcony we could look out over the town towards the Sicilian east coast.
We walked several blocks into the center of town each morning to eat our breakfast at a coffee shop a block north of Hillary’s apartment. Pastry and coffee were the order of the day, though I often got a blood orange juice to drink as well!
We traveled to Agrigento on the western side of Sicily to admire the Greek temples one day, toured around Catania another. We traveled to Syracuse to visit a Papyrus museum and see the Greek amphitheater and we headed to Taormina to see the same.
Hillary made a fine tour guide and we were relieved at how good her Italian sounded to our ears.
We dined in all the Belpasso restaurants and spent one morning walking the streets.
Hillary’s apartment is at a four-way stop in the middle of town. Very centrally located, it was a mere two blocks from her favorite coffee bar–where we purchased Easter candy for our family–and the post office, not to mention a small grocery store.
When you lean over her balcony, you can see the town’s municipal building, two blocks north.
When you look south, you can see the main road leading all the way down the hill and eventually, after many twists and turns, to the autostrada that takes you anywhere you want to go.
Belpasso is directly west of Catania, the largest city on the coast, but without any straight roads leading there, it takes a winding 30-40 minutes to get there.
We couldn’t have managed without our GPS on the telephone!
The good news for this non-mama, is Hillary appears to have good friends in Belpasso.
First, of course, are Stephanie and Fabio, an American woman married to a Sicilian man, with whom she lived for the first six months.
It was a joy to dine at their home the first night and meet another American family she has befriended in the town. The Alexs have two teenage daughters and I enjoyed hearing from them about schooling in Sicily.
It’s all so different from home.
In addition to the Americans, though, Hillary has made other friends: the Signorello family who own a nearby coffee bar, Giovanni, who owns a bookstore, a host of beautiful Sicilian women who greeted Hillary with hugs and inquiries as we walked through the streets.
It warmed my heart to see people looking out for her.
Not to mention one of the four-legged angels who escorted her home–as described in this “ripe banana” story.
Belpasso is a different type of town than where I live. The people are warm and friendly. Palm trees brush the sky. The narrow streets make driving an adventure. Churches smile down at visitors.
I knew I was far from home, but having walked the town with Hillary, Belpasso feels more familiar.
God is good, isn’t he?
For more pictures of Belpasso, see Michelle’s Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/michelleule/a-walk-in-belpasso-sicily/