I arrived in Palermo in late July. The humidity of the island’s air reminded me of South-East Asia and it instantaneously put me on guard. Animal mode.
Fortunately, only “positive” looks were directed toward me. Long, appreciative looks from womanizer Italian men. I knew it had nothing to do with me and my figure, it was just the default look of the average middle-class middle-aged Italian man. From the South. I never thought I would say it but… wow, did that feel good! I forgot the feeling of being watched in such a way. Whereas those men did not seem more appealing, you felt wanted, beautiful, sexy, powerful. It was back to the jungle again – this time during mating season!
Palermo is a gorgeous city, rich with old buildings and cute squares that never fail to be full of tables, chairs and ambulant shops selling everything from squid and panini to Sicilian wine. Street food is good, cheap and always available. I did not take any photos of the food due to the high number of posts on fb ridiculing this practice. I am not one that will live up to the stereotype.
Architecture-wise, Palermo can fill a good day of sight-seeing. The cathedral stroke me as an unusual mix of exotic weather and palm trees with christian church. That used to be a mosque. In my mind christianity does not go together with vacation sights. It is of course just a weird prejudice. But I thought that seeing so much beauty will take one out of the church premises and into the world to live and love and spread goodness.
And Palermo is really one of those places, the beaches are amazing. Mondello is the mainstream one, the one full with people, felling like Copacabana or something from a soap opera; I liked Mondello beach because the water was emerald coloured and there were very few skinny bitches to make me feel all self-conscious. But I hear there are more pristine, more beautiful beaches.
I liked the people of Palermo. They seem to be relaxed and easy-going, but not in the “lazy” sense, rather in the “down-to-earth, non-arrogant” sense, unlike many European places I’ve seen before. Maybe I’m generalizing based on the few great people I met there, maybe it’s based on the fact that most Palermitans drive nice little Fiats or other non-macho, environmentally friendly small cars. But my impression of Palermitans is really good.
The mountains and the seaside make for a great place to live. The mansions scrambled on the side of the mountains right above the rest of the city make you think about the real estate prices here. Actually, in the South one can still live the dream of the prince or princess: the small seaside town of Tusa hosts an actual castle by the sea which is just someone’s house. In Palermo many of the really cool places are not museums or hotels, but private homes. Makes you somehow nostalgic of the feudal times. Maybe we were wrong to choose democracy… After all, there are still some people who live the old Italian aristocratic lives. And a passer-by like me from a distant universe goes like “WTF… all that talk about humans being equal, about rights and about them defending us, they’re just bullshitting us, they’re literally greasing the eyes of the rest of us, they’re sweet talking to us, they don’t mean a thing of what they say, they don’t want to change the status quo, it’s all a lie, a PR move, they’re probably laughing their asses off looking down at us, turn off the TV and dismiss the politicians, how could we have been fooled for so long…”. Nothing to do with Palermo, just one of those moments when the veil goes away from your eyes. Probably the fresh sea air facilitated a moment of clarity.
My next stop was Siracusa. Easy to get there from Palermo, a 3 hour bus ride. I’m not going to write about Siracusa and Taormina, as they are already very touristic. I lived on Ortigia Island by myself for a day and it was the perfect day. Beauty does relax you and makes you feel that life is a dream. Sicily was a pleasant surprise for me: very beautiful, relatively cheap, full of soul and authenticity and perfect for a summer vacation.