Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Parking Culture of Sicily

Parking is not a problem in Sicily once you understand how it works. Think of it as an expanded, refined form of valet parking. You have to know what you are looking for, or, better yet, WHO you are looking for. That would be a "parking guy." No matter what the signs say, it is the parking guys who control the parking and make it possible.

If it's a place you visit frequently, like downtown Catania, for instance, it's good to find a parking guy and maybe even form a relationship with him. That's what my friends Mike and Leslie have done. Mike likes to go to the market in Catania every Saturday morning. Parking is impossible unless you have a parking guy. Mike has two, so he always has a place to park his car. Leslie also has one in Catania. Believe it or not, he's right in the middle of a bus circle!

I have a place I like to park, too, conveniently near the cathedral and Elephant Fountain. Parking guys control the limited spaces there. I don't have a personal parking guy, but I'll go with whoever is there. This is how it works: you cruise the area slowly seeking one. Once found, I gesture to him that I want to park and he graciously directs me and helps me negotiate a place. Then I pay him a Euro or two for his help and, most importantly, his watching my car while it is parked there. I can come back whenever, and he reappears, smiling. I tip him another small coin and drive off. All of us are happy in the manner.

Without him, I would probably not find a place, and, secondly, it would not be safe to park the car. Like most Italian cities, Catania has plenty of petty crime. Oh, and I also will not suffer any damage to my car. All Sicilian cars are damaged (dented, scraped, broken). It's just part of the territory. However, I want to preserve the Mini as long as possible in its original state of good repair. The parking guys help make that possible.


At January 11, 2005 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice write-up -- BUT, now everyone will want their own "parking guy." Love to all, Bill and Joan


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