Palermo is no Paris.
Like every city, Palermo has its share of rough looking characters. It has streets we were hesitant to walk down at night. Some areas smelled like a dump, trash littering the street, and it seemed no one picked up after their dogs.
It's a gritty city, worn in by years of sun, dust, and petty crime.
But the people in Palermo (although we speak little Italian and they speak little English) were absolutely lovely.
The Palermitans were friendly, funny, and welcoming everywhere we went (even before they knew we were tourists - the mark of truly kind people). In our hotel, at cafes and restaurants, at shops, in parks, we discovered that Palermitans are simply a warm people.
During our time in Palermo I resisted creating a long itinerary of things to see. Instead, we wandered around the city's shopping district and made it to just two of the city's most famous sites, including the magnificent Cappella Palatina (it will get a separate post). We also explored the Capuchin Catacombs where there are no photos allowed (but trust me, it's the most unsettling place ever.)
|the best place for a snack al fresco in palermo, located behind the cappella palatina/norman palace in a park|
Our trip from the Capuchin Catacombs to the main shopping street in Palermo cost us €15, and it was worth every Euro.
Our meal at Bellotero was one of my favourite meals ever. We stuffed down four superb courses as we watched a huge Sicilian family take over a corner of the restaurant. They marvelled over their wine, discussed the merits of the fresh fish brought out on a platter for them to inspect (snapping photos of it on their iPhones, it was adorable) and while they passionately chatted and joked between courses, they fell silent when their food hit the table. That's when you know the food at a restaurant is really good, when all conversation is suspended to simply taste. Palermitans are a people who truly love their food.
Palermo is no Paris; it's not really the streets of this city that are beautiful, but the people. And we were happy to be among them, if only for a day.