Bookworm book count: 27 and rising rapidly.
So we arrived into Palermo yesterday afternoon and realised three things:
1. Our hotel was actually 3-4 kms out of the city (oops – but at least there is a free shuttle bus)
2. It was a seriously stunning property, we had a lovely room (or so we thought) and we couldn’t imagine leaving it to head into town anytime soon.
3. We’d arrived on the day of la Notte Di Santa Rosalia (The celebration of the Patron Saint of Palermo) so there was to be a big party and lots of fireworks planned all visible from the hotel.
It all added up to our decision to hang out, soak up the scene around us and leave exploring to the next day.
The hotel we chose is Villa Igiea, a lovely old hotel, on the water with stunning gardens and a great swimming pool. It’s expensive, partly because we’d booked a junior suite so we could have a roll away bed for Charlotte and partly because the hotel was full, due to the holiday and a wedding. (Cashing in on the free fireworks I suspect). But it was worth it.
Only real problem was our room’s air conditioning died. So it was hot. Too hot and Mum (infinitely better than Dad at negotiations) decided enough was enough. So a couple of phone calls and a quick trip to reception and voila, we’re upgraded. Basically best room in the house. Just by the pool, private jacuzzi on the terrace (which is huge) and life is once again perfect. Or so you would think, right?
The only issue is – now I’m with Charlotte, who wants to go and check out beautiful buildings and churches when you can mooch around your own private piece of paradise!
So morning of Day 2, after a dawn spa and a lovely lazy breakfast we head reluctantly into the city. I’m especially keen to go check out the markets (which are meant to be some of the oldest and best in Europe) and explore the streets. We have kind of done our dash with churches and it would be hard to beat the one’s we have seen so far on this trip anyway, but I still love discovering cities and taking it all in.
Palermo is a big city, but it’s heart is small and stunning. Lovely gardens, beautiful old houses, wide streets, crazy Sicilian’s chatting about nothing in loud voices, drinking espresso and watching the world go by. They yell at each other across crowded streets like they are having a massive argument, rather than just saying hello.
We were dropped off by the free hotel shuttle and armed with a map began to meander.
Turns out Palermo is awesome. So much better than we expected and leaves Messina and Naples for dead.
After the celebrations the night before, it was full of banners and lights and clearly hungover people. And yes, there is graffiti and rubbish (we’ve seen that almost everywhere in Europe so far except Oia) but Palermo had real charm.
Starting at Politeama Garibaldi we wandered along Via Ruggero Settimo as the city was waking up. We stumbled across Teatro Massimo, Italy’s largest auditorium built in 1897, which is known for its incredible acoustics and now – in the world of the small person, A place where you can cuddle a puppy. Literally. The sign said, please take one. I had to hold her back!
We carried on towards the famous markets, along Via Maqueda stumbling across Chiesa Di San Domenico e chiostro, a beautiful 7th century Baroque church, Fountain Pretoria, meant for Florence but instead installed here (in what is known locally as the Square of Shame, from the 16th century – apparently because all the officials were corrupt) and Chisea di San Cataldo (from the 12th century). That’s a whole lot of history just there and you could see all of it by standing still.
Which is a big bonus, when it’s all terribly unplanned and scattered with puppies. Seriously. Charlotte was in doggie heaven when we stumbled across yet more puppies.
As we turned up Via Vittorio Emanuele, to see the beautiful Cattedrale of Palermo, I’m all ready thinking about the markets and buying fresh peaches and cherries for lunch.
The Catterdrale is beautiful inside and out and well worth a visit. The whole of the old town of Palermo is. The wide main streets, spawn veins of narrow little lanes that you can amble along and soak up this unique city life.
Its getting close to lunchtime so we turn towards the markets, to gather supplies.
The food so far has been amazing. The olives are cheap and beautifully plump. The cheese is incredible. The fruit is so sweet and juicy and the seafood – do not get me started on what they do with seafood. Last night I swear I had the best sea food pasta I have ever had. Simon will tell you, that was reflected in the bill.
So, hungry and ready for more, its time for the markets. Only, I can’t find them. Thinking that this is most unlike me (I’m the navigator in the family) I keep going until we find a unfriendly tourist information booth who looks at me like I’m stupid and informs me that, given it’s a holiday, there are no markets today. Seriously? I’ve been on a mission to see these and sample everything for almost 12 months. Accidentally arriving on a public celebration was not such a great idea after all. I guess we will just have to return another time.
So without provisions we head back to the hotel, via a supermarket (I needed more olives), to soak up Sicilian life from the terrace. I’m not complaining. And I suspect neither is Charlotte.
My tips for Palermo.
Make the effort and go but do some research up front. There is lots to see but not always on public holidays!
If you have the money, stay at Villa Igiea. It is a stunning, stunning place.
Tomorrow we begin the road trip to Taormina.
Highlights from small heights
I adore this hotel. It is literally amazing. Our room is the best and the private spa pool rocks. But that is not the best thing about Palermo. The best thing is the puppies. So many puppies in one place and they are so friendly and snuggly. The only down side is Mum drags me away from being adored by small bundles of perfection to look at yet another old church!
Anyway, we have had more reading time than expected so I am not complaining. And you read it here people, Mum FINALLY agreed with me, that hanging out by a pool is a sensible thing to do. Took her long enough!
Palermo rating out of 10: 9 (but only because of the puppies.
Improvement tip: More puppies – because they are puppies and we all need more of them.
Charlotte’s top two tips: Stop to cuddle puppies and minimise the churches