I am getting ready for my trip back to Sicily. Looking through an excellent guidebook, The Rough Guide to Sicily', I find that there is still a lot to see in Palermo. I'm making notes on things I missed the first trip and when I get there, I'll make a beeline for these places. Even so, I won't be able to see everything.
Most guide books incorporate Sicily into Italy (rightly so) but Italy is packed with sights that a lot of Sicily has to left out. This does disservice to Sicily, it was a country and a kingdom of it's own years ago. Now, even though it is a part of Italy, it deserves a guide book of it's own, which is what makes 'The Rough Guide to Sicily' a standout among the pack. It gives Sicily it's due. Reading it makes me more excited about this trip.
It is very typical of us Americans when it comes to doing anything, we need to ask 'why' a lot. Why am I doing this? Why am I talking to you? Why am I going to the moon? Why am I going to Sicily? That was what everybody asked the first trip. Why two weeks in Sicily, what are you going to do there for two weeks as if we were going to Catalina island or Hawaii. Instead we need to ask 'why not' as the French say, 'pourquoi pas?' Why not Sicily? Why not a second time (or third or fourth) in Sicily? I've come to love Sicily. I've come under the spell of Sicily.
As 'The Rough Guide to Sicily' says, ' Piazza Ballaro, which, together with the adjacent Piazza del Carmine, is the focus of a raucous daily fruit and vegetable market, alive with the cries of vendors. Here gleaming fish curl their heads and tails in the air, squashes come as long as baseball bats and vine leaves trail decoratively down from stalls. There are some very cheap snack and drinking places here, too, where you can sidle in among the locals and sample sliced open sea urchins, fried artichokes, arancini and beer. Above all the activity looms the bright majolica-tiled dome of the 17th century church of the Carmine, a singular landmark amid the dirty and rubbish strewn alleys.' This is typical of Palermo, gorgeous churches and landmarks among dilapidated neighborhoods, dirty alleys and shoddily constructed new buildings or unrepaired bombed out (WWII) older buildings. A warning, Palermo and Catania don't look like Italian cities of the North. Visit with an open mind, the people are proud of their Sicily and are extremely friendly.
Tourism has brought some service jobs to the cities. On Mondays, the young people from the farms crowd into trains bound for the big cities to take up these jobs. On Fridays, they crowd into trains headed back to the farms. On our last trip, on a Friday afternoon, we were caught in the midst of this migration while heading for Agrigento from Catania through the heartland we were crowded into a train from Palermo to Agrigento filled with young people going back to the farms. On Monday, we left Agrigento for Palermo, we saw the same people, now going back to work in Palermo.
Palermo's motto, 'once experienced, never forgotten' , reminds me that I will always remember Palermo. I will always remember my time spent in Sicily. This coming trip, I'm headed west to Trapani, Erice and Segeste. Maybe the next trip (third) I'll see the islands surrounding Sicily.
This trip will include a trip to Bagheria, a suburb of Palermo. There are three things I am interested in seeing,
1) Villa Palagonia, known for some grotesque sculptures.
2) Villa Valguaranera, more sedate, yet sumptuous palazzzo.
3) Villa Cattolica, for its permanent exhibition of Renato Guttuso, Bagheria's famous son, whose pictures were featured in a cookbook by renown cookbook writer, Elizabeth David.
There are still much more than these in Palermo itself. I can keep visiting for the rest of my life and not finish seeing and experiencing everything.
A friend of mine just came back from Palermo. I asked how his trip was, all he could say was, 'it was hot' meaning the weather. That's the problem with taking a guide tour. You get led around with no clue of history or culture, just so you can boast, you've been to Sicily. It is laziness on our part, not to read up before we go and continue to read up after returning. The trip will be so much more meaningful if we did some homework.