9am – Getting lost in the Markets
If you are in Palermo on a weekday then you have to hit Palermo’s famous outdoor markets. There are a number of markets and many run into each other, the most famous being Vucciria market (which means voices or hubbub) – which accurately reflects the bustling, bartering notes all around, there is also Ballaro, and Borgo Vecchio and Mercato del Capo.
The markets sell a variety of produce from handicraft to clothes, but the real draw card is the food produce…. and this is where you kind of wished you had gone self catering…… the prices compared to home are unbelievable. We spotted 10kg of vine ripened tomatoes for just two Euro….. compared to A$5 for 8 tomatoes in Australia….. (yes it is times like this you curse Australia’s strict Customs requirements!)
The vibrant fruit and veg….. through to the herbs and spices….. and dodging vespas
11.00 am – Cathedral Influence of Monreale
After the occupation of Palermo by the Arabs the Bishop of Palermo was forced to move his seat outside the capital. The role of the new cathedral was assigned to a modest little church, Aghia Kiriaki in the village nearby which was later called Monreale. A little bus journey from Palermo will take you to visit this beautiful little town. Although we were not to clever and of course go there for the siesta time… but never to be deterred there was a perfectly good little gelato cafe to while away some time and curb the heat.
The Arabic influences are very prominent with the outsides of the principal doorways and their pointed arches enriched with carving and coloured inlay, combining three styles – Norman-French, Byzantine and Arab (above and below).
3.30 pm – Palermo Cathedral
One way to escape the heat of summer is to slip into Palermo cathedral (one tip is to carry a lightweight shawl with you to cover your shoulders otherwise you have to wear a paper tablecloth if you are bearing a little bit of flesh!). This is one place where you can see all of the influences that have run through the city over the centuries. Being built at the end of the 1100’s, it has been modified in each century to suit the Roman, Baroque, Gothic and more modern movements. Each competing and complimenting in their own way. Unfortunately no photo’s were allowed…. and even though people were a little sneaky… I always feel a little superstitious in a religious building… just in case the big man is watching down!
Well if that does not cool you down then there is always a little sneaky Gelato stop to help fight the heat! (yes two gelato’s in one day… no wonder the skirts are a little tight!)
7.30pm – Loosing yourself in the streets of Palermo
Early family strolls are part of the culture in Italy, the perfect way to work up the appetite. And as you are beginning to understand from the rest of this post trying to find our destinations usually took a little longer to do than we had anticipated meaning we kind of took on the twilight stroll culture without much effort….. but usually the destination was worth it. Taking a tip from an article in a magazine we set off to find the perfect place for a glass of wine and a taste of the local cheeses…. unfortunately in the 2 weeks that the magazine had been published the recommendation was no longer there…. oh well (note to self always check a business is still running before you walk an hour to try and find it!)…. but the same magazine did come up trumps with the next two recommendations…..
9pm – Dinner in the piazza followed by a literary nightcap
For a modern twist on the traditional recipes, we headed for Piazza Sant’Andrea, Ristorante Santandrea, is the kind of restaurant you would walk past if you did not know it was there, in fact you walk past it a couple of times to check that it really is there…. but well worth it for a true, relatively central, taste of sicily.
We then headed to a bar on the front on Palermo called Kursaal Kalhesa (below), this is one of the signs of the more modern middle class cultural movements slowly infiltrating Palermo, with cultural events taking place over a couple of glasses of Prosecco….. The bar is set in a cave like book shop which morphs into a cafe / night time bar, and has the perfect roof garden bar/restaurant for a night cap to finish off a busy day! (Well it is very hard sampling Gelato you know!!)
9.30 am – Back on the road
On with the colourful journey………………