My European travels were in full flow, having reached the Sicilian city of Palermo after a few days in Amsterdam. You can read about those in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.
I was now preparing for my first full week in Europe as I began working as a digital nomad in Palermo.
Monday, 26 September – Sicilian Street Food
When you think of Italy and, more specifically, Sicily, the first thing that comes to mind is probably food. And this morning, I was going to explore the finest culinary delights that Sicily has to offer with a Street Food Tour.
We were meeting our guide Giorgio at 10.30am in the centre of Palermo and, as luck would have it, it was absolutely chucking it down with rain. And, as the eternal optimist, I hadn’t packed a coat or an umbrella. It never rains in Sicily right?! I also couldn’t find any shop selling umbrellas until I got all the way into the city centre. So I was well and truly drenched by the time I found a guy selling them on the streets.
But I met Giorgio, then we waited, and waited, and waited for the other Remote Year people to turn up. And they eventually did about 25 minutes late, then we had to wait for 2 more who were about 10 minutes further behind…
The tour, when it eventually started, was great and, luckily, the rain did die down a little. Giorgio took us to several street food stores to taste some of Sicily’s finest delicacies, which had the key traits of being cheap, small, simple to eat, and not too hard – all of which have historically made them ideal for the poorest Sicilian people to eat (they were most likely poor, eating on the streets, and had no teeth – Giorgio’s words, not mine!).
Giorgio bought us a selection of foods in each place, which we cut up and shared around. My personal favourite was probably the cauliflower balls from a store called Sit & Mancia and a fried cheese and ham food in the first store we visited. He also took us to a store that sold the finest Sicilian wine using the Grillo grape, which was delicious (for a wine, not something actually delicious, like a Coke). We also walked by Il Muro Della Legalitá (the wall of legality), a mural that pays respect to some of the most high-profile people killed by the Sicilian Mafia, including journalists, politicians, judges and photographers.
We finished the tour with something truly delicious, Sicilian pastries. Giorgio took us to Pasticceria Costa, where they apparently serve the very best pastries in all of Palermo. Giorgio explained, and I’m paraphrasing here, that’s because they only use the finest Ricotta cheese, which is so good because of the type of grass that the cows eat in Sicily.
After all of that, I was pretty full and tired. So I headed back to the hotel and did a little bit of work. I went for an evening wander away from the city centre and through some random back roads and found a supermarket near the hotel, where I decided to test out the local bread, ham and cheese. So I took that back to the hotel, made a sandwich and watched the Hungary v Italy football match.
Tuesday, 27 September – Coworking Like A Boss
Today, I got my first taste of the Remote Year coworking space in Palermo. It’s called Moltivolti and it’s a little bit of a trek from my hotel, as it takes about 35 minutes to walk there. But it’s right in the heart of the old city.
First of all, I had breakfast at the hotel – a couple of pastries and a coffee – then packed up my laptop and popped my walking boots on.
The coworking place itself is pretty nice. It’s also a restaurant, so there are tables throughout, and coworking space at the far end. While Remote Year has a dedicated area through the back of the restaurant, which I didn’t realise until I’d been working there for about an hour!
But the Remote Year guys were kind enough to let me work from their desks – even though I’m not actually on Remote Year anymore, but I am what they call a “Citizen.” Although all of the desks were empty as the Americans apparently rarely go there, which felt familiar, so I got plenty of work done. In fact, I ended up with my own office, which very much reminded me of the workspace we had in Hanoi, where we could claim our own private offices.
Today, I wrote an article about the future of the property market for my new client Hectocorn, which was really interesting. I also wrote an article about a DevOps solution, which is a subject I’ll freely admit I’m not the most confident on.
At lunchtime, I was about to try and find somewhere to eat, when I bumped into a few of the people I’d met on the walking tour yesterday. They invited me to join their Lunch Roulette – a Remote Year initiative that encourages you to eat lunch with different people – at Moltivolti, and I had a very nice vegetarian Moussaka. I headed back into the coworking space, managed to find a power point to charge my laptop, and did a bit more work – as I realised one of my deadlines was a day sooner than I thought!
I walked back home, and saw a load of classic cars en route to Mount Etna in an event called Raid On Etna. Then in the evening, I ate the rest of the bread, ham and cheese while watching Portugal v Spain in the Nations League.
Wednesday, 28 September – Seaside Sun
I had a bit more work to do today, so I skipped breakfast and headed into the coworking space a bit earlier – leaving the hotel around 9am. Moltivolti was pretty empty, so I bought a cappuccino and found myself a desk.
Today, I wrote an article about an insurance technology event in Las Vegas for Notion – which was more interesting than it sounds! I also spent some time editing a video I’d created exploring the area around my hotel. And I wrote an article for my music blog GigRadar about a new Norwegian band called Rosa Foenskap, a cool black metal meets post-rock meets hardcore punk trio.
I was done with work by about 2pm, so I decided to go for a wander through a part of the old city I hadn’t seen before and try to find somewhere for lunch. However, I forgot that I was hungry and ended up walking all the way back to the seafront before I realised I hadn’t bought any lunch! So I bought a bottle of water and sat by the seafront in the sun for an hour or so, before making the walk back up towards the hotel. It really is beautiful and peaceful down by the seafront.
I had a relaxing few hours back at the hotel – mainly writing this, as I had several days to catch up on! – then decided to eat in the hotel restaurant, as I hadn’t eaten all day. I had the octopus tentacles again, which were still good but didn’t have the same tasty mayonnaise as last time, followed by beef with potatoes, spinach and an interesting soft cheese.
Thursday, 29 September – Vera Coffice Break
I started off today thinking I’d completed my work for the week. So I headed up for breakfast – eggs, bacon and a cappuccino – then found a quiet little sunny spot just outside the hotel that also had decent access to the Wi-Fi. The WiFi isn’t the best up in my room, and it’s only really strong on the ground floor or up on the top floor.
So I used this sneaky sunny spot to catch up on articles for my music website GigRadar, which I was way behind on. I wrote and published an article on a new Dutch rock band called Horizon Tide then wrote and scheduled an article on British one-man-band Caustic Waves.
Then, just as I was trying to work out what to do with my day, my friend Chris got in touch asking if I was available to take on some work. I previously worked with Chris at First Base and Unlimited, and have since worked with him for his new company Mail Manager and a few freelance projects, such as cybersecurity firm Armis. The latest was a blog post for a security alliance called IDSA, who wanted an article drafted about some cybersecurity best practices, which was more interesting than it sounds!
I didn’t fancy sitting around the hotel to write an article and I didn’t want to head to Moltivolti. So I decided to try out a cafe I’d discovered that looked nice called Vera Coffice Break – which felt apt as my Grandma’s name was Vera and, apparently, it means true or real in Italian. It was about a 40-minute walk away, so I took my first electric bike, through a company called Ridemovi, which got me into the city centre in about 10 minutes.
The cafe was just as good as I thought, in particular its delicious chocolatey iced coffees. I managed to grab a table and worked on the article. I also realised my personal website (this website!) looked really naff and the new blog posts I was creating were really difficult to read with the current WordPress theme. So I installed a new theme and reworked the website to make it a little better on the eye and easier to navigate. And hopefully it looks less terrible now!
I ended up staying at the cafe until just after 4pm then went for a sunny late afternoon walk through the narrow streets of Palermo and up towards the seafront. It was then I spotted a cool little restaurant tucked into the seafront, just before the hill up to my hotel, which I decided to try out this evening.
The restaurant was called Fud Bocs and, unsurprisingly given its location, was largely a fish restaurant. I ordered a calamari burger with some thin fried potatoes and discovered my first Sicilian Pale Ale, from a brewer called Bruno Ribadi, which is apparently over in Catania. The food and beer were delicious, so much so that a local cat decided he fancied himself a bit of shrimp and perched himself under my table to mop up any scraps that fell his way – of which there were a few as it was quite messy!
Friday, 30 September – Chill Day
Today is my last day in the hotel as tomorrow I’m moving on to an Airbnb in the city centre. I took the opportunity to make a bit more of the money I’d spent on the hotel by sitting in my secret sunny spot to work on another GigRadar article – this time a cool Estonian metal band called Pridian. I also caught up on GigRadar emails – which I’d neglected for months and had 2,400 emails in my inbox! – and did some work admin like end-of-the-month invoices and accounting on Xero.
I fancied a lazy day, but today was probably the warmest since I’ve been here – hitting 28 degrees celsius at 1.30pm. So I went for a wander down to the beach to explore a bit further down the road away from the city centre. I also didn’t fancy spending loads of money today, so popped into the Conad supermarket to pick up some supplies. But today was a really chilled day to bring my first full week in Europe to an end.
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