Palermo Adventure Continues

Riserva dello Zingaro
After the first few days of city exploration in Palermo, we rented a car so that we could get out to see some of the surrounding areas. We headed out to Monreale, Cefalu, Montebello, and the beautiful Riserva dello Zingaro, where the coast is lined with unbelievably turquoise beaches. On the way down to the water, we circumvented a humongous school group who was there on the same day and raced down to find a small nook on the furthest end of a tiny cove, away from their teenage cries, where we spent the rest of the day reading on its pebbly shore and taking dips in its clear and sparkling water. I took a few longer swims- the coast was filled with caves, homes to pigeons flying in and out, and the water, a tad numbing to the skin, was various gradations of deep teal, bottle green, and robin egg's blue. Looking behind me at the green cliffs behind the shore, I thought that there was no other place I'd rather be. As the afternoon wore on, we chased the sun across the cove to its opposite side. When the shade found us again, we knew it was time to head home. 

Coming back from Cefalu

 Each morning, I headed out for a long walk before meeting up with the Spackmans and going off to whatever adventure we'd planned for the day. I wandered in and out of small streets, walking into small churches, admiring the devotional street altars scattered throughout the city, stopping for the several coffees, and enjoying mapping out the terrain in my head. I stumbled into the Capo market on one walk, its awnings stretching from the buildings and churches on a narrow street like skirts. The tables were full of the freshest catches from the sea- an astounding variety of creatures: from gleaming octopuses and sleek calamari to silver eels, thick as sabers, plump mussels, filets carefully arranged in swirls, and palumbo fish that looked like small sharks. There were also butchers and vegetable stands with gorgeous produce. I stopped at one to get some wild strawberries- something that I haven't seen sold anywhere else- and had them for breakfast at a cafe with a cappuccino.... heaven. On another walk through the market, I sampled a sandwich with panelle- chickpea flour fritters topped with a generous squeeze of lemon, a treat which felt strangely comforting.

Cloister. Stopped for a while to enjoy the music coming from the mass inside. 

Ex Oratorio SS Diecimila Martiri

If it ain't Baroque.....Chiesa dell'Immacolata Concezione, Palermo

Chiesa dell'Immacolata Concezione, Palermo

Cattedrale di Palermo

Double take on which finger was raised
On the last day in Palermo, I got up early to head to the Catacombe dei Cappuccini- a burial place, originally for Capuchin friars, but later expanded to bury a variety of citizens, used from 1599 to 1880. In the time that the catacombs were in use, bodies were attempted to be preserved in various ways such as by dehydration or embalmment. A few of the corpses are better preserved with skin and facial hair still clinging to the skulls, but most's tissue has deteriorated, exposing their skeletons underneath. An interesting aspect of the catacombs is that people wanted to be buried there and that doing so was a testament of social status. This is evident in the fact that people were buried in their finest clothes, since they knew they would be on exhibit- velour coats and ties, frilly bonnets and white or patterned dresses. The catacombs are divided into sections- professionals, virgins, women, children, priests- an interesting subdivision of people in the afterlife. Each skeleton either hangs in a niche, propped up by wire strung on nails, or is laid down in glass cases or on shelves that look like sleeping bunks. The children look like dolls with frilly clothes. Empty spots remain, a reminder of our own imminent death. I must admit that the experience, though fascinating, left me a bit uneasy. It was a good reminder that you can't cling to life here on Earth. No matter how hard you try to preserve yourself and things of value, you can't take them with you.
Knock, knock...
We spent the rest of our last day at the beach of Montebello and went to dinner at Trattoria Ai Cacinari, for some tasty Sicilian fare including artichoke fritters and panelle, and stuffed squid. We capped the evening by hanging out at the outdoor taverns down the street from our apartments for a taste of the local university student scene and some good people watching. Finally, it was time to bid Palermo farewell. The week was a real treat- a blend of history, outdoor fun, and delicious food- a perfect vacation trinity. 

Ave Maria

Eternal descent... it led to the market

Wild strawberry and cappuccino- breakfast of champions

Mercato di Capo

Mercato di Capo... I'll take the lot

Mercato di Capo

Still standing
Spackman sandwich- last night in Palermo


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