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I am not sure what I was expecting from Palermo.  Maybe that it would be seedy and scary and a bit mad.  But as soon as I stepped into the street on Monday I realised it was not in the least bit scary. The people are open and humorous and direct. The markets of Vucciria and Ballaro were busy but not overcrowded. The buyers all seemed to know the vendors.

Palermo is spread out and full of neighbourhoods, like Buenos Aires and its ‘barrios’. It would take years to really get to know the city. We scratched the surface, visiting the markets of Ballaro, Capo and Vucciria, the Norman Cathedral, Teatro Massimo, Teatro Piliteamo Garibaldi, the beach-side town of Mondello and the hill town of Monreale with its fabulous Cathedral, the interior of which has a huge Byzantine mosaic fresco cycle.

Monreale Cathedral mosaic interior

Street food is also nothing to shy away from in Palermo. One morning, after a typically sugary Italian breakfast I had a craving for something savoury so stopped on the street for a yummy roll drizzled with olive oil and layered with sardines, fresh tomato slices and then toasted on a sandwich press. Mmm, just what I needed!

Sardines and tomatoes on a roll

One day we had an all seafood lunch at Mondello.  Oh so fresh:

Calamari Fritti to start

Spaghetti with Sardines

My personal favourite, Spaghetti Vongole

Fishing boats at Mondello

On our final night in Palermo we booked for dinner at the famous Casa del Brodo specifically to try the soups. I had the Macco di fave e finocchietto (broad bean soup with fennel) and Andrew had the very yummy Tortellini in brodo (tortellini in broth). Both were satisfying and just right for a slightly chilly Palermo autumn night.

Casa del Brodo, Palermo

Palermo is not a place where I just instantly thought, “I could live here”. The grime and rubbish could take some time to get used to, as well as the poverty that seems more in-your-face here than in the other cities and towns we have visited in Sicily.

I think it’s a place that could grow on me if I had the time to just observe the people and the customs and feel the vibe. We had many moments of surprise and joy at how lovely and generous the people are, and that’s the sign of a resilient city.

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