Tag Archives: Palermo

Sicilian Adventures Day 2

Day 2 of the Sicilian trip has been fantastic. A real mix of lounging around, some great food and some culture. And being with great mates makes it almost perfect.

Last night, we enjoyed a fantastic meal in the centre of the town. Sicily has a reputation for great food that is carefully prepared and so far that is a reputation that is fully deserved. First courses were antipasti  – 3 huge plates of salad, cheeses, prosciutto hams and more. We then enjoyed buttered spaghetti with truffles. Forget truffles in London, these were bloody great shavings where you literally had to tell the waiter to stop when you had enough…amazing… Washed down with a great Viognier at the restaurant and a couple of litres of cheap sugarry mojitos in a piazza nearby.

Palermo is a strange city. It doesn’t have  a huge night life. The centre of town was busy but began to empty out about half past one unlike many other cities. It also has next to no tourists. Everyone has been friendly but not in as outgoing a way as say, a Barcelona or a Paris… There are some areas of the town that become no-go areas late at night and the spectre of the Mafia lingers over the city as a sub text.

Today the morning was spent enjoying the pool, catching up and enjoying breakfast on the roof terrace. A few hours in the sun later, we ventured to the ‘Trattoria Primavera’, a no-frills restaurant in the old town that was recommended to us which provided amazing value and great tasting rustic style Sicilian food. The food is simple, hearty and based around good quality ingredients. We then headed to the ‘Cathedrale’ nearby. This was build over a number of centuries starting in the 11th century and having bits and pieces added to it over the following four centuries. It was striking from the outside but underwhelming on the inside. The guidebook suggested that some aspects were not appreciated by the purists…the dome was added in the 15th Century…but I thought it was really striking. It helped that all the buildings were set against the brightest bluest sky imaginable…and right next to an amazing ice cream shop!

Next up were the catacombs just away from the centre of the city. Here 8000 skeletons have been preserved underground through a variety of methods including arsenic baths, vingear, embalming and many more. It is  areally creepy place and in the rough end of town. It’s a real experience though and well worth a visit.

Tonight is going to be a relaxed affair. It’s about 34 degrees here and energy levels don’t last long in that heat. Roll on the beach day tomorrow before heading on to stay in Agrigento for a night, Syracuse for a night and Taormina for the final three day…

Can’t wait

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Sicilian Adventures – Day 1

Ciao! This is the first entry of my week long Sicilian journey…

Fortunately, despite the best efforts of Ryanair, it’s been a success… Ryanair are one of those brands that get a lot of stick. Everyone loves to have a go at them but they do provide an essential service, namely getting people from A to B for a low price with minimum fuss. I would however like to suggest a couple of tweaks to their service that I think would fundamentally aid their reputation…

– Don’t advertise sachets of booze every 2 minutes throughout the duration of the flight, particulatly at 06:10 in the morning when passengers are trying to get some shut eye

– Ignore ‘budget airline protocol’ and employ people other than peroxide blonde slappers and incredibly camp chipmunks who cannot assist passengers in any way

– Most importantly, do not incentivise passengers to purchase ‘scratch cards by saying that if you sell 20, then you will sing a karaoke version of Britnet Spears ‘Hit me baby, one more time’ upon landing (the camp chipmunk)

My abiding memory of the first moments in Sicily will not be the spectacular descent over the fishermans boats and rocks onto a runway that is essentially a spit of land jutting out into the sea, but the offensive kaaraoke outlined above. Ear bleedingly bad…

Anyway, capuccinos, focaccia bread and a Fiat 500 later, we were heading into Central Palermo to our central hotel location. The Hotel Ambasciatori is pretty basic but perfect for our needs and within easy distance of our friends who have already arrived.

Lunch by the pool consisted of Sea Bass which tasted great. The big difference from travelling in Eirope in previous years is the Euro. You know what has happened to the exchange rate but it is only when travelling abroad that it really comes home to roost. Fish was 10 Euros for 100g which seems pretty expensive. It was good though and the rest of the stay should provide us with more opportunities to seek out traditional Trattorias more likely to provide real character and value for money.

After a recommendation, we are set to head out to eat at a restaurant called  Zafferanos which is supposed to be great and then out into the new town. The old town is apparently off limits after dark. The shadow of the Mafia really lingers over Palermo. Upon arriving, we were quoted prices to park on the street behind the hotel. Apparently though, the parking is all free and these are just extortionists preying on those without any local knowledge.

Driving is also terrifying. Right of way is a myth in many parts of the city and it is a free for all. It’s a question of sticking your neck out an relying on people stopping to avoid hitting you. Fortunately, my travelling companion is Greek and has experience of driving in Athens. The only worse drivers in Europe than the Italians are the Greeks!

We’re planning trips around the old town to check out the sites as well as a visit to Corleone tomorrow or Monday which should be great. Will hopefully have more to report then…

Till then…

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