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  • Writer's pictureCamellia Phillips

Where Is Home Now?

On August 4, we headed from back from Sicily to Brooklyn. I admit, I'd been dreading the return "home" for weeks. Both because I often get terrible migraines when I fly and because I didn't want to leave Sicily.

In Sicily, Marco and I found something unexpected. We tapped into a deeper sense of focus and purpose in our writing. We connected with so many wonderful cousins, it felt like Melilli's ancient, winding streets were filled with family. We chatted and laughed with our neighbors, embracing the sense of community all around us. We discovered grand adventures and incredible food.

For me personally, I also discovered a better way to live with my chronic health conditions, leading to real improvements in my day-to-day quality of life (you can read more about that over on my personal blog).

Maybe most surprising of all, we also found a new level of happiness. After two-and-a-half challenging pandemic years filled with grief—where we'd focused on gritting our teeth and getting through it—we stumbled upon a kind of joy we didn't even know we were looking for.

We found joy in our work, joy in day-to-day living, and joy in adventures.

So, if Sicily is so great, why leave?

The Schengen Area Dance

Ah, yes, the Schengen Area dance of 90 days in and 90 days out. Since Marco is a citizen, he could technically stay in Sicily as long as he wanted. If he stayed 183 days per year, he would be considered a resident for tax purposes.

But I am not yet a citizen. I'm only at the beginning of that journey and still awaiting my B1 language exam results (which is now a requirement for citizenship by marriage). I'm thrilled at the opportunity to even apply for Italian citizenship, though it will take several years.

For now, we still need to abide by the Schengen Area 90/180-day rule, which means that U.S. citizens without an additional visa can only be in Schengen countries for 90 out of any 180 days.

Thus, we needed to head back to the states. We also have lives and family here in the U.S., and a lot to sort out before we can eventually move to Sicily full-time. So for now, we are embracing the dance of 90-in and 90-out.

A Very Odd Packing List

Back in early June, as we moved into our house in Melilli—and realized all the little things like scissors and baking sheets we had forgotten to buy—I discovered the magic of Italian pans.

Yes, I have spent the last two months regaling friends and family with tales of my wonderful Italian frying pans and baking sheets.

Why are these pans so magnificent? They are nontoxic. They look good. They're affordable. And nothing sticks—and let's just say my "baking" strategy is "put something in the oven until it smells like it might be a bit burnt." I could star in an advertisement for these pans.

The pans were so good, that on a jaunt to Conforama with Rosanna I bought enough pans to both outfit our Brooklyn apartment and replace my parents' old frying pans.

Needing to find space in carry-on luggage for two frying pans, one wok, and two baking pans kicked off what became a very odd packing list.

Since we'd be heading back to Sicily in a mere three months, and could leave our clothes and shoes there, I decided to only pack food and pans in my luggage. Thus began an exciting journey of figuring out all the food I could get through airport security and customs.

  • Five pans

  • Two hefty rounds of cheese—one with pistachios and one with black pepper corns

  • About a kilo of sun dried tomatoes from the weekly market

  • Two sandwich bags of dates and one of dried figs, both from the market

  • Four packages of gluten free almond cookies

  • Four small jars of pistachio pesto (using my toiletries liquid allotments!)

  • A couple large bags of toasted hazelnuts

  • A small baggie of pistachios from Bronte

  • Six bags of gluten free veggie chips

  • Five chocolate bars

We figured all this great food would supply plenty of gifts for folks back in the states.

And, for anyone wondering if you can carry these things through customs, the answer is currently yes. We had zero issues. Phew!

How Gifts Became Snacks

We arrived back in NYC utterly exhausted. Our apartment seemed smaller than we remembered. The outside humidity was off the charts. And we spent a day cleaning mold out of one of our window air conditioners.

Then, we settled into the project of remembering how to live in New York City.

We placed a grocery order online. I went to the chiropractor and the pharmacy. I visited with my best friend on her stoop. We went for a walk around the neighborhood. We worked through the logistics of finding new doctors who accepted our new insurance.

And we started thinking about ways to bring a little of the spirit of Sicily into our time here in NYC.

We reorganized our living room to be more like our writing room in Sicily, hoping to rekindle our creative focus.

We also eyed the food we'd brought. All those delicious almond cookies. Those wonderful figs. The sun dried tomatoes. Who would we really gift them to? Especially when a single bite could transport us back to Sicily?

Yes, we started eating through our gifts for friends and family. Sorry!

Homesick for Sicily

Munching on Sicilian cookies, nuts, and dried fruit, Marco and I started talking a lot about what we loved most about our life together in Sicily:

  • The incredible food

  • The welcoming, multigenerational community

  • Our beloved house

  • The natural beauty and rich history around every corner

There are still things we enjoy about NYC. This is the place Marco and I met. The place where he wrote and published his first novel. The place where we bought our first home together. The place where many of our friends still live. A city filled with a vibrant writing community.

No matter where we live, Marco and I will always be tied to New York City. Living here made us who we are today.

But it led us to wonder: Where is home now?

There and Back Again

One of the many things that Marco and I share is a love of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. We are total fantasy nerds. For hobbits, leaving their Shire home for adventures always entails both growth and loss.

For when you return, you are not ever quite the same.

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Marco and I went to Sicily this summer looking to heal from the trauma of the last two years. For me, I wanted to spend more time writing. For Marco, it was also important to be in Melilli while finishing his second novel.

We found all that and more. We found a second place to call home.

In November, we head back to Melilli. We'll meet up with more cousins and new friends. We'll try some Sicilian winter adventures. We'll experience the holidays. And we'll write all about it.

Don't worry, until then, our weekly blogging will continue. We have many adventures and stories that we simply haven't had a chance to write about yet. We can't wait to share.

138 views2 comments


Aug 06, 2023

Fantastic blog. Must read more when have the time . I’d love to meet you both. I’m actually sure I have seen you in Siracusa Carmillia. I do the the 90 day dance too, it’s a pain.


Deena Guptil
Deena Guptil
Aug 16, 2022

I love following this blog. I laughed when you ate the gifts for your friends. I did the same when I returned from Sicily. Looking forward to more of your adventures.

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