After a lovely breakfast at the Art & Jazz Hotel, we left Catania for Palermo. Palermo has beautiful architecture and offers views of the Tyrrhenian Sea and very pointy mountains. We dropped our bags at our hotel (Piazza Pantaleo) and began exploring. The muggy weather dictated our first stop, a pistachio gelato (we consumed this too quickly for a photo).The old city of Palermo has many pedestrian streets that somehow still manage to have speeding Vespas and cars zooming by to keep you alert. As we wound our way through the historic center we stopped at the intersection Quattro Canti where each building has a fountain representing one of the four seasons, a statue of the four Spanish Kings of Sicily and the four patronesses of Palermo. This Baroque square was a major example of town planning back in the early 1600s.La Fontana Pretoria is a massive fountain in the Palazzo Normanno. The fountain was originally in a garden in Florence. A combination of circumstances including corruption, convents and debts altered it’s destiny. The fountain was sold, dismantled and moved to Palermo. Considered the most beautiful fountain in Florence, the people of Palermo considered it a depiction of corruption and public nudity. The square has been referred to as Piazza della Vergongna or the Square of Shame. It is an amazing and wonderful fountain that has loads of animals along with the naked humans.The outskirts of Palermo brought us to the Capuchin Monastery Catacombs. This was both eerie and fascinating. There is no indication from the outside of the building that you are walking into a building of Palermo’s permanent residents. Pinned to the walls, sitting on benches and tucked onto shelves are nearly 8,000 corpses dressed in their best clothing. Each corridor hosts a specific type of person: virgins (technically unmarried younger women), professionals and religious figures. It is believed that the dry atmosphere allowed for natural mummification. The mummies date from 1599-1920.A more lively attraction are the three markets in Palermo. We walked and sampled our way through Cado, Ballaro and Vucciria. These are all outdoor and offer all types of fresh foods and flea market offerings along with terrific local color. The Sicilian cauliflour and zucchini were particularly spectacular.The Palermo Cathedral is a combination of Arabic and Norman architecture which explains the geometric tile patterns and blind arches. As different regimes conquered Sicily, other architecture styles made their mark on the cathedral as well. We received our first stamp of our Sicilian Cammino here. Happily, we were able to contact some organizing members of the Cammino and purchased patches to commemorate the start of our journey. A pop-up museum with paintings and mosaics in an open air space, along with nicely painted Jersey dividers to mark pedestrian areas, added extra cheer to the streets.
What about the food? Everyone eats here. All day long. Potato chips on a skewer, why not? How about potato chips served with pistachios while you sip prosecco, okay. Chickpea fries and curry dip, let’s try those too. Pistachio croissant, cafe freddo, yes please. Eggplant pizza, alright. I could go on and on. Our final event in Palermo before beginning our adventure (pistachio pilgrimage) is enjoying the performance at the Teatro Massimo. The performance was by choreographer Carolyn Carlson, with Phil Glass music; the series of five short pieces set in this amazing theater was a steamy affair. The theater has not been retrofitted with air conditioning for the performers or the audience and it was untenable for all. We are anticipating new treats and sights along our Cammino beginning in the morning.