If you wish to discover a place rich in culture and history, full of passion and life a sailing adventure with a stop in Palermo should be top of that list!
Palermo is a bit like an onion, each misterious layer makes you discover a different story.
This city has seen Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans and Spanish that conquered one after another our fair mediterranean island. In the neighborhood of the Vucciria, where I live, each of these cultures left behind some traces. You cannot miss the touch of the Arabs in the oranges piled up in the markets, of the Normans in the churches or of the Spaniards in the graffiti of the Inquisition’s victims in Piazza Marina.
You just have to look at the faces of the people to understand that each new invader has left something in the genetic heritage of the islanders. I’am myself in love with my neighborhood, it is a beautiful mix: old Palermo of times long past with new vibrant influences. In the night the streets are teeming with life, people go out to drink Blood of Sicily at the Blue Grotto or a glass of wine in one of the many clubs. You can dance in the street of Piazza Garraffello where often live DJs perform for the crowd or simply enjoy a night out with friends.
The night is for me a truly magical moment, the smoke of the stalls selling meat and vegetables grilled on embers rises upward to reach the stars. The moon illuminates the baroque palaces ruined during World War II and embellished with the graffiti of the famous Swiss artist Uwe.
Few places are so ancient and modern at the same time, almost a fusion of punk and barocco.
A few meters away the sea skirts the city line and the Vucciria leaves room for the old arabian Kalsa district, here is Piazza Marina with its monumental Ficus trees, an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Palermo can gift you with the true taste of life, like waking up in the morning to go to the Vucciria market. In the early hours of the morning as you stroll down the alley, it might happen that you hear horses neighing from behind the shutters of the shops that often double as stables. Alley after alley you come upon the market and it just looks like it came right out of a painting by Renato Guttuso.
Huge swordfish and tuna alternate with all sort of other fishes, further up a triumph of vegetables and food products. The market is a special place where I often go to procure fresh fruit, almonds, nuts, salted ricotta and the typical sicilian tomato extracts.
Palermo also offers a beautiful Caribbean sea and you might wish to enjoy on a boat cruise around the west coast of Sicily, savoring the light breeze and the scalding sun.
I myself after a nice trip to the market in the summer, often go to the beach for a swim in Mondello or to the natural reserve of Capo Gallo, all about 20 minutes distance from home.
Actually the sea in Palermo is a presence that can be felt from within the old town, with the old harbor La Cala, that is the reason for the origin of the name bestowed to the city: Panormus, derived from the greek “all port”. The elegant harbor, with its sailing yachts whose masts can be seen from the city, is rich in green spaces where you can jog or preferably…eat a brioche with ice cream at the historic kiosk Ilardo, under the walls of the magnificent Palazzo Butera.
This outings are my true passion for the ease with which one can reach the sea in a short time.
Wonderful villages such as Cefalù, Monreale or Piana degli Albanesi. The latter, in particular, is a village in the mountains inhabited by albanian people immigrated in Sicily centuries ago, that still maintain ties to their roots. The language of their mother country is indeed the official language and italian is only spoken as a second language here.
If you happen to go, I recommend you to eat a specialty: the Sicilian “cannoli”, a crispy wafer filled with sweet ricotta and chocolate chips and enjoy a lunch at the old Trattoria San Giovanni, famous for its delicious homemade cuisine .
I decided years ago to open the Fuitina ( sicilian for “elopment”) in the historical heart of Palermo, because I love the idea of hosting people, but in particular the people who want to understand the soul of the city and that are not afraid to dive in the markets, squares, and nightclubs and mix with the other city dwellers.
The holiday home is located in an old building dated 1700, that still preserves the signs of past centuries, its wrinkles tell the stories of the people who have lived there in the past. With my home I tried to create a special atmosphere for whomever would like to taste the flavor of the real Palermo lifestyle. And I can happily suggest it to whomever loves the romantic atmosphere of Palermo and those who really want to understand this town in all its contradictory and astonishing aspects.
Every day I hope, with my job, to charm tourists by transmitting the culture and life that this city has offered to me.
La Fuitina could be a good starting point for a special sailing cruise in the west coast of Sicily, there are many islands and bays to be discovered and cruise yachts in Palermo setting sail for the Aegadian Islands and enchanting places like Castellammare del Golfo, San Vito Lo Capo and Scopello.
Translated by Nila Megna