Palermo, a city of domes, palazzi, towers – and that’s only the Centro Storico. Three main streets divide up the Centro Storico, meaning that if you dive into a side street and lose yourself, it is comparatively straightforward to orient yourself again.
Our hotel has a 7th floor dining room and terrace on one of these major streets, which gives a stonking view from hills to shining sea.
Surprisingly, lots of noise reaches rooms on the 5th floor, where most of us are billeted. The Palermitani seem to enjoy partying through the night, shouting to each other, revving cars, dancing (and presumably drinking)!
Earthquakes, war-time bombardments still not patched up, give the city, close to, a rather scruffy look; many theories are given for why there is still so much needing rebuilding and restoration – multiple owners, without adequate dosh or agreement to rebuild, money siphoned off because of corruption, no desire to improve.
We met a Palermitano photographer, showing us photos of buildings with paint peeling, but lights on inside and if you cross the threshold, even luxury!
And public buildings like churches and palaces display unbelievable glories to die for – in paint, stucco, mosaic, gold, marble.
We met two writers who clearly love their native city, but write with clear eyes. One book concerned Giovanni Falcone, a judge whose name is renowned and celebrated for his stand – to death – against the mafia.
The airport is even named after him and his fellow murdered judge, Paolo Borsellino. Both insisted that they were not heroes as they heard cases and bravely jailed Mafiosi. The writer imagines an incident in Falcone’s childhood, effecting putting the lie to the hero moniker, demonstrating that ordinary people with ordinary fears can step forward, be counted and make a difference.
We need that thinking in what feels a most alarming period with right-wing conservatives, led by a known scoundrel, winning the election! This cast a pall over our Sicilian trip. The weather rather matched the mood, but fortunately briefly. The mild overcast skies suddenly decided to dump torrents of water on our brilliant guided walking tour.
But as we headed out to see beyond the city, the sun re-emerged, changing that mood. Trips to Mozia, Erice, Segesta and Marsala (with the obligatory tasting of the amber nectar),
so many places that over the years have come and gone in importance and power – Segesta was abandoned completely and its half-built temple left untouched – all these give you a sense of perspective. It seems so awful now, but there is hope, there has to be – things can only get better!