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Trip Overview
Part 1: Palermo
Part 2: More Palermo
Part 3: Segesta and Trapani
Part 4: The Greeks and Longi
Part 5: Gangi
Part 6: Siracusa and Modica
Part 7: Enna
Part 8: Mondello and Rome

Sicily Part 1




I hope Im not jinxing myself, but we scored another fabulous place to stay. For 65euro, we are staying at B&B Il Giardino di Ballarò near one of Palermo’s three markets. This 'hood might not appeal to everyone, but the hotel itself is as beautiful as the pics on their site. We love the neighborhood described as up and coming.

I nearly wept with joy when we landed on Sicily and I saw everyone wearing down jackets and coats—and it was 59F. At last I had found my people. Before coming on this trip, I had tortured myself about whether to bring my down coat (because weather in Sicily this time of year can be very changeable). I hadn’t wanted to look ridiculous wearing a winter coat in spring, but I had nothing to worry about. Today in the 60s, women and men wore coats and scarves! Yay for cold people—actually this indicates that it gets @#%$% hot here the rest of the year.

Standard Italian is spoken all around me but I hear people, old and young, speaking something else unfamiliar to my ears. There is also a middle ground, some mix of standard Italian with this other voice with cut off vowels and sharp endings. I swear whatever Hollywood director made up the stereotype of how the New York Mafia should speak in the movies, they used this other language for its timbre and cadence.

Although I had spent a ton of time looking at photos of Sicily and planning our trip, I was completely unprepared for the physical beauty of the island when we approached by air. Not only is it surrounded by the sparkling sea, but the land itself is stunning. Mountains poke up from verdant green plains the length of the island. Even Palermo sits against cliffs with a limpid blue sky as backdrop. Maybe because I’ve spent so much time reading about the years of judges Falcone and Borsellino's anti-mafia fight, I pictured Palermo as a bit dangerous and forbidding. Compared to Naples (which we love, but is truly forbidding in places), it seems like Carmel. A beautiful, if somewhat crumbling city, alive with citizens who are as warm as they come. Sure they honk at pedestrians, but only to warn you to step aside. Look, if every car slowed for pedestrians on the narrow streets, no one would get anywhere! Nothing personal—but it does make street crossing in Rome seem as safe as living in Bermuda. Comparisons aside, Palermo is beautiful, gritty, exotic, and enchanting (but I don't mean to say that it is also a place to stay alert).