After two buses from Positano and a flight from Napoli, I was not really in the mood for more public transport, so we caught a taxi to our 4-star hotel in Palermo, the Mecure. I booked it a few days ago for the bargain price of 59euro per night, including breakfast. The hotel is big and modern and very comfortable. It doesn’t really fit in with Palermo’s ancient architecture, but it is lovely to stay somewhere where everything works, the shower drains properly, and the bathroom is stocked with free tubes of gel and shampoo. We also had an internet connection in our room! A first so far on our trip!
We got to work online straight away, trying to figure out the next few days – where will we go, where will we stay, etc. We’ve decided to go from Palermo straight to Favignana for three nights, then will pick up a hire car from Trapani for a week and take it from there. We have one week before we are booked into accommodation outside of Taormina. Yay! Sorted.
We headed out about 7.45pm and I was amazed with the beauty of the big old grand palaces in Palermo. It is a little like Havana in Cuba – in that you can see how beautiful and grand these buildings would have been in their hey-day, but now they are dirty, old, bit crumpling…. Not all of them mind you. Palermo is much dirtier than Rome and the city feels poorer – everything here is cheaper. It also feels a bit seedier than Rome, particularly at night.
The Lonely Planet recommended a couple of restaurants that we thought we’d check out, so we headed to the Vucciria area. We didn’t find the restaurant mentioned in the book, but did find one with plenty of Italians inside, and also waiting outside. The Pelledola Pizzeria in Piazza Marina 35, was heaving. We stood there in amazement as waiters rushed past, sweating profusely, serving half roast chickens and wood fired pizzas to a hungry crowd. There was a waiting list, so we put our names down for a table and were told ‘un mezzoretta’ – a little half hour.
Waiting, waiting, waiting…. we were being entertained with the chaotic restaurant show – waiters really earned their money there. It was funny watching the Sicilians march in like they owned the place, only to be told that they have wait like everyone else. It was not the kind of place you could have a lingering dinner – get in, eat, then get out. It smelt good and we hoped it tasted just as good, given we’d waited 45 minutes to get in. I have a policy of not queuing for food, but I was so curious as to why this place was so busy when others in the piazza and on the way here were not. My curiosity got the better of me and Zorba felt the same way, so we waited patiently.
As soon as we were seated, about 9.40pm, we ordered two large beers and a bottle of fizzy water – so thirsty! For starters we had my favourite antipasto – caponata, a sweet and sour eggplant dish which is a speciality of this region, and a caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella. Both were delicious – the caponata really hit the spot for me. Following on, a pizza with porcini mushrooms and very tasty cherry tomatoes for 8 euro, and half a roast chicken with roast potatoes, Italian style for 6 euro. It was cheap, hence another reason for its popularity. We were the only tourists there and whilst I can speak Italian well enough to be understood, the Sicilians were looking at me like I’m an alien! Well, that’s what the Sicilian dialect sounds like to me – so it’s same same but different.
The next day, Sunday, we had an easy lazy morning, ate breakfast including scrambled eggs for the first time in Italy, and went out to explore the city. Everything was shut. What a SHAME! I didn’t even think that being in Palermo on a Sunday would be a problem. All those cheap clothes I missed out on buying! Shame shame SHAME! Oh well. One place that was open, the patisseria – and I indulged before lunch and had my first (but not last) canoli. YUMMMMM!! God I love Sicilian food!
We paid some grumpy guy 10 euro to take us around on the back of his Ape 3-wheeler mini ute thing and checked out the sights. We wandered through the market that was only operating at about 10 percent of its usual capacity, and found a place near the Teatro Massimo for lunch.
A big platter of mixed fried seafood, followed by roast squid and a salad is what we shared and it was delicious. Zorba particularly enjoyed it. I made the mistake of going to use the bathroom before eating and its condition was beyond disgusting – so I chose to ‘hang on’ and thus didn’t enjoy lunch as much as perhaps I could have.
With the city asleep and resting on a Sunday afternoon, we decided to do the same and we back to the hotel for a siesta.
We are both looking forward to watching Australia play its first World Cup game tonight. Go boys!!! So much so that I donned the Aussie flag as part of my evening outfit and we set out to find a bar with a good sized TV.
On our way, the main road, Vittorio Emanuelle II was closed to traffic and open to a produce market / food tasting. Yay! We tried some home made ‘salsicce’, which is just like a catitore sausage – delicious!! I asked to buy a small piece and asked the guy to please cut it up into bite sized pieces for us. It cost 2 euro and he threw in two chunks of pecorino cheese. I went to a vegetable stall and asked to pay for a small vine of cherry tomatoes – and the man said is this all you want? I said yes and he said just take them – they are yours. Yay! Something free! So we wandered the markets tasting and eating delicious salami sausage, cheese, and tangy sweet tomatoes!
We found some German girls all dressed up in their colours and asked them where they were going to watch the game and they invited us to join them in a small bar (with a good tv). Cool! We thought it could be fun, so we accepted. In this tiny bar in Palermo there was Zorba, myself and three Italians barracking for Australia, and 18 Germans. Going down 4-0 was torture!! I thought Australia would lose, afterall, Germany is a very strong team. But 4-nil? To not even score a goal – I was shattered. G U T T E D. Oh well, at least Italia is playing tomorrow and that might be a better result.
Next stop, little Sicilian Egadi Island of Favignana, off the east coast.