Back in Palermo
As the late, great Harry Chapin (1942 – 1981) sang, all my life’s a circle. And, speaking of circles, here I am back where I started this Sicilian trip, in Palermo.
Okay, yeah, I hear you. You’re right. The Harry Chapin reference is not exactly spot on. He was being emotional and philosophical. I am being somewhat literal.
Yeah, I know. I knew what you were going to say before you said it. As I said, I was being only somewhat literal. Yes, absolutely, the “circle” I traveled was quite misshapen and hardly worthy of being called a circle. If you were given an assignment to draw a circle as part of a sobriety test after being suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol, and what you came up with was a reasonable facsimile of the map of my route, don’t expect to ever get your licence back. Ever. But the trip did begin and end in Palermo. So, by the definition of having the same starting and ending point, it was indeed circular.
And, true, it’s not my whole life that’s a circle, just this trip. So, “all my life” was indeed a gross exaggeration. Right you are again.
Alright. Yeah, yeah. The Harry Chapin reference was a stupid, irrelevant way to introduce the fact that I’m back in Palermo. Leave me alone. I always thought, and still think that Harry Chapin was a great writer and singer of stories set to music. I admit that’s the only reason I felt the need to bring Harry Chapin into it now. Publish your own damn journal if you’re going to be so critical, dammit.
(Sometimes I have to deal with the voices inside my head. I’m sorry you were here to witness that. Please forget about what went on in the preceding paragraphs so we can put it behind us and move on.)
The Train to Palermo
I left Cefalù a little after 10:00 in the morning. The train took a little more than 45 minutes to get to Palermo, with one brief stop at a station along the way.
Like the train from Messina to Cefalù, this one traveled near the coast for much of the way. Consequently, it was a short, pleasant journey.
Arriving before noon meant that I had most of the day available to me here today. I’ll be in Palermo for two nights. So, one more full day after today. Then, I head back home to Toronto. Sigh.
After I dropped my luggage at the hotel (my room wasn’t ready), I went for a walk.
I started out with a resolute determination to find more publicly accessible seafront than I found on my second day in Palermo at the start of this trip. I was certain that a seaside city like Palermo had to give people more access to the sea. But, I was almost certainly wrong about that.
And it wasn’t the last time I was wrong about something today. The seafront mistake was based on wishful thinking. The other was likely a result of my stupidity. Wait for it.
I headed to the port as I did the first time, but when the port blocked my way, as it did before, I turned the opposite direction from the way I went on that first sea-quest expedition. I again followed the road that runs parallel to the seashore, but in the other direction. Again, fences and walls blocked access to the sea.
I understand the freight port being barred to the public. Freighters pull up to the docks. Dockworkers operating cranes and other machinery load and unload cargo. I’m sure they don’t want tourists getting in the way, and possibly being targets for any cargo that occasionally drops unexpectedly. I just came up with that explanation for blocking access to the port, but it makes sense. Heck, it might even be right, which would be rare for me.
However, cruise ships occupy part of the port. Surely they could have a public promenade by the cruise ship portion of the port. But, no. Gates bar the access road to the cruise ships. What the heck? Are they afraid that falling cruise ship passengers might accidentally injure other tourists?
And I imagine that cruise ship passengers might like to journey into Palermo for a while. Do they get loaded onto buses to leave the port? (Actually, I could believe they do. The port area does not put Palermo’s best face forward.)
I continued walking until I was well past Palermo’s historical centre and into bland outer areas. Seeing no sea access either beside where I walked or as far ahead as I could see, I eventually gave up and headed back farther inland.
Wandering Back to the Historic Centre
I took a couple of pictures on the way back. One is at the top of this entry. It’s of a largish park. A chunk of the park was closed for some sort of construction work, but the remaining part was still largish.
The park is lush, with lots of trees, including palm trees. There’s a small pond with a statue in it. There are also other statues, a playground, and a section with amusement rides designed, it appeared, primarily for toddlers.
The other picture I took is of an advertisement hanging on a lamppost. You can see it somewhere near this paragraph.
I saw the lamppost bearing the ad a while before I came upon the park. I mentioned the park first because I didn’t want the photo of the ad to be the first picture in this post.
What the heck? They advertise full funerals on lampposts here? I even checked Google Translate to make sure that what I thought it says is what it says. It is.
I want to make a mafia joke at this point, but I won’t in case any of its members find this entry. I don’t want anyone to have to search for ads on lampposts to try to find a cheap funeral for my remains.
Il Ballarò Market
Back in the central area, I walked through Il Ballarò Market. It is a long street market spread out over two connected streets. (Or maybe one street with a pronounced bend in it. I didn’t check a map.) They sell pretty much everything there, if by “everything” one excludes everything that is in the same greater metropolitan area as high-end merchandise.
Small stalls that line both sides of the streets sell fruits, vegetables, prepared foods to eat on the street (some of them cooked on braziers right then and there), prepared foods to take home, sweets, seafood, meats, cheeses, shoes, clothing, back packs, cleaning products, souvenirs, nicknacks, and probably a lot of other stuff that I didn’t see or that I’ve since forgotten.
The market was quite busy today. It has a lot of gritty charm, if that makes any sense.
After a late lunch (not in the market), I went back to the hotel, collected my luggage, checked into my room, and then went out for some more wandering and to see a couple of sights, the Oratorio of San Lorenzo and the Palazzo Mirto. The two are close to each other, so it made sense to see them both this afternoon.
Not the Oratorio of San Lorenzo
The Oratorio of San Lorenzo was first on the route, so I tried to go in there before visiting Palazzo Mirto. But, “tried” is the operative word in that sentence.
First, what I thought was the Oratorio of San Lorenzo based on Google Maps telling me it was within its margin of error of where I stood, was in fact the Church of San Francesco d’Assisi. I learned that only after getting back to my hotel, rereading the section of the tour book on the Oratorio of San Lorenzo* and doing some searching on the Internet. The Oratorio of San Lorenzo is something completely different. I should have known that because an Oratorio is not a church. Apparently, I’m an idiot, a complete idiot, or possibly just really tired. I’m going to go with the really tired option, but it’s probably the idiot or complete idiot thing.
(Why didn’t I reread the relevant section of the tour book on the spot when I have only an electronic copy of it and it’s on my phone (and other devices)? I don’t know. But my money is on it being part of that idiot thing.)
In addition, when I got to what I thought at the time was the Oratorio, a bride and what I assume was the father of the bride blocked the door. Just then, “Here Comes the Bride” started playing. What the heck is it with weddings here? That’s the third one I’ve serendipitously stumbled on in this trip.
And this is Saturday. Why are they getting married on Shabbat? Oh, right. A church. Sorry. Wrong religion.
I decided to change my plan and visit Palazzo Minto first in the hope that they would finish the ceremony by the time I got back.
They didn’t. It was still in progress. You’d think they’d want to hurry up the ceremony so they can begin their long journey of matrimonial bliss. Or whatever may come. Apparently, not.
But the bride no longer blocked the door. They allowed tourists to come in and stand at the back of what I now know is a church and admire it from there. It looks like an attractive church. Maybe I’ll try to go in to both the oratorio and church again tomorrow.
At one time, Palermo was apparently a city that included a number of ritzy palazzos. It’s not today. Now, it’s kind of rundown and working class. The Palazzo Mirto is a palazzo from the good old days, preserved to try to give people a hint of what the city was like back then.
The Palazzo Mirto is a paid attraction. The ticket seller didn’t speak a word of English. That’s not a complaint. This is Italy. English isn’t the mother tongue or working language here. Italian is. But I think that’s one of the first times I’ve encountered a lack of even a smidgen of verbal English at the ticket booth of a tourist attraction in Italy. Again, not a complaint, just stating a fact.
When we established that we didn’t understand each other. The ticket seller pointed to a computer-printed sign taped to the counter. It said in a number of languages that the second floor of the palazzo is closed for maintenance. The palazzo is primarily just two floors, although there is a stable, a carriage warehouse, and a kitchen on the ground floor. So almost half was closed. I paid and went in anyway.
The ticket seller gave me a small, unprofessionally produced booklet of text-only pages bound together in plastic sleeves. The Palazzo offers this booklet in a few languages. The ticket seller recognized that I spoke English and handed me the English version.
The booklet was helpful because the very scant signage inside the palazzo is exclusively in Italian.
The booklet explains the contents of each of the rooms. Don’t ask me for details. I did read the booklet, but as I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this journal, there is a higher probability of intelligent, ambulatory life living happily on the surface of the sun than of me remembering those details. I might not have put it in those words when I mentioned it before, but I think that’s the general drift of what I said. Or not. I don’t remember.
The first floor (second floor by North American standards) of the palazzo contains a number of rooms serving various purposes, mostly entertaining, relaxing, eating, or just impressing people.
Several of the rooms are beautifully decorated in a variety of styles, and all are furnished with period pieces. There is also a terrace with a fountain that wasn’t running when I was there.
According to the booklet, the closed second floor was the family’s residence, with bedrooms, a couple of libraries, a couple of studios, a hall of weapons, a room of snuff-boxes, a room of lamps, a room of fans, a room of consoles, a “room of the crib,” and a small chapel. (Yes, I did take notes. No, I did not have a moment of photographic memory.)
Based on the titles and descriptions in the booklet, the rooms on the second floor sounded very interesting. Are they? How the heck would I know? They closed the second floor because they somehow must have known I would be visiting.
I applaud your dogged, if thwarted, efforts to see the sea from Palermo. If it weren’t for the fact that it was Palermo, I could see a gentrification project in their future. Perhaps if it is declared a European city of culture one year? Nah…the money would probably disappear before anyone could actually revitalize the waterfront. Or not. Don’t want to sound to negative, for the same reason that you did not want to mention the m word in connection with cheap funerals. As to Palazzo Mirto, do not fret, because you got to see the rooms that were designed to impress. Not that they were trying to impress you, obviously. They probably didn’t have enough advance notice that you were coming to quickly shutter the whole place.
Looking forward to finding out about the Oratorio of San Lorenzo tomorrow. If all else fails, however, in your quest, you can always seek out fabulous meals. And tell us about them. On that note, I noticed that you did not show the stalls with cleaning products and backpacks in the Ballarò market, but focused on – wait for it – fabulous looking food. You obviously know your audience.