Monday, 13 June 2016

Sicily - Palermo

Horse, man, wife (the latter mine!).
Our month-long adventure starts in Palermo. All we knew of it beforehand was that it is Mafia-central but now we know it as a large (population over 1m) and not particularly attractive city. A lot of the newer development has – allegedly – avoided inconvenient distractions like building permission and standards. The streets where we walked are poorly maintained, dirty and full of rubbish with dog poo everywhere. But as we were there for only two nights we can reclassify all this as “atmosphere” and move on to the good bits. And good bits there are plenty of.

Royal Palace
Palermo has a varied history that still shows having been under the control of the Moors, the Normans, the Spanish, the Bourbons … specifically under the Normans (King Roger I and II) it was tolerant of all religions and this shows in the architecture of some of the massive Norman buildings where there are Arab as well as Christian components. Our favourite would be the Royal Palace which dates from around 1100. The chapel (Cappella Palatina) inside is one of the best we’ve seen, with an Arab-style ceiling and Christian mosaics on the walls.
Cappella Palatina 

Cappella Palatina mosaics

Ancient lay pipes
A real indication of history was walking up a back street and seeing a sign noting that the large crumbling building there was a 16thC water distribution plant. It dispersed water to all parts of the city through clay pipes, many of which you could still see hanging out the walls!

There are plenty of outdoor markets selling food (everything from butchers to fishmongers to fruit and veg - all locally produced), clothes and the usual bric-a-brac. Most of the fish and seafood sellers would have the head of a swordfish on display or the body of a tuna with huge steaks being cut off. Not so much for the tourists but I did splash out on a 6 euro Chinese-made shirt.

Longest ever zucchini, and live snails trying to escape their baskets

One thing we didn’t get a lot of in Palermo was sleep. We were in a small apartment with big windows opening on to a narrow balcony – and staring straight across the alley into the next door neighbour’s lounge. With everyone up and noisy until late, cars and scooters squeezing down the alley, the sound of TVs and fireworks. Yes, fireworks. At the corner the neighbours were having a BBQ on the street that ended in a party. And then there was a game of basketball somewhere nearby with a very vocal crowd, and a lot of whistle-blowing. All quite different to the utter peace we have in our little corner of the English countryside.

Having only walked around the historic area we don’t have a good impression of the city as a whole, but we’ll be back there for a night at the end of the holiday so we will see a little more.

A full-size carriage ready for the Ball

Due (two) gelati, and a happy woman.

Would this get an MOT/WOF?

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