Palermo is a city that’s quite apart from the rest of Sicily’s urban spaces. Though it’s on the traditional end of the scale, it carries with it a sense of unpredictability and adventure. It’s streets are packed with traffic, it’s markets are a hive of hollers, smells and countless gastronomic offerings. The winding, palazzo strewn streets of the old quarter contrast with the wide boulevards and glam shops of the new town. It’s a clear European city with a chaotic nature and a penchant for rule bending. Palermo is an ancient city that showcases the remains of Sicily’s countless invaders: it was once an Arab Emirate, the seat of the Norman Kingdom and allegedly in the 12th century it was Europe’s grandest city. The city is still a real beauty and it is surprising to see the number of gorgeous palazzi and the fusion of Byzantine, Arab, Norman, Renaissance and baroque architecture which is a true feast for the eyes.
After arriving in Palermo on the lovely bus ride from Trapani, we stayed at the wonderful and cheap Albergo Ariston Hotel right off the stunning Teatro di Massimo which is the opera house in Palermo. It is a true delight to see and for me it was extra special because this is where the final scene of “Godfather 3″ was filmed when the assassin kills Michael Corleone’s daughter instead of him and the shootout ensues. A really great scene if you haven’t seen the movie but nevertheless a gorgeous building in a great part of town.
The best way to see Palermo as is the case for most of Italy is by foot, eating your way through the city and the best restaurant that we ate at was the highly recommended Focacceria del Massimo across from the Teatro di Massimo. The workmens lunch of pasta and sandwiches is absolutely killer. Another awesome restaurant was where we ate dinner at last night, a place called L’Acanto which served modern and fantastic Italian favorites in a cool little place right off the main drag in town.
Basically, I ate my fill of gelato, cannolis and these street sandwiches that are special to Sicily and only made there. For the life of me I cannot remember the name of them but they were amazingly good. Kind of a roast beef with salt in au jus on a soft roll. It was heavenly. See a theme here with Italian cities? They are great places to eat and walk.
After dinner we headed out for a few drinks at this place called Cambio Cavalli where well heeled Sicilians sit around on trendy couches and listen to music played by fellow Sicilians but all in English, so it was mostly Pearl Jam and Pink Floyd which was fine with us. It’s also amazing to watch how much Campari and soda the Italians actually drink. Funny because it would never even occur to me to order one but they love it.
This is also the best for watching people and examining the intricacies of the man smooch. This is what we named the term for when the men will kiss each other on the cheeks between 2 and 4 times as a greeting. Obviously it is a cultural thing and I have clearly seen it before and being Italian it is common in my family but never with friends so it was just interesting to watch. I still don’t know what constitutes how many kisses are given. Why is it sometimes two and sometimes four? Is it how good a friend they are or how long its been since you’ve seen them? I never really thought about it until last night when there were guys just waiting in line to man smooch each other! It was really funny to us and people watching is one of my favorite things to do especially in other countries. The Italians happen to be one of the funniest cultures to watch in action as well.
Anyway, I am in Rome now and getting ready to head out to sightsee a little and of course eat. We are meeting my friend Sergio tonight and heading to the Roma vs. Juventus game at the Stadio Olympico, I can’t wait!