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Yorkshire to di world! Entrepreneur on assignment in Italy

NEW FRIENDS: Yvonne Witter, far left, with fellow travelling professionals on assignment in Italy (image credit: Yvonne Witter)

AN AVID writer, social commentator and enterprise specialist, former Southwark Business Woman of the Year Yvonne Witter is blogging about her latest global assignment, which sees her acting as business consultant for a human rights organisation in Italy.

Witter has been blogging for the Yorkshire Writers Lunch, an author’s group in which she plays an active part when she’s in the UK.

Embodying the term ‘global citizen’, Witter’s expertise has taken her far and wide over the years and she has enjoyed documenting her trips for fellow business start-up professionals and budding entrepreneurs to glean from. Witter has led projects in Myanmar, Malawi and her parents’ homeland Jamaica to name a few; with Italy being the latest on the list.

Speaking with The Voice, Witter expresses her love for all the towns she’s visited and the frequent trips she makes from her Huddersfield base to London, where she has lived and worked most of her life.

As part of her Yorkshire Writers Lunch blog, Witter reveals details of her international journey, which includes many moments seasoned travellers can relate to:

SUMMER IN THE CITY: The buzz of Sicily (image credit: Yvonne Witter)

“My neighbour was seated at the window, and me in the aisle seat. She kept trying to strike-up conversations with me in Italian. She was very jolly, so a lot of gesticulation and laughing ensued, as we mis-communicated excitably.

“Most times, I am just grateful that not everyone is as shy as I am, to talk to strangers.

“I said ‘Si’ a lot, when I ought to have been saying ‘Non capisco’. I am sure at one point, she was trying to find out my destination in Palermo, and how I was getting there. She mimed steering a wheel as she talked. We giggled and she threw her hands up, and I shrugged my shoulders as we hit yet another wall.

“It was a few days into my visit before I fully understood the richness of her gesture.

“I bounced over to some airport staff and said, ‘Bonjourno’ with a big smile. They looked at each other, then one of them beckoned to another a few feet away, and he came over and spoke to me in English. It was 9.30pm - I realised the following day that I had actually said ‘good morning’ to them!

“I approached the taxi rank and a smart looking man, took my luggage. I showed him my address, asked him the fare, and he barked ’50 Euro’, and turned on the ignition. As I queried this price, he started to drive. I shouted at him to stop, as I needed to verify that price with my hosting organisation, as it seemed to be 15 Euro more than my guide price.

LET’S GET TOGETHER: Yvonne Witter, centre, with new friends sightseeing in Italy of an evening (image credit: Yvonne Witter)

“Well, before I could get my phone off airplane mode and 3 Mobile to recognise my location, my two suitcases were slung out onto the pavement, amidst a flurry of abuse and flailing arms - I suspect it was that Sicilian passion. 

“Other men gathered around to hear the ‘story’ whilst I climbed out of the car and stood amongst them, as they looked at me, and me at them and I wondered, ‘Now what? Would anyone take me?’.

“Then, a man took my luggage, and beckoned to me to follow him… of course all the while I imagined that I was in a scene from The Godfather, how dare I question the fare?!”

Witter goes on to offer a candid take on what she feels is the extent of the mafia’s power in Sicily:

“I was relieved to reach my destination 40 minutes later, and was made aware that I probably did have a brush with the mafiosi. So much here is controlled by the group in a way, which makes the experience unpleasant.

Highlighting what the type of concerns common for many lone travellers, Witter adds:

“I had one other frightening taxi experience at night, which cost me 28 Euro for a journey I could have walked in 20 minutes max, if only I had felt it was safe to do so, and had known the route.

“I had to shout and bang, to get this particular hoodlum of a driver to stop driving around in circles, so that I could walk the five minutes to my destination, after he had whizzed past it deliberately a few times at breakneck speed without stopping.”    

Ending the account on a positive note, the enterprising explorer enthuses:

“What’s really exciting here though, is the growth in social enterprise businesses, and the redistribution by government, of confiscated mafia property for public good.  

“One organisation I am working with has a ten-year free lease on a building used for training the disadvantaged and migrant communities in sewing and upcycling garments and fashion retail.”

To keep abreast of Yvonne Witter’s travels and her work in Yorkshire, click here or Follow her on Twitter @Yvonne_Witter

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