Still in Palermo!

I’ve been in Palermo, capital of Sicily, the large island off the boot of Italy for 6 days now, waiting for a ferry to Tunisia! I was supposed to leave on Saturday, but missed the boat, getting lost whilst attempting to find a bus stop on a quiet street in the centre and struggling because of not possessing any Italian! Therefor I’ve spent the last two days moving from one small hostel on Via Lincoln to a large property on the other side of the city on Via Dante! This involved finding yet more bus stops then walking in the vague direction of the accommodation in humid weather with a heavy pack on my back. I had to cross several roads during my trip, with little help from the Italian shouting locals. Although, one kind Sicilian couple did help me find the building in question. I’m now ensconced on a couch inside Casa Amici Hostel, typing this latest blog! A nice big hostel on a first floor with comfy furniture and a balcony, where the included breakfast is surved daily. Palermo is a noisy, lively city with constant honking horns, busy traffic, smelly streets and obstacle cluttered pavements, often filled with fast-walking locals rushing to who knows where and pushing and shubbing their way on and off buses and in and out of doorways. The smelles of the streets largely eninate from the heat and blockages of the suers, mingled with the cooking of greasy kebabs, chips/fries, onions and an assortment of spices and herbs! The large sprawling city offers a plethora of historical churches covered in gold outside and paintings and frescos inside, but I avoided most of these as they all seem to lack audio guides. The one exception being the 12th century Cappella Palatina (Palatine Chapel), royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily with its famous mosaics It’s situated on the first floor of the large Palazzo dei Normanni (Norman Palace/Royal Palace). At present, the palace buildings appear to be only open to the public on weekends, but the chapel , gardens and grounds seem open daily. The building is, apparently, the oldest royal residence in Europe. A touch-screen audio guide is available in several European languages for a fee. However, this device is not user-friendly for blind/visually impaired people, because sight is required to operate the buttons to select and play each commentary! Fortunately, my girlfriend, Tatiana and I were accompanied by one of the palace’s staff members, who kindly started each commentary for us when required. Unfortunately, being severely deaf and using hearing aids, I found the English commentary difficult to hear and understand, especially as it played classical music in the background! For sighted visitors the chapel would be fascinating and spectacular, especially the mosaics. Palermo also has many squares, some of them quite interesting and atmospheric: Piazza Indipendendza near the Norman Palace, Piazza Pretoria with its Fountana Vergogna (Fountain of shame), named because the many naked statues on the monumental fountain appeared to represent the political and social corruption of many cities of 16th-17th century Sicily! Another lively area, full of cafes, bars, restaurants, shops is the Quattro Canti, officially known as Piazza Vigliena, a Baroque square at the meeting point of Via Maqueda and Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, Palermo’s two main avenues. The 17th century octagonal square is situated at the symbolic crossroads at the old city. 4 sides contain streetswith busy traffic, the other 4 sides are Baroque buildings, their near-identical facades contain fountains with statues of the 4 seasons, the 4 Spanish kings of Sicily, and of the patronesses of Palermo: Christina, Ninfa, Olivia and Agata. Nearby is the small La Martorana church with byzantine mosaics. I learnt about the scenery of the buildings in the piazza after meeting an Italian couple near one of the corners of the piazza. Luckily, the fountains were on and Tatiana and I were able to appreciate and enjoy the gentle flow of water emanating from one of these architectural bowls. The Palermo Cathedral (Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Virgin Mary), located in this central area, is also worth visiting. The large, 12th-18th century, multi-architectural stile church is free to enter. But, the crypt, royal tombs, terraces and treasury require a ticket. There are many more fascinating sites to visit in this thriving city, several f them of UNESCO Heritage status, but after two days trawling around the long streets and cobblestone squares in the heat and humidity of a late September summer I’d had enough and headed for the cooler domains of the hostels and cafes. I’ve spent my last two evenings eating kebabs and drinking coke or water, having brief conversations with other travellers in my accommodation and generally relaxed as I wait for the ferry to take me to Tunisia, country 132. After nearly a month in Sicily with its more friendly and helpful locals, more friendly than people in mainland Italy, to me at least, I’m looking forward to the next adventure and a different culture. Sicily’s highlights are the atmospheres in Palermo and Catania, Ortygia Island off Syracusa, and Ragusa with its historical charm and many steps to and from Ibla, its historical heart. Discovering the snack food arancini, croquette filled rice, cheese, tomato appitisers was wonderful and fulfilling. Whilst trying granini, a creamy almond-based sweet was less delightful, but worth trying. I also liked Cannoli, tubular pastries or biskits filled with sweet ricotta cheese. Sicily’s seafood pasta dishes are largely outstanding and relatively inexpensive. The swordfish cuisine is particuarly delicious. Sicily has so much to offer the traveller; great and tasty food at reasonable prices, plenty of historical Greeko-Roman ruins such as the Valley of The Temples near Agrigento and the buildings and ruins in Syracuse on the east coast, plus architecture from a variety of styles and periods. There are also sandy beaches and peaceful islands to escape the chaos of the larger cities like Palermo, Trapani, Messina. So there’s something for everyone. Ok, time to go, Tunis is next. I have to go and try and sell more Ebooks! Seeing the World My Way, republished, 2017 Seeing The Americas My Way, 2016 Available to download from all Ebook sites – a kindle device is not necessarily required. I’m editing my third travel Ebook as I finish this blog. Happy travels, Tony 😊

— Tony Giles blind solo traveller, author of Ebooks:
*Seeing The Americas My Way* An emotional journey (2016) Available from Amazon – Kobo –
*Seeing The World My Way* A totally blind and partially deaf guy’s global adventures (2010)
Second edition is available from all Ebook sites.
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