Day two in Catania, Sicily, and I’ve been thinking long and hard about what to write because… it’s complicated, and I want the right words.

A number of years ago, my dad said something to me that has stuck. He said “I don’t have a home. When I’m in Italy, I’m a foreigner, and in Australia, I’m a foreigner.” It was heartbreaking. Dad has been back home many times since then, and I know the feeling has passed for him. I know because my cousin, who met us in the piazza in front of the Cathedral of St Agatha, told me that dad positively lights up when he’s in the village. I look forward to seeing that side of him when we catch up in a few weeks.

I’ve never quite felt the same depths of feeling foreign as dad, but I have felt it. But now, I’m surrounded by people like me. My accent is a little Australianised, and I can’t conjure up all of the words, but I’m almost there. It’s enough.

So here we are, on an island that has deep Catholic traditions, and it’s occurred to me that I actually miss it. The churches, the icons, the rites, the saints and their gruesome deaths, the traditions, the goddamned fantastic food! I feel it in my soul. I’m no longer religious or a “believer” but these saints, their cults, there’s something unifying about them. Yesterday, Jeff and I went to morning mass for Catania’s patron Saint Agata, and in the evening, the statue of the saint, and her relics (skull, some ribs, limbs) were paraded through the streets. This August festival commemorates the day her relics were returned to the city.

So far, we’ve eaten granita & brioche for breakfast, lemon & pistachio gelato for dinner, arancini for brunch, tomato salad, olives and wood oven bread for lunch. Everything is new and familiar all at once.

Today, another cousin took us to the very top of the church of Saint Giuseppe for a view of the city & Mount Etna that was excruciatingly beautiful. We drove down to the beach in Lungomare di Acicastello and saw the ruins of a Medieval Norman Castle, where people bathed in clear blue waters in its shadow surrounded by lava rocks. And now, I’m writing this on our balcony surrounded by bougainvillea.