Art · church · Discover · history · holiday · Italy · palermo · renaissance · sculpture · sicily · Uncategorized · wine · wine bar

Discover – The Vibrant City of Palermo, Sicily

It’s taken me a while to get round to writing this, mainly because I knew it would be a long one, but since I visited such a long time ago…this post will be short and sweet.

I’ve been urging everyone to go and visit Palermo…this was my first time on the island of Sicily and I’m desperate to return. From the super friendly people, the tasty food and of course the beautifully rich full bodied wines, and the whole time I was there (I went alone) I felt 100% safe.

The city of Palermo has an exuberant history, so its art and architecture has a real mix of influence from the Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and the Normans (just to name a few). And this really comes through with meeting the locals, they aren’t “Italian” they’re “Sicilian” but with family traces from places far afield such as Egypt, perhaps that’s why they’re so open to tourists.

I visited Palermo for two short but sweet days, having jumped on my super early flight from Pisa, had a lovely communal discussion about food with the whole of the back 3 rows of the plane, and touched down in Palermo a short while later.

Only having a short amount of time I wanted to make the most of it, so I decided to go on a small group tour around Palermo, with a focus of food of course. I booked with the wonderful Domenico Aronica (he is also a very talented photographer!) and we explored the whole of Palermo in almost four hours, ending in the famous food market La Vucciria, to sample some of the local delights.

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Renato Guttuso’s  “palermitano” a representation of Palermo’s lively market, “La Vucciria”.

From learning all about the history of Palermo, seeing the many landmarks of the city and meeting a number of locals and friends of Domenico, it was such an insightful and entertaining way to get to know the city on a personal level. The tours are always small, but I was lucky enough to have only another couple joining us, so we were able to cover a lot of ground and to I got many opportunities to ask questions!

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Some of the sights we learnt about, people we met and food we sampled during the tour:

A walk past the cathedral…

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A chat to Uwe, a local street artist originally from Austria who decorates some the run down buildings around the city, many of which were destroyed by the Second World War and have never been repaired…

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A mid morning snack of Sfincione – Palermos take on a kind of pizza topped with breadcrumbs. These little carts are dotted around the city and the pizza is heated by a grill underneath…

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An introduction to Facist architecture whilst outside the Post Office…

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We visited a number of friends of Domenico, but this enchanting fella was a tailor but also also played the ucalaly rather beautifully…

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A sample of iced coffee and a few flavours of granita, we sampled some Panelle; a Sicilian chick pea fritter (boiled and fried), I also had it for lunch the next day in a fresh bread roll and they are super tasty…

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A look round the beautiful church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, inside combines Byzantine mosaics with Renaissance frescoes and the outside has a strong Norman style…

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Another stop in to a local friend of Domenico’s, this workshop makes silverware for some of the most important religious bodies around the world and I can see why!

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The Fontana Pretoria, but also known as Fontana della Vergogna – the fountain of shame, can you guess why?

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And through the local fish market which is decorated with colourful graffiti…

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Lunchtime was approaching so we visited this guy for a spleen sandwich. I did eat it but I told the guy preparing it I preferred lampredotto (look at his face!)…

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One of the largest trees in the world is also here in Palermo and apparently it’s meant to give you energy if you touch the (hanging down!) roots…

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One of the many more churches we visited…

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The tour rounded off with samples of local bread, arancine (it’s feminine round these parts) and a few deliciously sweet cannoli. It was a truly amazing tour with a great mix of history, art and of course food and wouldn’t hesitate to book on another tour with Domenico when I return to Palermo!

The next day I did a few bits on my own, including the Capuchin Catacombs..basically where perfectly preserved corpses from the 17th to the 19th century are on display. Although I guess it was interesting, I literally have no idea why I visited, and had to hold my breath the whole time I was there – no photos obviously as that would be weird.

The Cappella Palatina was definitely one of my favourite spaces  I visited. Designed by Roger II in 1130, it’s filled with beautiful mosaics depicting various scenes from the bible.

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There were a few wine bars I stumbled across during my stay there, but this was definitely one of my favourites…

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I even trekked all the way up to the modern redeveloped area to sample some gelato from Brioscià, and it was totally worth it!

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The thing I loved most about Sicily was just how friendly everyone was. From the many local wine bars I visited, restaurants where I dined alone, little shops and at many of the various markets across the city, I always felt incredibly safe and welcome. Until next time Palermo!

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