On the back-end of bronchitis I’ve been hacking, wheezing and coughing my way through Palermo with the long-suffering travel mate. Here’s part of the first day.
First impressions: Grit – the sort that swirls around your feet – , garbage and graffiti. Everything seems pitted and pocked and either under construction or crumbling. Narrow streets with washing hanging from the windows and narrow sidewalks of shiny stones often blocked by plants, parked cars and the occasional sleeping dog.It’s a walkable city – if you keep a careful eye out for the uneven pavers and an ear for ubiquitous motorcycles.
This city, like Sicily itself, has seen and survived it all – Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and the Allied 8th Army – the effects of whose bombing in 1943 are still visible. Palermo is a lived-in city, not just a tourist destination. And it’s stuffed with extraordinary things to see.
It’s been chilly to balmy and we are warm in our self-catering apartment in the Kalsa district of East Palermo down by the harbor and right across the road from an excellent restaurant. We even have underfloor heating.
Kalsa is from the Arabic al-Halisah – the Chosen – and was originally built in the 10th century as the Arab seat of government. As with everything in Palermo it has many changes since then including the devastation of WW2 that reduced much of the quarter to rubble.
A wander down the street and around the corner and the magic begins.
The Galleria Regionale della Sicilia is housed in the Catalan gothic Palazzo Abatellis – 19 rooms of art around a large open courtyard.
Here’s a grim detail from the huge fresco Triumph of Death (artist unknown) that is right at the opening.
And just look at the side eye expression on this face! Maddelena by Giovanni van Scorel. (1495-1562)
And here is Antonello da Messina’s Annunciata.
This Madonna Del Fiore has a most professorial baby.