Sicily is a very popular spot for Europeans during the summer due to the hot, shining sun, and warm waters. When I landed in Roma airport the customs agent didn’t even ask for my details. Instead, he said “I know you’re here for the beach.” and let me go just like that! The beaches aren’t the only things that make Sicily famous. It’s also known for its rich history, gorgeous city skylines, and it’s fantastic cuisine!
Since Giulio has a very good friend living out in Palermo we decided to make it our first weekend exploration. The first few days of August were hot as hell in Messina and we knew going into it that Palermo was going to be an inferno. Even with temperatures reaching nearly 40 degrees Celsius we decided to go anyway.
Day 1: Tour of the Center and Ferragosto
Our first stop on our trip was the Teatro Massimo, known as the largest theater in all of Italy and third largest in Europe. If you’re a fan of The Godfather series, it’s where Don Michael Corleone and his family go to the opera to see his son sing, and *spoiler alert* watch his daughter die in the final film. We didn’t go inside, but we walked around the various cafes and admired the architecture from the outside.
We got lucky and were able to park the car next to the Cassaro Alto, which is only a 5 minute walk to the Duomo. Walk in the opposite direction of the Arcidiocesi di Palermo and through the small park and you’ll see the Catedrale di Palermo.
The surrounding wall of the church is lined with statues and columns, one of which has a verse from the Qur’an carved onto it. The architecture of this cathedral in impressive along with its size.
Once inside the Cathedral you can pay 5 Euros to go up the tower to the top, or 7 Euro to see the top and the catacombs within the Cathedral. We decided to just go to the top and then grab some lunch after. Disclaimer, if you’re claustrophobic, have difficulty breathing, or have difficulty with stairs I don’t recommend going up to the top. They allow about 30 people each time to go up this very narrow winding staircase leading to the top and then once you’re up there you have to carefully push your way past people taking selfies to get across the top. That being said, the view is definitely worth it.
For lunch we had a traditional Palermo lunch at a very popular, and cheap, place. They are known for their Pane Panelle, fried chickpeas burger, Pane ca Meusa a burger made from cow spleen, and Crotte or croquette .
After lunch we went for some more sight-seeing. We walked towards Quattro Canti, the four fountains, in the direction of the Cattedral di Palermo in order to see the Piazza Pretoria or better known as the Piazza di vergongna.
The Pretoria Piazza is known as the Piazza of shame because of the 16 nudie statues in the fountain. Apparently the fountain was built for Firenze, but they didn’t want it and so it was built-in Palermo.
From here we checked out a couple of churches, circled back to the Teatro Massimo, and arrived at the small port. By the time we reached this part of Palermo it was already sunset, making for a beautiful photo. There is also a newly painted tribute on the wall of one of the buildings for two judges that were killed by Mafia. These two judges were killed by a bombs in 1992 because they were a large threat to the Mafia. While others were too afraid to go against the Mafia, these two kept investigating to try to defeat them and bring peace to Sicily.
After a long day of sightseeing and learning, we went back to our friends to rest before dinner. We had planned a dinner for the 15th of August, which is known in Italy as Ferragosto. This is a religious celebration that marks end of summer. Giulio doesn’t like the 15th of August because in Messina there is a celebration called Vara which is connected to Ferragosto. I’ll talk a little about that when I make a post about Messina ;). Anyway! It’s a day for being with friends and family so we all went out for dinner before calling it a night.
Day 2: Duomo di Monreale
Another beautifully hot day in Palermo filled with sun and absolutely no wind, in other words the best time to go up to the mountain. We hopped in the car and drove up the mountain to see the impressive UNESCO site of the Duomo di Monreale. This church is famous because its made completely out of mosaics, from the outside to the inside. On the roof are different depictions of the stories of Jesus and the bible. The most notable feature in this church is the golden Jesus which is displayed at the front-center of the church. It is the most beautiful church, as far as the inside is concerned, that I have seen in all of Italy.
When we finished with the church we walked to the mountainside where you can see all of Palermo.
That concluded our trip to Palermo and we headed back home to Messina before nightfall. I have to say that Palermo is absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to go back! Thank you to my two new friends Pepe and Federica for your wonderful hospitality!!