9 Travel Questions I Wish I’d Been Asked: Sicilia

By staff writer Estrella Azul. Photos Copyright © Estrella Azul.

RIGHT AFTER SHE published it in September 2011, I read Gretchen Rubin’s blog post, 9 Questions To Ask About Someone’s Big, Life-Changing Trip. It made me think long and hard about my traveling thus far, and how I never really got asked all the important questions from the people around me.

Have you ever had that happen after a trip?

I have decided to answer these questions now. Starting with my trip to Sicilia, Italia in November 2010.

And . . . what better place to share than here on Milliver’s Travels?

Travel Questions About My Trip to Sicilia, Italia

1. What was the best moment of the entire trip?

The best moment of the entire trip was that half a day I spent on the rocky beach of Siracusa. The company was nice but, most importantly to me, I got to let go. I let go of worries and relaxed. I let go of conflicting feelings. I watched the waves crash into and break on the rocks. I stared into the distance, the sun reflecting from the clear blue water, while emptying my mind of everything that was pulling me into a hundred different pieces at the time.

I pulled my pen and notepad out, quickly scribbling down a few thoughts for a poem. This poem, Breaking.

(I wrote down thoughts for a couple more poems on a different beach, too.)

A rocky beach in Siracusa

While sitting on the rocky beach of Siracusa

2. What are two interesting things about Sicilia that the average person doesn’t know?

As I said in my travel article about Taormina, in one of the piazzas where we stopped to admire the view I noticed some padlocks fastened on the railings. My friend told me they’re called “love padlocks.”

I hadn’t heard of the love padlock tradition before seeing these, but I found out it’s a custom in various places all over the world. Wikipedia said so. (By now, the first love padlocks have appeared in my Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca as well!) I love the way they symbolize eternal love.

Love padlocks in Sicilia

Love padlocks looking down on Messina

Another interesting thing is the Bannera dâ Sicilia, the Sicilian flag. The flag is notable for the presence of the triskelion: the head of Medusa framed by three wheat ear and three bent legs. This current design only became the official public flag in January of 2000.

3. Tell me about one person you met.

I met many wonderful people, all of whom were so kind and sweet to me. I honestly couldn’t talk about just one, and will not bore you with the rundown.

So my answer to this question will be a bit of a stretch. Ever since my friends and I visited the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo, the memory still stands out to all of us; one that left us tongue-tied for the rest of that day. The face of Rosalia Lombardo is etched into my memory forever.

After returning home, I dreamed about the catacombs. I felt compelled to write about her. It turned into a piece of flash fiction: Sleeping beauty of Palermo. I can’t even begin to comprehend the sorrow her family must have felt.

I wish to go back to visit Rosalia Lombardo’s resting place, on or near what would be her 100th birthday on 6 December, 2018 (or her 100th year of being in the Catacombs, in 2020).

4. Now that you’ve been there yourself, when you think of Sicilia, what’s the first image that comes into your mind?

Referring to my previous answer, I took a lot of pictures on that trip, but not a single one in the Capuchin Catacombs. It somehow didn’t feel right to do so.

Despite that, the first image that comes into my mind when thinking of Sicilia is the face of Rosalia Lombardo.

View of Palermo from Monreale

View of Palermo from Monreale

5. What was the hardest or most frustrating part of the trip?

The most frustrating part of my trip to Sicilia was having to purchase another plane ticket on the spot from Rome to Catania, because my original ticket was accidentally booked for a flight from the day before. I wasn’t happy about having to check my bag on the flight home from Rome to Cluj-Napoca either. Having flown with it as a carry-on up until then, on three different flights in under ten days, it never crossed my mind it would be a problem. I’m not too fond of airline “tricks” to get more money out of me.

The hardest part, however, was leaving Sicilia. I recall getting teary-eyed several times while waiting for our departure from Catania to Rome; then back from Rome to Cluj-Napoca.

Airports are sad places just as much as they are full of fears, opportunities and adventures to be had.

View from my plane window

Can you tell I loved traveling by plane? Skyscapes are my new favorite!

6. Did anything go wrong that seems funny now?

Something did go wrong. I wasn’t off the plane for a total of two hours before a guy walked up to my friend and I at the grocery store and started talking to me, asking me how long I was staying and whether I’d like to meet him later. He wasn’t exactly taking “No” for an answer before my friend noticed and sent him on his way.

Then, as we were walking around in Monreale, a man started following me. He followed me for a pretty vast distance. (I have a whole photo sequence where I can point out “This is where he started following me. And this is where he stopped to sit down.”) It was really scary. When my friend and I reached our group of friends, the guy sat on a bench behind us. He sat there nearly until we left (about an hour later). In crowded places, I made sure to stand or sit next to the guys as much as possible after that!

Not to generalize, but I’ll just say that some Italian men can be quite creepy. . . .

It’s funnier by now though.

On the beach with friends

Sitting on one of Palermo’s beaches with my friends

7. What little, ordinary thing did you miss from your usual routine?

I really missed reading. It was the first and last time I will travel without a book!

8. What did you learn about yourself?

I learned several things about myself on this trip.

I learned that by smiling, other people will open up to you. I learned that talking to strangers is uplifting. I learned that I can survive on my own.

And I learned that I do know how to make myself happy. Leap and the net will appear (as my friend, j, says).

9. Now that you’ve been to Sicilia, what are two other places you’d like to go?

In keeping with the Italian theme of the article, two other places I’d like to visit are Roma and Venezia.

Roma, because I’ve only seen the inside of the airport there when my friend and I were waiting for our plane(s). I would love to actually see the city!

And Venezia, because it is simply fascinating to me how a city can be located on a group of nearly 120 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges.


Estrella in the Greek Amphitheatre ruins,
Taormina, Sicily

Estrella Azul is a young emerging writer, passionate about reading, floral art and photography, with an artistic personality and a soulful outlook on life. She is a Hungarian girl living and writing from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, the capital of historical region Transylvania. Estrella is our European correspondent, and she dreams of embarking on a round-the-world trip. To read more of her creative writing, her thoughts and daily happenings, visit Life’s a stage – WebBlog©.

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  1. Pingback: Nine travel questions | Life's a stage – WebBlog

  2. I’d never heard of love padlocks — thank you Estrella [and wikipedia]for the info.

    Always love your photos and your public descriptions of your travels. Makes me smile to read of your adventures edited for public consumption. One of these days you’re going to have to tell them about you dancing on tables….


    • Thank you, Karen! I love writing about my travels and they are interesting to edit for public consumption.

      PS: honey, I thought we weren’t going to bring up my dancing on tables… (definitely not for public consumption) *winks*

  3. A wonderful article Estrella! A great idea for the series too!

    I have been to Rome, and it is all the pictures show and more. Too bad it was only a couple of days. Would have liked to see more.

    Your photos of your visit to Sicily are beautiful…I especially like “View of Palermo from Monreale”. It brings back many memories when my husband and I were living in San Vito De Normandi. He was stationed there in the air force.
    I agree with you on the Italian men…I was 8 months pregnant, and had a man follow me, while I was walking home from a pizza place there. Luckily I ran into friends and caught a ride with them.
    I am looking forward to the next article.

    • Thanks, Betsy, so glad you liked the article, photos and my idea for this series. And that it generated memories of when you and your husband were living in Italy. (I know I’d also love to spend more time there, like living there for a few months.)
      As you could tell, it’s a bit more personal than the rest of my articles, but figured it was perfect to round up my feelings and talk about a few things which aren’t long enough to talk about in a whole separate article.

      I love your travel articles, so if you say so, I’m sure I’ll also love Rome when I get the chance to visit. This year however it seems like small road trips and maybe one longer trip will have to suffice.

      Sorry to hear about that man who followed you. Seems like they were the same that many years ago, too. Glad you ran into friends!

  4. Hi, Azul.
    Oh, boy. I just wrote out this long response and it has disappeared so I will try to recreate the gist.

    When I got back from my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Turkey and Greece, nobody asked me anything about my trip so I can relate to your dilemma. It was as if I didn’t go, and I was there when the Turkish fighter was gunned down. You’d think that somebody would have something to ask me, but no. And I did not have access to Facebook either country so it was not as if I had overupdated anybody or anything. I guess nobody was interested in such an amazing trip.

    I love the story of the padlocks and will try to start the tradition here in Carlsbad. Hopefully I won’t get put in jail for defacing property or some silly thing.

    My daughter was relentlessly followed in Istanbul, Turkey, by a man. Because it was still early into our trip, I was definitely a little scared due to the man’s brazenness. He would not give up even when he saw my daughter in a group with 13 other travelers. He stayed with us, staying just behind or nearby us, until our chartered boat on the Bosphorus Canal. Can you say creepy? I felt powerless to get him to stop. I understand completely your response to your own relentless pursuer.

    Thank you for sharing all the answers to the questions about your trip. I may need to meet you in Venezia — it sounds wonderful!

    • Oh, Cathie, you’re so sweet, I’ve never been called Azul before (but it means “blue”, my favorite color, so I’ll take it) 🙂

      As you can see from my article, I know what you must feel about people not asking anything about your trip.
      BUT I can’t wait to read all about it in your future travel articles on your trips to Greece and Turkey!

      And oh my, that guy would’ve freaked me out as well (like my own stalked did), but especially since he didn’t let go even when seeing your daughter among a group of 13 people!

      And you know what? I’d love to meet you in Venezia! (Maybe that could be among the suggestions for the huge MT staff meetup?) 😉

      • I am so sorry, Estrella! In my defense, I had written a really, REALLY long reply and then it somehow got lost in space, This doesn’t happen to me often so I was left with the option of trying to recreate the message in record time or skip it and move on. I even see some typos (gasp!) in my message, so I apologize profusely for writing your wrong name. I am so embarrassed.

        Next time, I will be more careful. Oy, too funny.

        Yes, Venezia for a staff meeting would be ideal. I wonder if that’s a tax write off as a business expense? LOL.

        • Ha! You’re too cute, no worries about my name (it’s a pen name anyway, so I love both – plus, Azul is an actual name in Spanish, so it’s all good)
          I didn’t notice the typos; but will look for them now that you’ve mentioned it *winks*

          Hmm, someone asked that before about the trip being a business expense. I don’t think so, but it will surely be so much more rewarding than that! 🙂
          We’ll have to wait for the staff newsletter and then get to planning – oh gosh, I can’t wait!

  5. Beautiful.
    I remember the love locks from another thing you talked about I think, gorgeous.

    • Thank you, Becky!
      Yes, I mentioned the love padlocks in my article on Taormina, and have a few photos up on Facebook both from my trip and of love padlocks appearing in my city as well this spring 🙂

  6. Estrella, I really loved this article. I’m going to make sure I ask all these questions on my next trip. I also love flying, I once worked as a flight attendant for Continental. Reading all these wonderful articles have me so hungry to travel to these places. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us. 🙂

    • You worked as a flight attendant? I think I’d like that, myself.
      I’d love to read your answers after asking these questions on your next trip. And I know what you mean, I always click Milliver’s Travels shut with one more place added to my must visit list 😉

  7. Alphonse says:

    Great insight. I’m leaving June 13. Can’t wait thanks for your blog was really nice read

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