I just got back from my trip to Sicily, where something went wrong.
Just not the thing I expected.
If you remember, I was worried about traveling during the pandemic, but I had to go for research and I decided to take a chance.
Unfortunately, so did the guy who pickpocketed my wallet.
Which held my passport.
And my vaccine card.
And credit cards.
And about $500.
My wallet was in my backpack, and I was walking along a crowded street, happy. I had just bought a map of 1800s Palermo, which is the kind of thing you can find only in antiquarian bookstores in the same city. And then I stopped to buy dish towels, which is the kind of thing you can find only in every souvenir stand.
That’s when I noticed my backpack was unzipped and my wallet gone.
But sunny Sicily is the kind of place that makes you look on the bright side.
As crimes go, it was nonviolent.
I didn’t feel a thing.
We know I’m dead below the waist.
Now we know I’m dead above it.
And I was traveling with my bestie Laura, who was able to stake me for the rest of my trip. And also I’m the dumb one for walking around with my passport, which I never do, but somebody told me to keep it and my vaccination card on me at all times.
Only one of those was good advice.
I did have to show my vaccination card to get into restaurants and museums, and I wore a mask on the street, but honestly, I felt very safe from COVID. It’s great knowing that everyone around you is vaccinated, and I was worried about the pandemic, not the pickpockets.
I hesitate to even tell the pickpocket story because I don’t want to dissuade you from going to a truly magical island.
Sicily was beautiful, and I traveled off the beaten track to find places that could serve as locations for scenes in the book.
I spent three days in the capital city of Palermo, eating fried rice balls.
I went to a fishing village and had the most delicious grilled branzino.
I went inland to lush groves of lemons, oranges, peaches, almonds, prickly pears, and olives, and I ate pistachios picked right off a tree.
I ate the time of my life.
I mean, I had the time of my life.
It’s impossible to be in a bad mood in sunny Sicily, where even the bad things turn into good things.
Just not right away.
For example, my wallet was picked over the weekend, so I had to wait until Monday to get to the U.S. consulate in Palermo. I went there first thing on Monday, but it was Columbus Day, so it was closed.
I went back on Tuesday and learned that they don’t issue emergency passports in Sicily at all, a fact our government didn’t mention on its website. But the upside is I had to go to Naples, where I replaced the passport and went to the pizzeria that’s world-famous for inventing the margherita pizza, which was in Eat, Pray, Love.
I found it by googling Julia Roberts and mozzarella.
It’s called L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, and I ate an entire pizza.
You would think I’m a food writer, but I’m not.
Or maybe I am.
On Eat, Pray, Love, I stop at eat.
But the best part of my trip was my visit to the town of Mussomeli, in Caltanissetta province. It was founded in the 1400s, and I went there specifically because the novel I’m researching is set in the 1800s. Mussomeli’s historic town center is typical of those at the time, and it was a thing of beauty.
I wound through cobblestone streets lined with charming stone houses, of the exact scale and vintage that I needed. Around every corner was a surprise — a beautiful oak door, an ancient wall covered with vines, a sacred religious shrine.
At the center of the town is the beautiful Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Miracles, and I thought Mussomeli was a miracle unto itself.
And the amazing news is that it is also one of those towns in which you can buy a house for one euro.
Yes, you read that right. It’s a little over a dollar.
I swear to God, I’m thinking about it.
Of course it would be a fixer-upper, but so was my house here.
Who doesn’t want a retirement filled with Italian food?
It’s not Sicily, it’s heaven.
Look for Lisa’s best-selling historical novel, “Eternal,” in stores now. Also look for Francesca’s critically acclaimed debut novel, “Ghosts of Harvard,” now in paperback.