Palermo was my last stop in Sicily, but though one might think that after all those amazing places that I saw before, a big city like Palermo wouldn’t have that much to offer anymore. Well, one couldn’t be more wrong in that assumption!
Compared to Taormina and Cefalù, Palermo really is a city. A Sicilian city to be precise. So even though you would’ve been in Rome, for instance, and think you know what the chaotic traffic, noise, and crowded places feel and look like, you would be still surprised when you get to Palermo. Though the city (so I heard) is getting more safe and clean, you can still feel a certain… well, vibe from the old times, especially if you end up walking alone in the empty, narrow streets during the siesta – as I did. Though they do have siesta also in North, especially in these small villages during the summer, in South the siesta applies also to this big city – so the idiom “city that never sleeps” most certainly don’t apply to Palermo. But if you just remember to have your lunch on time, you’ll be fine — otherwise you’ll end up walking along the streets starving, since the real food will be served again after 8pm (that I did, too)!
There is a lot to see and do in Palermo, but the best part of the city is the old one – the new part is very similar to any other big city in Europe, so if you have time only day or two, I wouldn’t use it on those wide streets full of stores from the international brands, but head to the narrow and shabby streets of an old town instead. The city is also well known from its street food, e.g. Franco u Vastiddaru is an institution you don’t want to miss if you are a street food fan. Also the local, Sicilian pizza, sfincione, is something you should try out. And not to mention all those sweet stuff that the Sicilians just loooove… it’s very hard to keep yourself away from those bars where they have counters full of cassata, cannoli, cornetti… gelato and granite… shall I continue the list? ;) Also, don’t skip the experience of shopping with the locals on the food markets of Mercato di Ballarò or Vucciria – but, if you have a chance to choose and have time for just one, choose Ballarò – it’s more authentic, a lot bigger, and the atmosphere is more real than in Vucciria which is filled with tourists instead of locals.
If you want to escape the chaos for one day, I’d suggest you to take a bus to Monreale (buses leave in front of the main railways station) which a beautiful village on the hill, about half-an-hour (or 2 hours… depending on the traffic) away from the big city. In Monreale you’ll find one of the most amazing and huge cathedrals I could think of, and though I usually don’t travel only to see some church, this really is worth taking the bus trip. And from this village I have one of the best memories during this whole trip in Sicily, when I was just sitting at the piazza, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face, and listening the old Italian gentlemen next to me talking about politics… That was one of those moments when you just feel the pure happiness lingering inside and around you <3
… and then, in the evening of the day in Monreale, I had completely opposite experience from tranquillity when I returned to Palermo and went dining to this restaurant full of locals and Italian tourists (and some crazy foreigners, too, who had the courage to get themselves in…) I waited my table for about an hour, having a chat with the owners daughter in the mean time – who was 4, btw, so a real family run restaurant! – but the wait went fast and it was just so nice to watch the buzz around you! This place is called Ferro di Cavallo close to quattro canti and you will recognize it from the far. There is a huge crowd waiting at its door to get seated, drinking a complimentary wine and chatting with the strangers… everyone is having a good time, and when you finally get the table, prepare to eat what they give you. My dishes were basically just brought to the table, though they do have the menu, but no worries; everything you get is very fresh, just prepared, and just _delicious_. The grilled octopus that I had, for example, was basically out of this world, and the bill won’t make you faint, at least not because it would be so high!
Another great place for food, drinks, coffee and whatever you might need, is Bisso Bistrot, where I sat quite a many times, enjoying great house wine (2 eur for a glass…), some snacks and dinner, and had chats with the other travelers and locals. Here I actually got the tip to go to Ferro di Cavallo, too, so I strongly encourage you to open your mouth and ask some tips from the locals!
So this is how Italy treats you. It shows you the beauty of the nature, the amazing skills of a man kind in construction, culinary and in art, and pampers you with the pure energy and passion of all those great people around you. In these moments lies the serendipity, the joy of life, and la dolce vita.
Elämää Italiassa ja italialaisessa Suomessa: ruokaa, juomaa, ostoksia ja maisemareittien koluamista patikoiden.