May 5, 2010

Southern Hospitality

Last weekend I went to spend a long weekend on the eastern coast of Sicily, and was pleasantly surprised at how special this area of Italy was. I had been given many pointers by many people, both expats & Italians, that said that Sicily is like no other place in the world! Valerie and I were lucky enough to get a direct flight from Florence to Catania, and upon arriving under rainy skies, we were assisted with kindness from the Sicilian people. What a breath of fresh air!

I have mentioned before how living in Florence has made me aware that culturally the people are not customer service driven here . It is almost like a catch 22 . I think the Florentines are so jaded from dealing with arrogant tourists for so many decades, it has made them harsh. But on the flip side, you would think that if the Florentine people learned a little business concept called "Customer Service" that their businesses would actually thrive. I will spare my family & friends the dozens of stories I have regarding this topic, and will save it for another blog entry on cultural differences :)

As soon as we were leaving the airport in Catania, a nice gentleman came up to us and said "Do you need some help ladies, where are you going?". He very politely pointed us in the right direction to the bus to Taormina. Was this really happening? People being nice on their own accord??  This might not sound like a big deal, but having interaction with friendly people truly makes your experience of living in Italy much better. 

We took an hour long bus to the absolutely..positively...most beautiful place I have been in Italy - Taormina. A very small town that sits up above the Ionian Sea, with views of the Mt. Etna volcano. Even though it was raining for the majority of our stay here, this place is special. It has a good vibe, great shopping and friendly people. From beginning to end we were treated with exceptional customer service and interesting converstation. The Sicilians truly know how to open their hearts to be kind to foreigners, but rumour has it never to overstep with the Sicilians, or they will have your head! (see next blog story).

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