Return Home

Home | Bio | Contact

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 2

More Palermo: La Kalsa district, the markets again, Cattedrale di Monreale, and other far corners of the city.

Palermo 2

After making the trek to Monreale's cathedral to see the mosaics, something I’ve wanted to see since art school, I have to say that those in Cappella Palatina that we saw the day before moved me more. They made my heart swell—so intimate and bright, and the contrasting styles. I appreciate that Monreale’s mosaics are indeed a wonder of the world for their immensity, but I love the others.

On this trip, it is my turn to give back. A trio of young women who work at our B&B try to speak English. One is pretty good, one struggles but has no fear, and the other struggles and is shy about speaking. I have to stop with Italian and insist they speak English to me and only help when they forget a word or get tired of trying. I have plenty of other opportunities/necessities to speak Italian.

The longer we’re here, the more questions I have. The other night Jeff and I had dinner at a fancy place, not by design, but by circumstance. Sunday night we’d walked a hundred miles to a trattoria near the waterfront only to discover it was closed. It was 9 o’clock and we had only the phone number of a place we’d passed earlier in the day. So I called—no problem, come for dinner by ten. When we got to the restaurant, it was very elegant (we’d only talked to the chef outside earlier, not seen inside). The interior looked as if someone had taken their inspiration from the Restoration Hardware catalog, an unusual style for Palermo! But a friendly man greeted us and seated us, told us about the menu, and left us to decide. Two other couples sat in the same room where we were seated.

But here is mystery #1: A guy and girl who appeared to be twenty, dressed as elegantly as one could be, not fancy, not flashy, chatted quietly and conducted themselves as if they’d been dining like this daily their whole lives. The guy wore an oxford shirt with a turtleneck undermeath—he looked like a white-haired guy at a yacht club—and the girl was perfectly coiffed and dressed in a way that would befit her mother. Jeff and I joked that they were escapees from the TV show Gossip Girls (the show where 17-year-olds know how to make perfect martinis), but these young people more elegant.

They spoke Italian. They had light hair and pale skin and were obviously very, very wealthy. Who are these people? I can’t imagine they are from Palermo, but what do I know? My curiosity is still digging a hole in my brain.

But that wasn’t all. Mystery #2: At the end of our wonderful meal, Jeff wanted to meet chef as he loves to do and I talked our way into the kitchen. The chef told me that the young guy who’d been our waiter was the owner. OK, how’s that? There was a lot of money behind the place—not a casual trattoria—so again, what's up? I’m so curious I can't stand it.