Palermo was lovely. The most beautifully situated town in the world…
~ Oscar Wilde
Mike and I spent this morning getting to know our little corner of Palermo. Not really knowing anything about the city, I luckily chose an apartment that is in a residential area yet central to everything—museums, train station, buses, restaurants, shopping.
If you’ve followed me over the years on my journeys around the US and Europe, you probably know that I prefer apartments because I like to cook, like the added space, and like to “live” local. I’ve gotten to the point that if I’m in a hotel more than one or two nights, I start getting too antsy. For the most part, we have had great luck with apartments, but I need to add that you might experience some negative situations no matter how good the apartment is. The bed might be too hard or soft. There may be a microwave but no stove. The neighbors might make a lot of noise. (Like the ones that live on this narrow alley, ride motorcycles and mini-ATVs around the block, and talk to each other from balconies and doorways in a tone that is not “quiet.”) But, I digress.
As we often do when we’re in a city we haven’t visited, Mike and I took the hop-on/hop-off tour bus around town today, and we’ll do the second route tomorrow. I was intent on doing and seeing a few things, so if you don’t mind, I’ll share a few other things we saw as we walked or rode around.
Mercato Ballaró is a long, historic street market in central Palermo. It took us forever to find it because it is nestled among buildings and churches and such. The market is huge and has everything from produce and meat to cigarettes and underwear. There are dozens of “street food” vendors along the route, but the number of flies kept me from trying anything.
We did have lunch at a small cafe near our apartment. I was set on having arancini, basically a rice ball filled with something. I opted for the one that had meat, peas, and mozzarella since that is my favorite kind. We did, however, see every filling from ham and cheese to sardines (YUCK) to chocolate (Ugh). Mike, wanting to be safe, had prosciutto and cheese panino.
The Vucciria is another street market, although it is quite a bit smaller than the Ballaró. Founded over 1000 years ago when Africans ruled this area, the Vucciria was once a lively and busy market. It’s much smaller and somewhat calmer today, and Sicilians say that something that is a madhouse or chaotic is “vucciria.”
It was almost 80 degrees here today, and we found a number of locals wearing down jackets. Yikes.
Chestnuts are quite popular in this area, too, and we’ve seen men roasting and selling them all over the city. We used to have chestnuts a lot when I was growing up, but they have never been my favorite. Note the photo of Padre Pio on the vendor’s stand.
Speaking of Padre Pio, there is a mini shrine around the corner from our apartment, and his photo is there, too. Padre Pio was an Italian friar who experienced heavenly visions, experiences, and the stigmata. He died in 1968, became a saint in 2002, and has been revered by Italians since.
As I finish this post, I have to mention that an old woman is talking to someone down the street, and they are both yelling. I can’t make out too much of what she’s saying as she’s both slurring her words and using dialect. There have been a few choice phrases that I recognize (This is a family blog, though.), and a lot of, “Augh. Augh.”
“Augh,” Mike just said to me. “It’s from the universal language.”