A Postcard from Sicily

This story originally appeared on the Gents Cafe Newsletter. You can subscribe here.

Lately, travel content on social media is spreading word that life in Italy is slow, with people seemingly having plenty of time to spare just hanging out with friends, having an aperitivo and indulging in their passions and pleasures. Well, as much as I hate to break it to you, let me just say it: that’s not true. Even though it might be generally true that we Italians know how to make our free time the best time, we often find ourselves overwhelmed with stuff.

Work stuff, life stuff, sometimes even leisure stuff – just like everyone else on this planet. It’s at that point, when the frantic daily life in a big city hits too hard, that you know it’s time to slow down and chase that idyllic Italian slow life, and that’s exactly what happened to me a little over a month ago.

Warm summer days were long gone by, and routine was biting hard, so I was on high alert for any diversion chance I could grab – which timely came in the form of a call by my dear friend Luke. Now, Luke and I have known each other for a while now, as we’ve worked together on several past projects, some of which even found their space here on Gents Cafe.

He’s a very talented American photographer who moved to Sicily with his wife and son years ago, and has now seamlessly merged into an Italian gentleman. Our work together usually airs around Milano, but we’d long been waiting for a chance to meet in Cianciana, the little town of Sicily he’s calling home. And this time, I could finally and happily accept his invite to spend a few days down there, catching the last glimpse of good season and unwinding at a different pace.

A bit of that Italian slow living through the streets of Cianciana.

I packed some essentials in a weekender bag, and before I could realise it, I was flying southwards for a few days. As I got in town, I immediately knew it was like being teleported to an entirely different dimension. There was the slow paced life, there were the old people playing cards and drinking a glass of wine outside the bars. It felt almost a tad stereotypical, but in the best possible way.

Three days, one bag: Bosca’s duffle bag is the perfect travel companion.

The first thing I did was hopping a ride in Luke’s Ape Car, the same he’s driven around Sicily documenting the journey in his Youtube series Sicily by Ape; basically the Vespa’s workhorse brother, the little three-wheeler was once a common sight all over Italy, but has surrendered to progress and emission regulations. You can still find some in rural areas though, and getting around in one is definitely great fun!

Luke on the captain mast of his Ape.

A sporty choice for the weekend: the UNIMATIC U4S-8O in an olive drab colorway.

We concluded the day by savoring a delightful Gin & Tonic at the bar in the heart of Cianciana, overlooking the sea. The gin of choice was Panarea Gin, drawing inspiration from one of the seven Aeolian Islands in Sicily. The combination of the scenic backdrop, the enchanting sunset, and the jovial company of the young lads we were socializing with turned it into a night that would linger in our memories.

Our location for the aperitivo: St’agnuni, a Sicilian Bistrot. Squint your eyes and you’ll catch the sunset’s reflection on the sea!

First round of Gin & Tonic with Panarea Gin “Island”: citrusy, spicy, pungent, and unmistakable in flavor.

Gin & Tonic, round two. This time, made with Panarea Gin “Sunset”. The aroma is intense and spicy, characterized by pleasant citrusy notes. At the same time, basil imparts a pleasant and unexpected freshness.

The next morning we made our way to Sciacca, a little less than an hour away on the southern coast of Sicily. Once again, we had no plans but to roam around the streets of the city, with Luke snapping some pictures and me just enjoying the improvised weekend leave.

Strolling around the streets of Sciacca. The weather was just perfect!

Luke’s passion for photography clearly extends to his film cameras as well. We brought along this old Canon, just in case. Bosca‘s tote bag was perfect for carrying all the essentials for the day trip.

Is bringing two watches considered “packing light”? UNIMATIC U4S-8N, a model that draws inspiration from the emblematic Mediterranean Sea.

Sure enough, surprises didn’t take long to pop up: in an alley by the port we spotted an immaculate Fiat 500, in such pristine conditions it looked straight out of a time capsule. The puzzle was quickly solved as the owner, who saw us admiring his car, stepped in to explain the story.

He acquired the 500 just recently, and had it undergo an extensive restoration that brought it back to brand-new conditions. The old Fiat is no garage queen though, as the man enjoys driving it around and drops his daughter at school every morning in it. I found myself translating for Luke, as he appears more Italian than he actually speaks, and locals often engage him in their rapid chatter, leaving him understandably confused.

If it looks brand new, that’s because it practically is!

On our third day, we were all set to explore the hills around Cianciana. However, as we indulged in our breakfast, Domenico, a 80-year old gentleman and Luke’s friend, strolled into the bar, initiating a delightful conversation over a caffè and cornetto.

He proudly owned a classic Fiat 128 and insisted that we opt for his car instead of ours. It might seem unconventional – it certainly did to me, at least – but in Sicily, the locals exude a remarkable warmth and hospitality. Domenico’s insistence on us using his car was a testament to the genuine friendliness of the Sicilian people; they are quick to share their belongings, whether it be cars, houses, or more, simply to extend their heartfelt welcome to visitors.

A classic Fiat paired with a velvet shirt from Alessandro Gherardi: a quintessentially Italian combination.

And there we found ourselves, once again ensconced in a classic vehicle, relishing the Instagram-worthy Italian slow life amidst the enchanting Sicilian countryside. The old 128 is certainly no race car, but it is so light, and the engine so loud, that driving around the hills felt like rallying at time. The extreme speeds we reached? Almost 80kph, downhill.

Upon returning the car to Domenico, we spent a few more time together and he not only recounted his emotional connection with the Fiat 128 but also regaled us with stories of his olive fields. He passionately described the annual tradition of crafting his own oil, a cherished ritual shared with his sons.

“Come on, Luke, it’s my turn to take the wheel!”
For my outfit, I decided on the Alessandro Gherardi flannel checked shirt.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end – even my quick escape to the picturesque Sicilian island. In those short three days I ate well, drank well and discovered a corner of Italy I still wasn’t familiar with; and most importantly, I relaxed and recharged my batteries, ready to head back to Milano. I don’t know how long it will take for me, Luke, and hopefully even more friends to gather again for a slow paced leisurely weekend together; what I can say is that while I cherish these fresh memories, I’m already looking forward to it.

Photo credits: Luke Renard and Joseph Tallo

Never miss a story – subscribe now to the Gents Cafe Newsletter, a bite-sized read about men’s lifestyle to enjoy over a coffee or a nice cocktail.