A good place to practice yelling in Italian
Palermo is a good place to practice shouting in Italian. Take all of the bustling cities in Italy – Rome, Milan, and yes even Naples—and turn the dial up a few notches and you’ll get Palermo.
The city seemed to be noisy at all hours of the day, and how could it not be? The markets were from 8-2, and after a brief siesta, it was time for an aperitivo and then dinner, and then post-dinner drinks, and then going out, and then, if you’ve made it until 1am, it was time to go clubbing.
There’s so much energy bursting from all corners of Palermo, it was perhaps the most “fear-of-missing-out” (FOMO) experience I have ever had. Should we devote our time to eating? To the rich history? To drinking and clubbing nonstop with the locals?
Food, history, and aperitivi won out.
The markets are reason alone to travel to Palermo. As soon as we checked into our Airbnb, we headed to Mercato del Capo. I smelled the market before I got there: sticky fruits, mid-day fish, and the rich scent of oil after it’s been heated up for frying.
Kelt went in with the list of bold foods to try- stuffed lamb intestines, arancini, fried fish, and the like. All are truly Sicilian and worth a bite (though stuffed lamb intestines is where I personally draw the line), but the veggies are worth savoring too. We stopped at a random restaurant that had an abundance of dishes on display. I spontaneously ordered things, and we ended up with one of the freshest lunches I’ve ever had, complimented by a Messina beer, which quickly became our favorite. The beer boasts that it uses Sicilian salt, making it the perfect companion to most of the Sicilian cuisine.
While we were eating, we looked up at the rather corny signage of the restaurant – a large photo of a stern looking woman. Lo and behold, this was the Sicilian chef-goddess that had just served us a 8.10 euro meal that is still one of my favorites.
Said meal - panelle (fried chickpea batter, my favorite sicilian dish), arancini, and fresh vedure.
We got there at the tail end of the market, and even as they began to spray down the streets (in an attempt to clear away the fish smell), we knew we would come back every day.
Unlike some cities, I found that all the “must-see” architectural sites were absolutely worth it. The quattro canti, the four corners, divides the characteristic neighborhoods with the striking faces of four buildings. The cattedrale is grand and rivals Milan’s duomo in intricacy. We particularly enjoyed the Palazzo dei Normanni, where the star of the palace was a private chapel. Every inch was covered in richly colored mosaics. I find these colors amazing even now and being in spaces like that makes me wonder how even more grand these chapels felt hundreds of years ago.
The floor of the chapel- you have to visit to see the mosaics yourself!!
An absolute must-see in Palermo is I Segreti del Chiostro, the secrets of the cloister, a bakery run by nuns in an unassuming church. I read these recipes remain a secret, and I can understand why – the cannolo, which was filled in front of us of course for freshness, was so good I don’t think I can ever eat one in the United States again. Cannolo best enjoyed in the church’s rose garden.
Said heavenly (haha) cannolo from the bakery run by nuns.
Other experiences of note: trying to haggle down coral earrings at the antique market (unsuccessful, but I had much more practice throughout Sicilia), falling in love with Palermo dialect (and not understanding any of it), and not sleeping much because this city never sleeps.
I was both infatuated and intimated by Palermo. It was like coming to party that you were told you would know someone there—and then you didn’t know anybody, but had an amazing time, and never saw any of them ever again. So, guess I will have to go back.
Much more to share on Sicily: Siracusa and Ortigia, Etna, and Catania…
ciao for now,