Written by Slug on 30 Dec, 2011
One of the most daunting things for many Palermo visitors is fairly fundamental to get right. Without the skill of crossing the road, your wandering around the city will become a daunting trial. Just remember by the end of the week you are likely to…Read More
One of the most daunting things for many Palermo visitors is fairly fundamental to get right. Without the skill of crossing the road, your wandering around the city will become a daunting trial. Just remember by the end of the week you are likely to give your home drivers a heart attack if you try to adopt the same method of crossing! My tips might just help you cross the road like an Italian but do remember that Italian pedestrian accident rates are very high; in terms of liability it's between you and the driver! Tip 1: Watch out for motorbikes and scooters. Similar to cyclists in the UK, they appear to believe that road signs simply do not apply to them. Also motorbikes have a fast acceleration and Italians tend to use it to full effect. Tip 2: Walk like an Italian. It strikes me that Italian drivers actually try to anticipate where you will be when they reach you, rather than where you are now. Suddenly stop in terror in the middle of the road and you will be exactly where that car bearing down on you doesn't anticipate you to be.Tip 3: Take a little time to look for a lull in the traffic. You might be lucky and get a complete gap, but on the busier roads a lull will have to do. Try and cross at the zebra crossings, but remember they don't work as they do in the UK; they appear to simply alert drivers to the fact that someone might be trying to cross. If there is a red or green man signal on the zebra crossing, then it seems common consensus (unless you are a young buck Italian) to wait for the man to go green before crossing. Most traffic (but note Tip 1) will stop when the man is green, unless no one is waiting to cross.Tip 4: Weave. Don't anticipate a full clear road before crossing – you will be waiting quite a while if you do. Instead look at each lane of traffic in segments. It is common to cross a lane, pause in the road a while if you must. Ideally however you simply carry on going, but with slowing or speeding up to cross the road in the safest way possible, as the traffic weaves its way around you.Tip 5: Follow an Italian. If all else fails, wait until a local crosses the road and watch them like a hawk and stick with them like glue. Whatever you do, don't lose your nerve halfway across – you will be sunk.Best of luck – by the end of the week you will be fearlessly crossing the road like a local and glaring at those cheeky motorcyclists who dare cross directly in front of you. Close
Written by Slug on 27 Dec, 2011
Palermo is a most typically Italian of cities, largely sticking to the afternoon concept of a siesta. For the visitor it can be very frustrating; you might have three museums you wish to visit, lunch to fit in, and suddenly halfway through the day everything…Read More
Palermo is a most typically Italian of cities, largely sticking to the afternoon concept of a siesta. For the visitor it can be very frustrating; you might have three museums you wish to visit, lunch to fit in, and suddenly halfway through the day everything grinds to a halt for a couple of hours. Here's a few tips that might just help you make the most of any Palermo time: Tip 1: check museum opening times. OK a no brainer, but some museums open morning only, some reopen in the afternoon and others open all day with no break. Most Palermo museums appear to be geared for the short attention span of impatient Italians and so don't take much more than an hour to get round, and build in some time to wander and stare at the old gothic streets.Busy museums that are open all day can be quieter early afternoon – take advantage of the local siesta and get a better view of the top attractions. Tip 2: if tip 1 makes your day sound too regimented, the alternative is not to worry too much if you miss something. Select your "must visit" places and check out their opening times. If you don't get to see the rest, well it will wait for your next visit. Instead, take a hotel pit stop mid afternoon. At 2:00pm the streets are pretty deserted and shops and restaurants are all closed. Why not do as the locals do and retire for an hour or two – it will give you extra energy later on and mean you won't flag. By the end of your trip you may have even got into the Italian way of staying up until the small hours. Tip 3: lunch fairly early. When we go abroad, we usually tend to have lunch fairly late in mid afternoon. That way, we usually get by with just a snack at dinner and manage to ensure we don't pile on the vacation pounds. Unfortunately, it's not so easy in Palermo as most restaurants are thinking of shutting their doors by about 2:00pm. Tip 4: see if you can travel early afternoon. Another way to make the most of your time is to see if you can travel to your destination during "close down". Many bus routes still have busses running early afternoon, and if you are staying in a couple of Sicily spots, then it could be a good call. Close
Written by Slug on 26 Dec, 2011
As we live miles from the sea, one of our "must do" things is to take a stroll along the seafront whenever we can. While it seems that Palermo has made a bit of effort with its sea front in recent years with a new…Read More
As we live miles from the sea, one of our "must do" things is to take a stroll along the seafront whenever we can. While it seems that Palermo has made a bit of effort with its sea front in recent years with a new concrete promenade and a little landscaped garden it remains a little unkempt and appears to be a local kid's hangout on an evening judging by the amount of low grade graffiti in the area. I'm quite the fan of graffiti as art expression, but bar a few isolated examples, Palermo is a surprisingly poor spot to discover any interesting examples. Although I wouldn't describe Palermo sea front a "must do" activity, it is a fairly reasonable place to stretch your legs and watch the various ferries and boats go by. The port just up the coast looks busy and offers ferry trips to a number of exotic places including Tunisia, Sardinia and Malta (OK scrub the exotic with Malta – I've been there). While the Palermo rocky shoreline is perhaps never going to be up there in the list of "World Coastline Gems", the view across the port and to the rocky outcrop beyond has a certain charm, and even the huge concrete blocks deployed as a water break are interesting (if not pretty). I presume the waves created by the huge vessels using the port means this bit of lowland needs a bit of protection. Behind the coastline and on the edge of the city buildings is a very busy road, which is quite difficult to negotiate on foot as cars shoot round at speed, and behind that again are some of the original fortifications built to protect Palermo along with some of the cities older and grander buildings, although many of them are somewhat dilapidated these days. It does have a little bit of the Havana Malecon (Havana’s main coast road and sea wall) feel to it, although I didn't spot anyone swigging rum from bottles in Palermo! As the stroll and linger will take most visitors an hour at best. if you are looking for somewhere to visit near the sea front is the huge Palermo Botanic Gardens, a good spot to while away an hour or two away from the bustle of the city; combine the two and you have a good half days exploring ahead of you. Close
Written by Slug on 18 Dec, 2011
I don't usually wax lyrical about washrooms, rest rooms or toilets when I visit a country, but have concluded there might be some helpful information to be offered about Sicilian restaurant and bar toilets following our recent visit to Palermo and Marsala.Tip 1: Is the…Read More
I don't usually wax lyrical about washrooms, rest rooms or toilets when I visit a country, but have concluded there might be some helpful information to be offered about Sicilian restaurant and bar toilets following our recent visit to Palermo and Marsala.Tip 1: Is the toilet occupied? I was stumped a couple of times because I thought the toilet door was locked; in fact many toilets in restaurants and bars occupy quite tiny spaces, and you may find they have utilised a sliding door to save space. So, as well as push or pull, don't forget to try to slide the door too!Tip 2: what to do with paper? In common with many South European countries, the plumbing may not quite be up to modern requirements, and using a lot of paper will simply block the toilet. Look for a sign (often in Italian) but which makes it clear that paper is to be deposited in a waste paper bin located in the bathroom. It goes without saying that you should be considerate to the next visitor.Tip 3: One rather nice tradition is that some bars and restaurants don't require you to touch anything (apart from that sliding door!) after you have completed... umm... your business. Look for a squeezy type ball on the floor near the toilet basin – press it to flush the loo. Likewise, there may not be any taps attached to the sink you use – again look out for one or two pedals under the sink, often blue and red for hot and cold water. Use those to get water. Don't forget on exit, the door might be a sliding one (I had a heart stopping moment when I thought I had been jammed in before I remembered how to open the door!)Tip 4: Gents, ladies or both? In common with many countries, the toilets may be gender specific or not depending on the space available and size of restaurant. Likewise, you may find separate cubicles for men and women and a communal hand washing part.Just look for the signs (and in Sicily there are usually easy pictures to denote separate gender toilets). Close
Written by airynfaerie on 07 Dec, 2009
Our arrival in Palermo was smooth after a 2 hr bus ride along the coast from the western edge where we spent the first part of our Sicily trip. By lunchtime we had arrived at the house of our local host who welcomed us with…Read More
Our arrival in Palermo was smooth after a 2 hr bus ride along the coast from the western edge where we spent the first part of our Sicily trip. By lunchtime we had arrived at the house of our local host who welcomed us with the legendary southern hospitality. His mother quickly became our adopted mom, making us sit down to a traditional Sicilian lunch of a linguine-type pasta with small berries, sardines, and oil based sauce. For the vegetarian in the bunch, they served me a big salad, cheese, and fruit instead. We talked over the meal about their recommendations around the city and decided to meet back for dinner and an evening out.We spent the afternoon touring the Zisa Castle (one of the oldest examples of Moorish style remains in the area, and very much full of Arabic style modeling), dodging quick rain showers, and stopping in a few more churches, including the Cathedral and San Giuseppe dei Teatini. I'd read that a popular drink in Sicily was the salz, so we went to a small family cafe' to try it out. It talked to the young barista and he wasn't sure what I was asking for, so the mom came over and figured out that it was jut gas water with lemon and salt - but she told me that this wasn't a traditionally Sicilian drink. We laughed and decided to try it anyway, along with a couple new treats from the pastry case. The mom asked us where we were from and we made general conversation. When we went to pay, she barely charged us anything at all and told us to enjoy Sicily. Later in the afternoon we explored the city streets looking for the legendary Sicilian cannoli. We bought a couple mini cannoli from a cafe' and ate them as we made our way to an outdoor 24-hr hot cannoli and croissant stand. There we bought a full size cannolo with candied fruit on the ends, and a fresh-from-the-oven cornetto (croissant) with pistachio creme.For dinner we met up with two other couples, one American and one from Palermo. They drove us around the city and enjoyed telling us historical facts, as well as practicing some English phrases out with us. They took us to the restaurant, Antica Focacceria San Francesco, which is a fun, casual and basically "al-la-carte" place to get many tastes of typical local fare. A member of the Slow Food Movement (which we love to support), the worker and patrons were very lively and kind. At one point, as we were sitting "family style" the group next to us chimed in our conversation and we passed the food around for everyone to try.After dinner we made a couple stops - one at a cafe/bookstore (like an Italian version of Barnes&Noble), a very popular bar/pastry shop, and finally a walk through the university area to a neighborhood filled with bars, cafes, and alleys full of people hanging out and mingling. During these stops our friends explained the story behind the Sicilian Cassata pastry. We also admired the cases of Frutta di Martorana and chocolate custard mini tarts, but didn't sample any as we were still full from dinner. The next morning, we had fun wandering around a couple of outdoor markets in the city. I wish I could do an entire photo study of the fish stands, because the stacks of fish, from swordfish, octopus, squid, neonati (just born octopus about 1/2" long in a big pile of silver goo), silver sardines lined in the crates is a feast for the eyes! It was so interesting to see the variety and I almost never even smelt a fishy stench because the seafood is so fresh that it only smells like saltwater. We then visited another two churches, and walked to the harbor before going to the bus station. On the way to the station, we were stopped by a guy about our age promoting a discount card program for a local bookstore. When we told him that we didn't live there he became so interested in where we were from, why we were traveling, etc. It's like he forgot that he was even trying to sell something, because he just wanted to converse!It was amazing to meet such wonderful people of Sicily. Their hospitality made our trip. The food was also a big bonus! Close
Written by Drever on 21 Nov, 2005
Palermo, the capital city of Sicily, is a mixture of ostentation and poverty, a place of beauty that is ugly in places, and a city in which to wear a money belt and keep an eye on your camera. My wife hated it on sight,…Read More
Palermo, the capital city of Sicily, is a mixture of ostentation and poverty, a place of beauty that is ugly in places, and a city in which to wear a money belt and keep an eye on your camera. My wife hated it on sight, not feeling safe in its narrow, dirty streets. I took a little longer--until my wallet vanished.Palermo is old and looks it. Streets and pavements are narrow and grime hangs over everything. No space that wheels can roll along is sacrosanct to the scooters, which make their jarring racket everywhere. Noise and pollution hang over the city as you find your way among old monuments: Arab cupolas, Byzantine street markets, and Norman and baroque architectural gems dating back centuries. The city is a treasure trove of dusty museums and baroque oratories. Palermo's Arab-Norman buildings have no equivalent.The city’s history stretches back to the 8th century B.C., when the Phoenicians set up a trading post here. Eventually Palermo became the Carthaginian capital of Sicily, but following the Roman conquest in 254 B.C., power and trading shifted to Syracuse on the east coast and Palermo went into decline.In turn, Palermo played host to never-ending armies of invaders. The Vandals came, then the Ostrogoths, and by 831 the city had fallen to the Arabs. During this time, power returned to Palermo as it became one of the great markets of the Mediterranean, with magnificent mosques and luxurious palaces. It was the equal of Cairo in Egypt.In 1072, when Palermo fell to Roger de Hauteville, it marked the beginning of the Norman period. Under his son, King Roger, who ruled from 1130 to 1154, Palermo entered its best period, with Muslims, Christians, and Jews living in harmony and prosperity.Under King Frederick, who gained the throne of Sicily in 1208, Palermo became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1268, Charles of Anjou, brother of the French King, came to the throne and launched a despotic rule that ended in the Rebellion in 1282 of the citizens known as the Sicilian Vespers. In the aftermath, King Peter III of Spanish Aragon came into power and influence in Palermo. The Aragonese preferred Naples to Palermo as a capital, and power once again waned in Palermo as it passed to feudal families and religious orders.Palermo never regained its power and prestige. The city's decay and decline stretched on for centuries. Then an even worse disaster descended on it in 1943, when the city received massive bombardments by Allied air forces stationed in North Africa.In the aftermath of the war, Palermo eventually came to recognise the greatness of its architectural heritage, and proper restoration began, although sites cratered by bombs still exist. The restored Teatro Massimo reopened in 1997. Restoration of historic quarters such as Kalsa is underway with restaurants, galleries, and cafes opening. Cracking down on crime would offer even greater hope for the future. Close
Written by davidx on 25 Oct, 2002
Since the mosaics and the skeletons of Palermo have their own pages, the only things the places on this page have in common is that they are in Palermo but come in neither category.
The church of San Catoldo is right next to the Martorana [see…Read More
Since the mosaics and the skeletons of Palermo have their own pages, the only things the places on this page have in common is that they are in Palermo but come in neither category.
The church of San Catoldo is right next to the Martorana [see mosaics page] and contrasts with the sumptuous splendour of that church by its own complete internal simplicity. Actually this somehow manages to be immensely striking! The exterior is noticeable by its bright red domes.
Another church - or rather ex-church - worth visiting is San Giovanni degli Eremeti, near to the Norman Palace. This is obviously of Arab origin and contains a number of domes. Oddly it is possibly the garden which has run wild, among the graceful cloisters, which gives this its particular appeal.
The Museo Archeologico Regionale contains the sorts of collections of Greek and Roman work that you would expect in Palermo and the Selinunte room is a knockout. This is not purpose built, having been a convent originally and suffered mightily from bomb damage - but the illustrations of its history certainly add to its appeal.
La Zisa, reached by the 124 bus, seemed to me grotesquely overated; it is OK as an old Arabic remain but to compare it with the Alhambra is farcical - it is just not in that league and the claim that it is detracts from its appeal which is a pity as it does have some.
Monte Pellegrino is reached by bus 812 from fairly near the tourist information centre. It has a rather odd timetable and you are best finding out in advance if possible. The virtue of the fairly short ridee would be hard to overstate, twisting through fine woodland with glorious views of the coast. I am sure the walk up to the top and the view would be quite magnificent but sadly my health was not up to that. To my mind the Sanctuario de Santa Rosalia, at the bus terminal, is absolutely dreadful and the gorup of tat- selling stalls which it has attracted does nothing for the place either. However , even if you cannot get to the top of the mountain the virtue of the ride easily compensates for the dreadfulness of the sanctuary. I did not go in!
Perhaps I was lucky to have excellent views into the port area from the bus on my way in as parts of it are said to be a bit on the undesirable side.
Written by Zhebiton on 08 Jul, 2010
I can not say that I liked Palermo - feels that the city has not yet "freed" from the mafia. For the main avenues to walk normally, but in side streets sometimes complete rout. Pleasant walk along the beautiful promenade, enjoying the view of…Read More
I can not say that I liked Palermo - feels that the city has not yet "freed" from the mafia. For the main avenues to walk normally, but in side streets sometimes complete rout. Pleasant walk along the beautiful promenade, enjoying the view of the sea, mountains, palm trees and run crowd athletes. Striking cathedral in Palermo - What a terracotta synthesis of east and west. I highly recommend a restaurant near Santa Caterina (near Quatro Canti) - where we ate risotto with seafood, and swordfish. Gusto, gusto! Under Palermo, 7 km from the city, there is a super-beach, as we later understood - the best in Sicily. At Mondello. White clean sand, gently sloping beach, toilets can be a fee to take umbrellas, deck chairs and booths. The water is warm and clean - just a delight. Close