Sicily Wrap

Every good trip must come to an end. And to celebrate the end of this one, here’s a recap of how much fun it’s been to discover how accessible San Vito Lo Capo is!

This was a common site for me throughout the trip. Speedy locals leaving me in the dust! They owned the streets and rode off into the sunset many a time, while I made my way at a snail’s pace. It’s pretty lucky that I was able to snap even this one photo of the elusive scoooter rangers; they are many in numbers around here, but they are fast!

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Though they are hard to spot, there is evidence everywhere of their existence:IMG_3065

Getting down to business, here is the ramp to the City Hall. The ramps around the city aren’t just to make the beach and tourist sites accessible. Even official buildings are stepping it up. I was a little surprised to see this since the building is…well, it’s not new. And accessibility regulations are new, so I was expecting something a little less friendly. But this is probably the most friendly ramp in Sicily. Isn’t that a looker?

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There are also handicap parking spots designated on the street. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t given much thought to handicap parking abroad before seeing this, but I think that’s going to be a super interesting topic to learn about!

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Finally, this was the last photo I snapped of the No Limits Marathon, and one of my favorites. These two were taking a stroll along the beach, holding hands. For all the effort that went into making the city accessible, seeing this makes it all worth it, don’t you think?
IMG_3061I’m pretty happy with how my research has gone in San Vito. I found so much more than I expected and I think it’s only going to get better.

Arrivaderci for now!

No Limits – Wheelchair basketball

And finally, to wrap up the No Limits Weekend sports coverage: Wheelchair basketball!

Wheelchair basketball

I was a little surprised to see these two teams, all in matching uniforms, dominating the sports park when I arrived. You could tell right away that these were no amateur teams! Not only did they maneuver well around the court, they had fake-outs and tricks! It was a little ridiculous. In an awesome way.

It was a lot of fun to watch–way more fun than garden-variety basketball if you ask me! Watch a clip of the match if you don’t believe me:

At one point a ball rolled off the court to wheelchair unfriendly area. A nice lady went to get it and her shoe slipped and she almost ended up on the ground. One of the players jumped out of their seat to help her. That was pretty entertaining to watch too.

Apparently, this is the first wheelchair basketball team in Sicily. Not all the players could come to this event, so there were a few able-bodies on the court. Three of the players were clearly not faking as they had above-the-knee amputations–including two of the founding members: Fausto Firreri and Giuseppe Viola.

Before I tell you what they said to me, let me preface that these were two of the nicest men! They were welcoming and very open and willing to answer questions. They told me how this all started about 3 years ago when they went to Bologna to play basketball in a tournament there, just for fun. They went a few times and finally decided that they wanted to keep playing.

Seeing as there wasn’t a wheelchair basketball team in Sicily, they decided to start their own. They started finding players and sponsors. As you can imagine, it was tough to find players, but they did and now have earned Serie B status (like soccer rankings. So this is the B League–it’s hard to imagine what it takes to be in the A League). They are always looking for new players and have been so successful that they have now started a second team in another city!

Windsurfing amputee Giuseppe ViolaNow, these guys are inspirations for others to get out there! I can’t help but think that maybe Giuseppe Viola was probably an inspiration for everyone else to get involved. He got a prosthetic with one of those high-tech knees that allows him to windsurf, snow board and mountain bike (and those are only the sports I remember him listing!). This guys is unstoppable! So is his kick-butt team!

Check out their Facebook Group–it’s in Italian but pictures are worth 1000 words, in the universal language of pixelish.

No Limits Archery

Continuting with the No Limits Weekend sports coverage…

On Sunday May 26, 2013 there was an all-abilities-welcome day of archery.

The event had some celebrity presence. Veronica Floreno–recieved Silver at the 2010 European Para-archery Championships and finalist in the 2012 Paralympics–and Nino Lisotta–2010 Italy Champion–were both present and showed us what they’ve got!

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It was a very impressive demonstration! There were also others taking their shots on the field. There is a team in Palermo called AS.D Dyamond Archery–it is a large group of archers with mixed abilities. This member explained that archery is the only sport that it doesn’t matter if you are in a chair or not. They are about 50 members strong and open to new members.

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No Limits Sports!

One of the highlights of the No Limits Weekend was where diverse abilities met sports!IMG_2998

The athletic events were held in a nice sports park right on the beach, with a nice view of the water and the mountains. It was the perfect spot!

On Saturday (May 25), there was a power chair hockey match.

Day open to diverse abilities banner

“Giornata aperta alle diverse abilità”
Day open to diverse abilities

I was impressed to see that medical responders were present. They were stationed at the sidelines of the game, with their ambulance parked at the top of the stairs.

Medical responders and ambulance

Note: Since Italian structures are generally historical, medical responders must transport patients up and down many steep staircases.  In this case, these stairs are not too steep and not very long. The wheelchair-accessible ramp is on the far side of the park and opens to a congested parking lot filled with pedestrians. I’m saying this to give perspective and to show that there was some thought that went into the layout of the event.
Maybe the fact that at the top of the stairs was the easiest place to park played into the decision-making process, but it is definitely where you would want them to be stationed if there was a real emergency. Don’t get me wrong, you know I love to poke fun of how people interpret “accessibility” here (and this one is still kinda funny), but you also have to give credit where credit is due. And the organizers of this event deserve a lot of credit.

Power chair hockey match

You can see a clip from the match on our YouTube channel. I’d advise you to appreciate the coaching being done–it’s pretty funny.  My only regret is that I didn’t catch when the coach ran onto the field and hit one of her players…

Spare chair and hockey stick

Do you think you’d enjoy being part of the fun next year but don’t have hockey gear/swag?
They have extra. 😉 😉

Homeward Bound!

Hello world! Sorry for the absence. Two days before leaving Italy, our internet went out, never to return. I was actually writing a blog post when it happened. Sorry to keep you all waiting.

2 car rides, 3 planes, a couple shuttles and 26 hours later: I’m home!

It was a long day.

When we got to the Palermo airport, I was surprised to see that there were a few people in wheelchairs getting around the airport. At least one of them was on our flight and –for the first time I can remember– we took a jet bridge to board the plane instead of taking stairs from the tarmac. I was curious if this was a special accommodation for the disabled passenger, but apparently, when using stairs to board, there is a machine that comes and brings people up and down. The way the flight attendant explained it to me, it seemed like a platform that would move you up and over the stairs. But I have yet to find a picture of this contraption so I’m still curious if it exists or if its the lock ness monster of the air(lines).

Next we were in the Rome airport. There were even more disabled travelers. Somehow they were always in twos. Even the wheelchair runners with empty chairs traveled in twos! This was very different from the Toronto airport (next on our itinerary), where all disabled travelers moved in herds. The smallest group was about 5 and the largest was probably 15. I don’t know if these groups were traveling together, or if they were segregated for some purpose, but it was a little strange to see.

Also strange about Toronto, we had to wait on the tarmac for almost half hour before we could pull up to the gate to disembark. Why? A swarm of bees. True story people.

As on our trip to Italy, we also hit some turbulence on the way home. This was the first time I’d ever actually used my seat belt. We had a nice drop, big enough so that my loose-fitting seat belt actually prevented me from flying out. Ok, I’m being a little dramatic, but I’d never experienced a plane belt restrain me before. And to be fair, the person seated in front of me had his water jump out of his cup (from the tray table!) and land on him.

There was a resounding “WHOA” from the cabin, sounding much like a roller coaster ride. Instead of letting our imaginations get the best of us (like on the way to Italy), the flight attendants told us to review our emergency instructions and locate our nearest emergency exit. And then they repeated it in 2 other languages. What kind of response is that?! Was that supposed to be reassuring? We are going to die.

Fortunately, the English announcement was made by a flight attendant that was laughing. THAT was reassuring–I think that should be in the flight attendant guidebook.

5 emergency exits

Behind the Mask – No limits!

Continuing coverage of the No Limits Weekend –it’s going to take a few more days to get through everything!– we have the Saturday night performance of Mondo Elfi – Giù Le Maschere (“Take down your mask”). 

This theatre troupe is, without doubt, unique! All the actors have a serious mental disability.

Guided by one of the directors, who also played a role in the show, these 6 actors put on a 45 minute show for a captivated audience! There was a group of a good twenty kids, all about 10-12 year old, who sat attentively through the entire show–if that isn’t proof of a job well done, I don’t know what is!

The performance, titled The Train Station, was about waiting for the train. We  met a thief who got the better of the conductor. The group decided have a meal together while they waited. And they all shared stories of when they were little. Finally the train came and they said goodbye.

At the end of the show, they took their bows and received a standing ovation!
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The directors explained that this group has been together for about 2 years and has put on this performance 4 times. They spoke about how these actors gave them so much more than they gave the actors and how the experience changed them. The actors were having a great time and it was such a pleasure to watch.

You could tell how much this group means to them when they each took a turn talking about it after the show. One actor took a moment to share a poem he wrote. My Italian is a little rough around the edges, so I didn’t pick up everything he was saying; but the audience’s reaction alone was very moving and told me all I need to know about the words of that poem.

It was a beautiful night. So many people approached the directors to compliment them on their work.  From speaking to one of those audience members, who was visibly emotional from the performance, it became even more clear to me how important these types of events are. She told me that when she was a little girl in this city, she would only ever see disabled children from behind a window; their parents were ashamed and didn’t let them out or go to school. They hid them away. It was a very powerful message to me, that we have come so far since then!

Without this group and without events like “No Limits”, these actors might have been locked away. Instead they are enjoying themselves and touching the lives of so many people while they’re at it!

Congratulations on a job well done! I wish them many more performances in the future!

No Limits Marathon!

Yesterday I participated in the No Limits Marathon at San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily to support the accessibility project at the local beach. This was a non-competitive 5k “marathon” where streets were closed along a route that allowed anyone to participate.

The route was along the beach and through the city.

No Limits Marathon along the beachNo Limits Marathon past the churchNo Limits Marathon through town

There were people who participated in their chair and even one who used a hand bike. This is one of the guests of honor (below). Everyone wanted to take a picture with him and his neat bike–even the Mayor! By the end of the photo shoot, he was making jokes that he would have to bat away all the paparazzi to start the race. Participant using handbike

The majority were able-bodied and many were children. One group in particular was participating for their friend Nikki who has cancer. “Nikki non mollare” – Nikki don’t give up!

Nikki don't give up

In true Italian style, when we crossed the finish-line, we were met with a heart-healthy breakfast of Nutella sandwhiches! Nothing like the scent of Nutella to motivate you to sprint to the finish-line!! (Note the size of the bottle on the table: a small child could fit in there!)

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(While eating my Nutella sandwhich) I was fortunate enough to see this participant cross the finish-line. He was another one of the guests of honor and everyone cheered for him as he received his metal. He was so happy! I wish I could have captured it in the photo, but his joy was so infectious and heartwarming, and it became one of the highlights of the event for me.
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No matter how many races I do, this one will always stand out. It was such an amazing experience to see such a wide variety of people come together. We are all so easily separated by age, ability, and all the trivial things that can be so divisive. But to see people come together in such a happy and supportive event was pretty neat.

This will be a race I will always remember.

IMG_3066No Limits Marathon
With heart you can go anywhere
San Vito Lo Capo
May 25-26 2013

No Limits Marathon final stretch

I hope to see you here next year!

No Limits Weekend (Zero Barriere!)

Va giù per la traduzione Italiano

This weekend (May 25-26) is the 2nd annual
No Limits Weekend at San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily!

Zero Barriere (“Zero Barriers”) is a group that makes the beach accessible to everyone. They have special wheelchairs for the sand that allow anyone to touch the water. They organize this event to prove you don’t have to be limited by anything!

“Con il cuore si arriva ovunque”–written in the flyer below–means “with heart, you can go anywhere.”

I already have so much to share and there is still more to come. I can’t wait to tell you all about it. If you happen to be in the area, I hope to see you tonight! And if you aren’t, I hope to see you next year!!

Marathon no limits - Maratona zero barriere

Questo fin de settimana (il 25 e 26 di maggio) é il secondo annuale Zero Barriere Weekend a San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily.

Zero Barriere é un gruppo che aiuta a tutti a raggiungere il mare. Loro hanno una carozzella di sabbia che si porta a toccare l’acqua. Questo gruppo ha organizzato questo evento per mostrare che non dovrebbero essere limiti a nessuno!

Ho già tanto da dirvi e c’é ancora più da fare. Non vedo l’ora che posso dirvi tutto quello che sta succedendo. Se tu stia in città, spero di vederti stasera. Se no, spero di vederti in 2014 per il terzo Zero Barriere Weekend!!

Italy: it all makes sense now.

Only a week left on this trip to Italy…and the sickliness continues. On yesterday’s packing list, I forgot to mention the most important item of all: a sense of humor. So, in an effort to make myself feel better, lets go on a journey of some of the funny moments on this trip so far.

10 palm trees per square foot

The ratio of palm trees to surface area is a measure of how close the location approximates Paradise. Dante didn’t even know about this sphere of Paradise!

Next is an example of modern fashion in Italy.

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I hope you enjoyed this look at the men’s department. If you’d like to get your own man purse and pink man-scarf but think that you will be the only person chic enough to wear it…     …Have no fear:

Sporting a man purse

Immediately after exiting the store, this is what I saw (as I pretended to be checking the time). Never again will a girl have to carry her guy’s wallet or glasses in her purse! We have entered a new age of gender equality! I can’t wait to see guys stack their purses together in clubs and have one stand guard. Or do you think they dance with the purses on?

Military patrols the streets

This followed at least 10 trucks just like it; complete with heavily armed lookout peaking out the top. The only logical explanation for this extravagant show of military presence is to protect the public in case of a zombie attack. In such a case, the public–hindered by their being dressed to the (femi-)nines–will be unable to defend themselves.

Drive-through cemetary

In Italy, you don’t find drive-through fast food or drive-through Starbucks…you can, however, drive-through the cemetery. This is an equal opportunity experience, for the elderly, disabled and bounding teenagers. The best explanation for this is… that Italians really are concerned about zombies.

Crocks in Italy

And finally: crocks. In one of the fashion capitals of the world, I never expected to see crocks. All hope is lost. When I took this picture, I didn’t understand why oh why Italians would allow these creations in their stores–I’m pretty sure it’s a crime in some countries–but now I think I finally understand: “I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing crocks.” Crocks must be like Zombie repellent!

Americans, you may think you are prepared for the Zombie-pocalyps. The Walking Dead, World War Z, video games, and Facebook Groups like Postmortem Assault Squadron (I bet you the Admin of this group is of Italian decent). But, I think Italy is probably the place to be when that brown stuff hits the fan.

Look at that! I’m already feeling better! Laughter is the best medicine afteral. Even if you’re laughing at yourself–that’s the topic you have the most material on anyway. 😉

I hope this made you at least smile. And if you really don’t think I’m funny… Ao Jandrea did it.

Disclaimers: Palm trees are awesome. Guys, you can wear anything you like so long as you let me borrow your jacket when I get cold (your pink scarf too, if I ask nicely). I ❤ our troops. And Crocks are not that bad.

Pack like a Pro – best kept secrets

There are times you get to wherever you’re going and realize I forgot to pack ___!!! And there are times you realize Thank goodness I packed this ___!!!

hand sanitizerMost often its the former. But this trip, I am so grateful for my hand sanitizer and it’s good friend: tissues. You never know when you will get to a bathroom with no TP and no soap (already happened to me twice this trip!). When you are spending so much time on public transit, you’re going to want to eat at some point and you will thank yourself for bringing some Purell. I promise.

There are plenty of other items that merit a spot on your packing list. I will bypass the usuals like ID, phone, chargers, etc and just give you an idea of the type of things you might need that you might not have thought to bring.  So here we go!

  • Hand Sanitizer & Pack of tissues
  • Journal with waterproof pen  – to write memories or directions, phone numbers, etc.  It’s always good to have.
  • Ziploc bags – whether you have a wet towel, dirty laundry, food storage or sea shells you want to take home, you will find a reason to need a ziploc bag.
  • Travel Clothes line – if you plan to wash clothes, you might not have the luxury of a dryer. If you anticipate this sort of situation, best come prepared to air-dry.
  • Sewing Kit / Safety pins – You never know when a bag will rip or your pants will split. And if you need to pop a blister-you’re all set!
  • Earplugs/eyecover – if you are a light sleeper, do yourself this favor.
  • Copy of passport in email!!! – This one is really really good. If you are so unfortunate to lose or have your passport stolen, having this copy could be a life saver. And if you simply print a copy and keep it in your wallet–the theif probably won’t leave that behind for you. I’ve done this for years and it’s so helpful, even for just booking tickets.
  • Luggage Locks – These need to be TSA approved so they can open your bags without opening the lock. Its also nice to have a lock in case you need to put your stuff in a storage locker, etc, anytime you are traveling.
  • Make sure you don’t find yourself here. My pink bow wont be so funny.

    A recognizable strap for your luggage – I’ve been that person who feels so dumb when they walk off with the wrong luggage or waits for twenty minutes as their bag circles them repeatedly. Now I have a bright pink bow on my bags, and baggage claim is so much easier!

  • Cloth bag – just a small tote that you can go grocery shopping with. Some places make you pay for bags, and if you plan to do a lot of shopping, it’s nice to have a sturdy bag to use. Also, you can use it as your “personal item” on the flight home, in case you return with more stuff you started with.
  • Feminine Products – I’ll leave this one to this blogger who says it best: “these are often harder to find than they should be (especially with language barriers), so it’s a good idea to bring at least a month’s supply. Even if you don’t need them, someone else will, and having them will get you lots of good travel karma.”
  • Tweezers/Nail clippers – hang nails and splinters can ruin your day. I can’t travel without these. And if you need to cut a string for your sewing kit, nail clipper are a TSA friendly option.

For this last one, I went to the web to see what people think. To bring a knife or not to bring a knife? And this is what I saw:

Contrary to every man’s instinct, a knife is very rarely useful. – www.wordtravels.com

Seriously. Uncorking a wine bottle, adding an extra hole in your belt, getting a splinter out of your finger, this is the tool of choice. Mock if you like, but mine’s been useful more times than I can count, and so it tops the list. – www.noaura.com

I’ve never traveled with a knife, but if your man instincts tell you otherwise, I say go for it!

And there you have it! Did I miss anything? Leave a comment below or shoot me an email.

Related articles:
www.wordtravels.com/forum/discussion/1506
www.noaura.com/travellist
www.eaglecreek.com/travel-tips-packing-lists
www.onebag.com/checklist.html