Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Day #3 – Palermo, Sicily

We awoke to overcast skies and a cool morning. The ship docked on time at 7am, and we were soon cleared to disembark afterwards. Having investigated our options, we opted for a walking tour with Paulo's Tours Limited. :-)

Palermo is a walkable city. And, we enjoy exploring by foot. That way, you're traveling close to the ground. Unfortunately, it started to rain... and the wet stone sidewalks are as slippery as ice. Fortunately, we managed to remain vertical throughout our journey.

Outside of the port, we headed straight up the Via Emerico Ameri and then made a left turn onto Via Roma. This took us to our first stop, the church of San Domenico. In all, we visited five churches / chapels today: the previously mentioned San Domenico (free, home to many tombs of Palermo's good and great), the modest San Cataldo (1.50 euro, mid-12th century w/ red Arabic domes), La Martorana (Norman church with wonderful mosaics and 16th century Baroque facade), Cappella Palatina (7.00 euro, amazing mosaics combining Arab and European styles), and the Cathedral of Palermo (interior free / treasury & crypt fee; exterior most impressive, interior rather forgettable). Here's a photo breathtaking mosaics at Cappella Palatina:

In addition to visiting churches, we walked to the intersection of the Quattro Canti, a group of four nearly identical buildings (one on each corner) that divide Palermo into quadrants. Just around the corner from the Quattro Canti was the Piazza Pretoria, more popularly known as Piazza Vergogna (the “Square of Shame”). Why the name? Well, many of the statues are anatomically correct and fully on display, if you get my drift.

We also paid a visit to the Ballero market located in La Kalsa (a residential area comprised of crumbling buildings and narrow, winding streets). The Ballero has a bizarre-like atmosphere with merchants hawking fresh and seasonal produce, seafood, and meat to local residents. If you're a foodie, you'll love this place and salivate over the possibilities (“imagine what I could do with that sheep's head or whole octopus!”). But, if you're a devout vegetarian or even a squeamish omnivore, you might want to skip this market. Needless to say, I loved it! Libby: not so much. But, it made me hungry.

So, on our way back to the ship, we stopped off for some cannoli (below) at the Cafe Latino on Corso Vittorio Emanuele.


P.S. Mom, my leg is doing fine. No need to worry. :-)

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