Day 6: Benvenuti a Palermo

Even though check-in time at my Airbnb is officially 3 pm, my wonderful landlord Giuseppe, agreed to meet me at my Palermo home away from home at 10:30 am. Since it was only 9 am when we disembarked, I decided to walk. Finding a way out of the port was a lot more challenging than I expected, but I just kept saying to people “la città è così” and pointing in some direction. They would either say “sì” or “no” and point another way. I felt very proud of myself when we arrived at a city street. Now to try and navigate to Quattro Canti area of Palermo. Have I mentioned how bad google maps and apple maps are in European cities. In Toronto, they re-route me if there is construction or heavy traffic. Not so in Europe! However, I knew that I needed to head away from the sea, so that’s what we did. I just kept heading toward the mountains until we arrived at some larger streets that google maps recognized. I’m not saying that google and apple maps won’t give you a route. They will. It just may be one that takes you in circles and on roads with no sidewalks. So I’ve learned to try to just go in the general direction of the route suggested. I knew that the Airbnb was in the historic area in a part of the city with restricted vehicle access, so when we arrived at a beautiful piazza with a road blocked off to traffic, I figured we were close enough that I could breathe a sigh of relief and have a cappuccino! Pearl had some water, I sipped my coffee and all was right with the world until a couple of police officers went by on horseback. Pearl does NOT like horses and she told the world how she felt. I was afraid that we were going to be kicked out of the restaurant, but we just got a few disdainful looks. Nevertheless I thought it best not to push our luck and quickly finished my cappuccino so we could be on our way. It turns out it that it is not only police officers riding horses in the historic area, there are also many horse drawn buggies. After a few bouts of hysteria from Pearl, I decided to pickup  her and cover her eyes whenever a horse approached. Thank the goddesses that my arm had gone back down to its normal amount of swelling, otherwise I’m not sure if we would ever have made it to our apartment. We did though and it was beautiful. A huge contrast to the Airbnb in Rome. As was Giuseppe. We got a little lost right at the end of our journey and there was no Giuseppe at the place we ended up. I texted him and he responded immediately and told me to go back out to the main street and I would see him waving. He was and we found him. Giuseppe said that for some reason google maps sent everyone to the wrong place. Mind you, these are really alleys, not streets and there is no egress at the other end, so I suppose google can be forgiven — this time!

Giuseppe grabbed my laden suitcase and opened the door to a spectacular indoor courtyard — with an elevator! Even though the building was obviously hundreds of years old.

Giuseppe showed me around the apartment and how everything worked. There was espresso and tea and those little dry toasts with jam, so I at least had breakfast. There was also soap, shampoo and toilet paper which not every Airbnb is supplied with. There was even a little sewing kit with multiple colours of thread! He also gave me a map and showed me where the markets, Cathedral and the sea were. Pearl and I wished him buona giornata and settled in. We had not even finished unpacking when we got a text with restaurant suggestions, cool places to go and directions to a grocery store. Definitely a super host! 

I would have loved to just rest for a bit, but I was starving, so off we went to explore the neighbourhood. At least this time we did not run into a randy feral dog. On the way to the apartment, a big black lab chased us for blocks because he was determined to try to make babies with my little Pearl! I had to keep kneeing him away and ducking into shops! I told Giuseppe about the encounter and he said it was unusual. He said most of the strays get plenty to eat and are not at all aggressive. I felt much better after hearing that but I still kept my eyes open for that big black lab. A block or two up the street there was a little street food place that was open and I nervously decided to try arancini. I had tried it before at Fortinos and had thrown it out, but figured this was the birthplace some 10,000 years before, so they should have perfected it by now! I took home the zucchini and mozzarella one and it was nothing like the one at Fortinos. I could have eaten 6 of them, it was so good. Although I might have exploded because they are the size of deep fried tennis balls.

Pearl also had lunch and now we were both ready to do some exploring. Giuseppe had pointed out 3 markets within a 15 minute walk and I decided to go to the one he said was best for vegetables and cheese. It only took us 25 minutes to walk to the one 10 minutes away. Partly because I got a little lost, but mainly because everything was incredible! We were staying in the Quattro Canti district an area that all the tours guides say you must visit and it’s true. You must! Every building is ancient and there are piazzas after piazzas full of amazing statues, fountains, churches and buildings that look like palaces. BUT look out for the crazy drivers! I don’t know why people talk about the drivers in Rome. They stop for pedestrians, they let other cars in and you rarely hear car horns. Palermo on the other hand is exactly the opposite. There is a constant beeping of car horns to tell people other cars, motorcycles, bicycles and horses to get the f***k out of their way. I often had to scoop Pearl up and jump out of the way or press myself against a building in an alley where vehicles are prohibito. You may remember me complaining about cars and vans parking in pedestrian crosswalks. Well in Rome that was only at some crosswalks, in Palermo it is every crosswalk. I understand why there are so many churches. People must be constantly praying to arrive safely at their destination.

The Ballaro market was worth it though. A mix of sound, smells and languages — Italian, Sicilian and Arabic. While listening carefully for the sound of a motorcycle and being prepared to leap out of the way, we walked through most of it and then I started buying some food. I got the leanest, roast beef slices I have ever seen, some parmesan, a little Gorgonzola and accidentally a lot of pimento and olive cheese. I asked for mezzo giri di formaggio, but something got lost in translation because when I got home, I discovered due mezzo giri di formaggio — two half rounds of pepper and olive cheese! Some bread, a cone (yes that’s correct – a cone) of ripe tomatoes, some lettuce and olives and I was all set. We took a different way back, not on purpose, but we ended up in this gorgeous square with a large fountain encircled by statues, so once again getting lost was a good thing. After a wander around the immediate neighbourhood, it was time to get back to the apartment and call home. I talked briefly with my sister Teresa and gave her a tour of my great apartment, but everyone was very busy there so after a short conversation, we promised to talk later.

Next we set out to do a little more exploring. Have you ever been someplace where the number of things to take pictures of is so overwhelming that you end up not taking pictures at all. That’s basically what happened to me this afternoon. It’s OK though we have another six days to explore and take pictures.And maybe over the course of the week Pearl will get used to seeing dogs everywhere and stop freaking out about it. For now it is time to head back home and make a delicious super with my goodies from the market and then FaceTime with someone from home before falling into bed.

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