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Monday, March 21, 2011

Palermo, Sicily

We went and visited Sicily for 10 days. It was fabulous!!!! I can definitely say that I love Sicily. I loved the food, I loved the landscape, I loved the people. I did NOT love the way they drove, the beggers, or the weather for 5 out of the 10 days. The food was absolutely divine. There is something they do to their spaghetti down there that made me want to eat spaghetti over and over for 10 days straight! I'm not sure what the mystery ingredient was but I'm on a mission to find out.  We ate at a place called Klika near our hotel and it was awesome. It was there that we tasted our first Sicilian wine, Nero D'Avola and it was great!

We stayed at the Hotel Garibaldi which was much better than I was expecting. It was close enough that we walked to everything and it was very modern and had funky twists here and there. It also had an AMAZING breakfast that was included in the price of a room. Normally in Italy breakfast is a brioche and a coffee, but this place had eggs and bacon, the normal cereal, yogurt, breads, desserts, it was quite the spread! It also had sitting areas and a small bar and business office. For the price(63 Euros a night in the low season!) this hotel is totally worth it and if I was ever in Palermo I'd stay there again!
We also ate at a place called Spinnato near the hotel, this is where the crazy pigeons and beggars showed up. They send their kids into the tables to beg for money. However since the kids were dressed almost as nice as my own kid I have a hard time believing that they are destitute. They skipped happily away when people told them no, it was heartbreaking. However all I've read told me that the mafia controls a lot of the beggars in Palermo, so by giving them money you're essentially giving it to the mafia. Lovely.
We also ate at a lovely little family run restaurant and I took a card because it was great and I wanted to be able to send other people there, well do you think I can find the card....nope. 
The driving is INSANE. I'm not kidding, you may have read my rants on the northern Italians and their piss poor driving habits. WELL....the Sicilians make the Milanese look like driving miss daisy. They are VERY aggressive drivers in Sicily and they pretty much just ignore all the rules of the road and its a free for all!!!!!! I thought I was going to have a heart attack for the first few days but by the day we came home I didn't even blink an eye when someone overtook us on a blind corner on a tiny mountain road...meh.....they're Sicilian, they'll figure it out :)
I definitely wouldn't miss Monreale if I were in Palermo, the Cathedral is beautiful and the two euros to walk to the top is definitely worth it!!!!!
All in all, if you're the type of person who can't appreciate beauty in urban decay, then Palermo might not be for you. The small streets, the markets, the theatres and cathedrals are beautiful, but you do have to walk past beggars and a bit of squalor to get there!!!!!
Reese looking out the window in out hotel 

Teatro Massimo- The Opera House in Palermo renowned for its wonderful accoustics. It is apparently the biggest Opera house in Italy and the third largest in Europe. 

The market street. It was insane!!! The fish men were yelling back and forth at each other. Then one seller would randomly start yelling prices out. There were people everywhere, fish on ice, amazing looking vegetables. There were even stalls selling all the common cleaning products. You seriously could have gotten everything you needed from this market. It was really fun to walk down!

Some of the fish on sale in the market. 

A fairly accurate example of what the streets in old town Palermo look like. We were walking from the Teatro Massimo, through the market to end up at the Duomo. There were crazy small roads, and laundry hanging from everywhere. Buildings were crumbling down, it was exactly what I thought Sicily would look like. Beautiful in a very urban decay kind of way!

Traditional Sicilian carts. They were very brightly coloured and lined up down the street outside of a marionette museum.

Don't worry he's not dead :) This was in the Duomo piazza. In Sicily apparently people just let their dogs out in the morning and they wander at will during the day returning home at night!!!! Seriously most of the dogs we saw wandering about were too healthy looking to be strays, and a lot had collars on. This one was just basking in the sunshine!!!!

The Duomo piazza in Palermo

It was strongly influenced by the Arabs that conquered here!!! It was started in 1185 and at one point actually became a Mosque after the Saracens captured Palermo. 

Reese getting her shoe fixed

Inside the Duomo

This is Reese's reaction to the aggressive pigeons at the restaurant that we ate at. I'm not kidding when I say that they would dive bomb tables to get at the potato chips that were coming out with people's drinks!!!!! Thankfully we didn't have any potato chips! They would dive bomb and people would go scattering away from the table, glasses falling over, it was pure chaos :)


The view driving on the Autostrada towards the west coast

I was quite surprised at how mountainous it was, I wasn't expecting that. 

Pretty view towards the peninsula

So contrary to popular belief, the roads in Sicily are totally NOT third world. They are quite good compared to say...Saskatchewan!!!!! No but seriously they were great on the Autostrada and small and windy once off the Autostrada, which is to be expected.

Artsy pic on the way to Segesta to see the temple

The Doric Temple at Segesta. Segesta was the political centre for the Elymian people, one of the indiginous people of Sicily.  This is one of the best preserved temples in the world of this type. Built in the late 5th century BC!!!!!! Experts believe that this temple was never actually finished, and no one knows how it remained this intact for this long!!! You think as an unfinished temple it would have been plundered for its stone a LONG time ago!

Yes you can take a bus up the hill to the archeological site, but why do that when its just a short 20 min walk to the site????*LIARS!!!!* it was NOT a short walk because it was straight up hill!!!! hahahaha we got great views though, walked through fields of wildflowers and got some great exercise doing it though :)

The view of the temple while climbing the path

Richard and Reese on the path with some wildflowers

The view...it was FABULOUS!

The old city walls

The  archeological site. Its is unknown how long a city has actually existed here, but definitely back to the 5th century BC, and probably long before that. It was pretty interesting to see the ruins and to read the descriptions of how the town might have looked back then. 

Ruins of the church

The view again!!!

The theatre, it was awesome!! Look at that view!!!!!

Richard and Reese in the Segesta theatre. 

Reese and Mama

getting a ride from Daddy!

Mama playing tour guide barbie :) I think I'm pointing out rooms in the castle. 

The Segesta Temple- 5th century BC

Monreale Cathedral just outside Palermo. This cathedral is decorated with a gazillion little glass pieces of tile to create mosaics. It really was absolutely beautiful, and it was crazy to think how long it would have taken someone to do this back in the 12th century!!!

The alter

A close up of the tile work, this cathedral is HUGE...and it is completely decorated in tile!!!!!!!

The cloisters, viewed from the walkway above

The view of Palermo and the coast from the top of the cathedral

The view out the other side

a look at the town of Monreale, nestled into the hillside.

The Norman Corridors. It was a long, dim hallway going up to the roof of the cathedral. It was also quite short and I was sure I was going to bang my head on the ceiling!!!

artsy take on the window with the mosaics 

This picture was just to show the difference in dress. The Sicilians were all bundled up and it was lovely and warm out!! Richard is in short sleeves and everyone else was in parkas and toques :)

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About Me

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Milan, Italy
I am 34 years old, married to my wonderful husband Richard and mother to a beautiful 8 year old daughter named Reese. We lived in the suburbs of Calgary until January 2010 where I worked as an ER Nurse. Then my husband was transferred to Vancouver for a 6 month temporary project. Our blog Tripping over the Sidewalk told all about our adventure living on the 30th floor of an apartment building in the middle of downtown Vancouver. Then we moved to Milan, Italy for 18 months, Ciao-Eh was the online forum for our Italian adventures. We moved to Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates in January 2012 and lived there for two and a half years. Sandscrapers, Souks and Sand is the blog of our adventures in the Middle East! We are now happy to be back on a little acreage just outside of Calgary where I'm sure more adventures await!!!!

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