Cultivating a New Life on Island Time

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on June 8, 2016 in Travel Smarts

“Never regret thy fall,
O Icarus of the fearless flight
For the greatest tragedy of them all
Is never to feel the burning light.”
— Oscar Wilde

Joel Bowman, writing today from Syracuse, Italy

“Is this the only place you can get Chinese food in Syracuse?”

We put the question to the owner of a nearby take-out joint here in Sicily last night. Her modestly decorated, though well-located restaurant was practically empty.

“Only place on Ortygia Island,” the kindly Chinese woman replied, in English.

“But…no customers?”

“Ah, yes…end of month,” she explained. “Italianos pay expenses this time. Gas…water…lights…taxes. No money for go out…drink…eat…party. Even Chinese restaurant empty.”

Free Tip: Avoid the crowds…go when the Italianos’ bills are due.

Readers following our happy trails across the island of Sicily will recall our primary objective: to discover if a better, simpler life really is possible here…at a fair and reasonable price, of course.

But why Sicily, in particular?

For one thing, it happens to be where we are right now. And we try to make a habit out of looking for better ways (and places) to live.

But there are many reasons Sicily appeals to the wandering heart over, say, other European alternatives…

Unlike Hungary or Finland, the language here is not impenetrable. Unlike Finland or Norway, the weather is not unbearable. Unlike Norway or Switzerland, the cost is not prohibitive. And unlike Switzerland or Holland, the rules and regulations are comparatively lax.

In other words, if it’s cold, costly, and “civilized” (in the modern, warped sense of the word) you’re looking for, this place is not for you. Rather, Sicily offers something altogether different…

Imagine waking in the morning, not to the sound of an alarm clock, but when you’re good and ready to begin your day.

You have no commute. No pile of unanswered emails. Nowhere to be but…here.

Not to say you’ve nothing on the agenda. Far from it. But the work you do will be for your own benefit and enjoyment…not as part of your manager’s plan to “improve synergy” or “redirect workflow.”

Say you want to spend some time tilling the earth, growing your own produce, cultivating a fresh patch, and a green thumb.

You might consider a little plot of land on the outskirts of Cefalu, for instance, the tiny seaside town where we began our travels.

The area is rich in soil and enjoys modest rainfall during the “winter” months. (And by “winter,” we mean those frigid Mediterranean temperatures that dip down into…the low-to-mid 60s.)

The valley, which winds down to a stunning coastline below, is dotted with small, working farms. Locals grow olives, table grapes, citrus, potatoes, artichokes, tomatoes, and eggplant, among other things.

You might choose to raise a few animals here, too. Land is cheap, after all. You could add a few farm-fresh eggs to your morning omelet…or throw some goat’s cheese in your insalata.

And what doesn’t end up on your plate you might to sell at the local markets in town on the weekend…or share with your neighbors in exchange for some homemade limoncello and good conversation.

This is just one idea, mind you. And it’s not for everyone. But it could be for someone…

We spotted a three-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage for sale in Cefalu, a short drive from the neighboring medieval village of Gratteri.

The main house sits atop a hillside on nearly two acres of arable land and comes with a wine cellar and gas central heating. Outside there is a covered kitchen to prepare evening meals and a sweeping terrace from which you can enjoy panoramic views of the sea and the mountains.

Asking price: $165,000…negotiable.

If that’s a bit rich for your pocket…or you want something a little more spacious…you could head further south, toward the rolling hills surrounding Lake Castello.

This area is more remote, but Sicily is not a large island…at least, not to an Australian. (For the record, it’s barely one-third the size of Tasmania).

For the budding frontiersman, we found a three-bedroom villetta for sale with a fenced-in property on which grow 160 olive trees, six fig trees, four pear trees, two prune trees, two apricot trees, five grape vines…and an almond tree.

The villetta looks down over the lake and nearby village and sits just a half-hour drive from the Sicanian Mountains (as featured in the mythological tale of Daedalus and his ill-fated son, Icarus…he who flew too close to the sun on wings of wax).

Asking price: $97,000…negotiable.

Again, this is just an idea. And maybe not even a good one.

Imagine, for example, your internet connection goes down. You might have to stop checking Facebook for a few days…pick up a book…start a hobby…or even talk to your spouse!


Image: © Loiseleux