Palermo | 21st -23rd July 2016
Over the centuries, countless people have fought, lived and loved in Sicily. I lived and loved.
The bus from Agrigento to Palermo was smooth and lovely. A one way ticket cost €9. The bus left on time and arrived exactly on time.
When I arrived I asked the taxi driver to take me to my Airbnb. It instantly rattled me that the taxi drivers all started to talk amongst themselves in Italian, smirking and nodding. He quoted me €30 for a 7 minute drive. As I started to walk away one taxi driver quoted me €20 and I shook my head and kept walking. Another taxi driver then ran up to me and quoted me €12! No thanks homies. With my huge backpack on, (I couldn’t be bothered to haggle) I waddled over to a coffee shop bought a bus ticket for €1.40 (which apparently I shouldn’t have even bought as everyone was strolling on the bus without tickets(free ride)) and got there in 15minutes. I’ll remember that for next time 😉
My Airbnb apartment couldn’t have been in a better place. It was by Theatre Massimo and my room offered a fantastic rooftop view of churches, houses and Theatre Massimo. It was perfect. Cool – apartment sorted, onto understanding the city and meeting locals
Palermo City By Day
Palermo is the perfect city for walking and definitely a city for finding. I walked and really enjoyed the street markets where you can find fabrics, socks, pots, tops of the pots, bikes, eggs and cannoli. Every turn I made I would discover a new square/piazza.
I enjoyed the botanical garden, Piazza Marina, Piazza Bellini and simply taking time to watch the locals interact.
In comparison with Catania and Agrigento, Palermo is a vibrant multi-cultural city full of Italians, Tunisians, Indians, Pakistanis, West Africans… It has a great colourful feeling. People seem get along and co-exist in harmony. The people are outspoken, hospitable and have a great sense of humour. During my trip to Catania I was told that Palermo was smelly, dirty and the people weren’t nice. In fact, I enjoyed Palermo more than Catania.
I enjoyed Palermo so much that I put together My Top 8 Things To Do In Palermo
Palermo Street Markets
What. For almost 800 years – and more or less in the same way – merchants and shopkeepers start to populate the market around 5am, peddling all sorts of goods: from lemons to posters, socks to pots.
How. Sellers to not just offer you their goods.. they literally sing it! “Abbanniari” is an art: a deafening chant in strict Palermitan dialect, with a time-space displacing effect
Riffa Time. If you just stand in a central place of a market and observe for a while what is happening around, you’ll notice little pieces of paper passing from hand to hand. It’s the inner market lottery, with a jackpot that is usually a box of fish, meat and vegetables of the day.
When. The best time to go is before 10a although that could not be easy after a Palermitan night but you’ll find fresher vegetables and fish earlier in the day.
Rules. Haggling is usually inappropriate (except taxis…), mostly if you know how a market works pay cash, better with the exact change ask for the right quantity and check that the seller is not cheating you while filling your bag or “cappo” (typical paper cone)
A farm indoors? It is not uncommon to stroll about the markets and hear horse neigh or see a chicken running away from its roost. Many people hold their own in-town-farm, or breed horses for nightly clandestine races.
Vegan Food and drink in Palermo
The price of coffee in Palermo is only about €0.70 cents and it good Italian brew. Food in Palermo is pretty much the same as Catanian food (sorry to offend). The signature dishes are the usual (fish, pasta, pizza). I spent only around €10 during my entire stay on food and I ate well and enough. You will not spend much money in Palermo, or in Sicily in general unless you want to.
Vegan Restaurants and Cafes in Palermo
- Gelateria Oreleans
It’s a very small place and everybody eats outside. The ice-cream / granite / sorbet is homemade, genuine and tastes like the old days.
- Al Vicolo
Al Vicolo means in the alley a family run restaurant in a peaceful corner of Palermo. When weather is good, you can step out onto the terrace to enjoy a beautiful view of Piazza San Saverio, under one of the baroque domes of Palermo. It is cheap and you will find quality and respect for tradition.
Pa Lab is a multipurpose space: It hosts concerts, expos, events and has a restaurant with a wide selection of vegan friendly dishes.
Khalesa is a café in the ancient city wall with a library, restaurant and a garden on the top of the fortress. Not cheap, but very charming.
Vegan Italian Snack
Italian Romance in Palermo
The typical Italian is courteous, proud, undisciplined, tardy, temperamental, divas, passionate and charming. Just my type.
She was waiting for me in a a white car. Wow, this girl had sass. I fell for her accent immediately. On first sight of her I got butterflies, her body, her face was beautiful. Just my type. The car smelled strongly of weed which pleased me more. By now you know that I love all of the above and can’t stand basic bitches.
We drove to Mondello beach, a beach not too far from Palmermo city centre. The Friday Feeling was definitely in the air, people all around were laughing, singing and enjoying themselves. We spent our time getting to know each other over a bottle of white wine. Explaining the tragic highlights of why we were both single, a bit about our past and our vague plans for the future. It was a lovely. That night I also tried Panelle & Crocche which is another Vegan Italian food.
The way we kissed was unlike any other kiss I’d had recently, first on the pier at the beach, with the sound of chatter around us and the smell of sea. Then back to her house.. I got high off her vibe, I didn’t know how to behave.
Intense, intertwined bodies hot like fire
The only thing that matters is desire
How To Hook Up With An Italian
I find that Italians similar to Spanish, Africans and Latinos. They have extreme, attitude, and volume and are blunt. Shyness will not get you anywhere. If you want to hook up with an Italian you must hold good witty conversation and it must be full of laughter. Don’t be silly, a looser or boring.
Leaving Palermo and going to Tunis by boat
It is 2016 and I am still always the only foreigner I see taking boats accross countries. It’s always me and the locals! Same ting happened with the boat ride from Spain to Morocco and Turkey to Lebanon. Yeah, its boring and seats get taken quick so you might have to camp on the hallway floor but it’s an ok ride and a cheap option – you get to chat to random people who make the time pass. I even smoked a J and drank whiskey. Just don’t tell!
The journey on sea from Palermo to Tunis is 10 hours. By ferry it will cost you €35 for a deck seat and €54 for a cabin.
On arrival the border control agent confiscated all the European passports (three of us) and told us to wait. We waited for 40minutes to only be told that the boss couldn’t be found so we were let go. A huge waste of time.
Anyway.. welcome to Tunisia.
My Trip To Agrigento
Arancina Under The Trees
The neoclassical buildings set the entrance to the Botanical Garden, home to over 12000 species of plants, natives or tropical.
Just as the Sicilian people is the result of such complex layering of dominations, so it Palermo Catheral is a fascinating mix of architectural styles.
Eat at Caffe del Kassaro.
From the outside Caffe del Kassaro looks like a bar, as it name suggests, but walk past the first room and you will find a typical Sicilian restaurant, with many locals having their lunch break. Waiters are nice and polite and meals start from 6euros (Mon-Sat 7a-3p)
Over The Hidden River
If you like live music (especially manouche) Borderline is the place for you. The space is narrow (it a tunnel between via Materassai and Piazza Fonderia) and when theres a lot of pople it is not easy to stand and enjoy the music, but the atmosphere and the underground river that flows under your feet will convince you to grin and bear. They often do vegan dinner too. And try their artisanal beer!
A Concentrate of History
The area between Piazza Bellini, Piazza Pretoria and Quattri Canti is the core of the historic centrel within the range of 200 meters you can walk through a cross section of total history.
Great Place of Knowledge
The Archivio Storico Comunale in a little side street at via Maqueda 157, is a wonderful and mostly unknown place, even to Palermiatans. The institute keeps seven centuries of city documents, and the architecture of the magnificent Great Hall designed by Guiseppe Damiani Almeyda stands out. The spiral staircase leads to the highest galleries and four large wooden winches are proudly displayed.
KM 0 Food in ancient Stables
Km 0 food grows in local farms and is consumed locally, skipping chains of transport. Housed in the fascinating stables of Palazzo Cattolica. Meals from 10euros.
The Steri, now a University, was the seat of the Inquisition in 1600. In the underground prisons, graffiti was brought to light, describing the prisoners dark days. Where the executions were held, in Piazza Marina an enormous Ficus tree grew that’s the oldest and largest of Italy. On Sunday mornings the piazza is used for a flea market (amoung the many kitch items you might find a few precious rarities), while at night it acts as a social hub.
Good tasty Italian Vegan Food..
Eating is something very important in Italy. If Italians are not actually eating, they are thinking about what to cook (and to eat) very soon and the main topic during meals is often “what we are before and what we will eat after”. Even if meals-time is usually quite late (9-10pm for dinner) it is always almost time to start cooking.
It is not all about pizza and pasta you know! They have wonderful salads and veg/legume dishes. At restaurants you can tailor your menu so that it works for you. The Italians chefs are generous and willing to accommodate your requests. While in Italy I gained 2kg! Eli cooked for me in Catania and my gosh… it was amazing.
Below is the vegan food I ate during my stay in Sicily, Southern Italy and Italian vegan food I want to eat by onegreenplanet
Vegan Mushroom Risotto
Spicy Eggplant Caponata
Gnocci alla Genovese
Focaccia With Roma Tomatoes and Onion
Meanwhile.. On my Vegan Food Wishlist
Panna Cotta Cream
( recipe and pic by onegreenplanet)
I’d spent 2 hours in the car from Catania to Agrigento. The road up was smooth a for a moment I caught my beach in astonishment as I was convinced I was in Greece. Valle dei Templi stands at the entrance to Agrigento so before driving up into the city you can stop off there and admire the temple of Valle dei Templi, one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture.
A few miles past Valle dei Templi we climbed higher up the hill and into the city of Agrigento. The air was cool and the town was stunningly pretty with long views down to the blue sea. A compact town tumbling down to the blue sea. I fell in love with Agrigento in an instant. Perhaps it was the time of day, passing the Valle dei Templi on arrival or the weather. It was perfect. At its heart was a small busy street called Via Atenea with a reasonable amount of people eating, laughing and strolling along their way. Leading off the street were stairs and alleyways going either up or down depending on which way you turned to face. These side street were full of neighbours gossiping and children playing. For the rest the town appeared to exists of a bundle of wandering streets and alley ways with winding stairs climbing up and down the city. It was lovely.
I booked a studio apartment in a guesthouse called Il Sole E La Luna. The room was perfect with a balcony where I watch the passers-by radiating contempment. The town was not full, it had a low hum of chatter which would be broken with the locals gossip and laughter.
Marco, the owner of the Il Sole E La Luna had agreed to meet me 3 hours later and show me Scala dei Turchi.
I’d never seen something quite like it. Scala dei Turchi is a rocky cliff on the coast of Realmonte, near Porto Empedocle. I’d seen rocky cliffs in England but nothing like this. The sea was almost crystal clear, the sand on the beach was unusal and the cliffs were inviting, not frightening.
As requested Marco gave me a lift on his motorbike the next day to Scala dei Turchi. The journey down by motorbike was breathtaking as if I hadn’t seen it the day before. I stayed hours under the sun reading and listening to deep house music.
Later that night I ventured out to walk around Agrigento. The city is gorgeous, a tiny little place with narrow houses and long views accross the city to the blue ocean. It reminded me very much of Porto or Lisbon. It was common to see churches at the corner of the street standing magnificent and dignified amoung the shops and bnb’s. I can’t recall a more attractive place for walking. The town consisted of almost entirely of a complex network of stone-walled lanes and passages with stairs and all of which interconnection beautifully so you would find yourself back in the same place you departed from 15minutes after walking. Every few strides you would find an arched alleyway. Every few strides a cross passageway would plunge off down the hillside or a set of steps would climb up to the sky with a set of restaurants and bnb’s leading above.
As a tourist I was sold by the charm of the city. But looking a little closer I noted that many shops were closed down and there were quite a few abandoned, derelict buildings. To me this also added to the charm but Marco’s father explained that they are going through a crisis, it is difficult for the locals in Agrigento and the political system doesn’t function well, a pity because it is by far my favourite town in Italy, I want to move here.
I still remember the first sight. The plane swerved over the sea through the sky and there below me was the sudden magical tableau of life in Catania. It looked big, and mostly busy. It was orange and yellow, so compact, so exciting and so Sicilian. I was smitten.
Eli, my host was very friendly and spoke good English and made sure everything was pleasant. She explained to me that she worked as a food scientist and has a passion for fitboxing. Her family lived just around the corner from her in Catania. She drove us home safely as Sicilians drive as though they are in an arcade game. It is not unusual to see unexpected cars zipping in front of you to from either direction to overtake. I was genuinely astonished.
Day 1 and 2 were spent with Eli and Franchessco.
We spent our days at the beach in Giardini Naxos, at Franchesco’s mothers traditional Sicilian home in the beautiful town of Nicolosi eating ice cream and granitas.
Catania in a day
Eli dropped me off at Via Etena and pointed for me to walk one way. Down, down, down. My favourite direction to walk. I was excited.
In a not very long time I arrived at Piazza del Duomo di Catania around 9:30a and it was getting busy with tourists and locals. I left my map of the city indoors so from herein my journey has all been a big improvisation.
Piazza del Duomo di Catania was nice, big however nothing special. I’ve seen hundreds of different plazas/squares/piazzas in my life so unfortunately I’m all Piazza’s up. I saw a group of Chinese tourists walking towards a passageway and I followed.
Welcome to the fish market.
Eli had told me about this place, she said it’s a must see.
Catania Fish Market
What’s a vegan doing in a fish market?
At first I was walking around, looking at all the fish for sale. Many of which I’d never seen before. Some long some short, some fat some thin. Some with 8 legs. It’s a marvellous atmosphere. But watch your step, you could easily slip.
Finally I found a place to buy my second breakfast.
What’s a vegan eating at a fish market?
There is a park outside the fish market where I sat on a bench and ate my food. It was so delicious! Though I took it easy on the olives because salt isn’t my thing.
Look at this place I found while walking, lost in private thought along Viale Africa towards Piazza Europa
I made my way down by jumping the fence and climbing down the stones. What a find! I ended up staying here for 4hours, jumping in the water and swimming than chilling. It was just me, an old Italian man and a German painter.
The way back to Eli’s house was complex. My phone battery died so I had no way to ask her for directions. I’d finally had enough of aimlessly walking around sub-urban Catania so I walked into a shop and asked the shopkeeper to call a taxi for me. Despite the language barrier it was done, and I was back at Eli’s house in no time.
Our last meal was great, I cooked my usual; chick peas and veg stir fry and we sat talking until both of us were tired and I had to leave early for my next destination in Sicily: Agrigento.
It’s quite rare that I meet somebody that inspires me (see previous post).
I fell for Eli as soon as we met because her energy is beautiful. Eli lives in fearlessness which is hard to obtain, she lives for the now and celebrates each day with an upbeat attitude.
A big bonus is that she is an excellent chef. Suffering from being a vegan in Italy it was beginning to concern me. I couldn’t taste their favourite meals and flavours because they all contain some form of animal. But Eli found a way for me to enjoy risotto, pasta and cakes. And it was delicious. On the first day she made a tasty pasta with a spinach savoury cake and on the second day she made mushroom risotto and a mushroom savoury cake. All vegan.
I think that Milan is an overrated city to travel to.
I am in Milan. The only thing that interests me is the prospect of meeting somebody interesting.. Also its so modelly that sometimes I even feel like I could be scouted as a supermodel (haha wishful thinking) Otherwise.. Its just this big shopping city.
For breakfast/lunch I went with some guys I met to a pizza place called Spontini. I do not recommend this place for the healthy stomach! It is greasy with thick bread, and drenched in cheese. It made my stomach growl. Still, very busy full of locals and tourists. 6euros for the amount of pizza in the picture
As you walk closer to the Duomo the more model-y and fashion-y it gets. Yesterday I did alot of city walking and nothing really impressed me. But still somehow.. its better then Venice.
Besides, today is rainy and grey. Yesterday’s weather was nice. I put my heel into the bulls balls and spun around 3 times for luck. There was a bit of confusion if I should use my right leg of left.. as Italians dont speak much English they seem to think that the louder they talk the more I understand.. It got a bit much. Then people started clapping when I was done.. A bit strange, but nothing harmful! Do that if your in Milan.
I walked into the Duomo and it was interesting. Very magnificent but the projectors and upscale speakers kind of kill the vibe. But I never realised how much the smell of a church is so tantalising!
After all the walking, enroute back to the apartment I am staying in, a quick coffee break was needed in a place called Pave. It was perfect! A perfect way to end the day. I ordered a sparkling water with bread and homemade jam. I am a bread-o-holic so its a big deal. The bread was perfect. It was brown, with the perfect chew. They were explaining to me something about the yeast.. Kinda tuned out. But still.. the jam was nice and the setting was “shabby chic” whatever that means but it was fresh and cosy.