Saturday, June 13, 2015

Day 5 - Palermo, Sicily

Disembarked around 10:30 this morning and caught a trolley that purported to go around the city of Palermo and show an overview of the sites. About forty-five mintues long, it would drop  us back where we started. They provided a map with numbers and a key showing what each major point was.

Nearly every building on the side streets
has balconies!
Unfortunately, the driver apparently didn’t have the map. After the second spot on the map, he went his own way. The voice-over that played was in four languages, English being the last. But the speaker’s heavy Italian accent made it difficult to understand. A British man in the back complained (loudly) that there WAS no English explanation. I was so glad he was British and not American!

I gave up trying to follow along and just watched the city go by. It IS beautiful, in a very different way. Quite metropolitan, the traffic is almost as bad as Rome, but the mixture of old and new is more integrated. Towards the end of WWII, the Allies bombed the heck out of the port area and some buildings, seventy years later, are still not repaired. Nor are they monuments or museums to the past. They’re just there, the street-level floor still in use (mostly storefronts), but the top of the building in bombed-out ruins.

In fact, it came as a bit of surprise to me to realize that Italians did not fight on our side during that war. They were one of the Axis powers and under Fascist rule. I’m so used to thinking of Italy as a part of Steven’s heritage, it was a bit of a shock to see those bombed buildings and know we did that to them.

Steven’s great-grandparents walked these streets. This is a city of balconies and we saw a little girl on one of them, all by herself, stooping down with her arm through the spaces, waiting for a woman underneath to pass. When she did, the little girl opened her hand and a flower petal floated down. Steven and I both chuckled. Some things are universal.

I have to record the eerie/normal event. Eerie because it borders the supernatural, normal because – well, stuff like this has happened before. Often.

Before we left home, Steven went through a few of his old wallets, deciding on a thin canvas one that would easily slide into his moneybelt. He checked the slots and found them empty, so he filled them with his credit cards and put some paper money in the fold.

He uses this wallet in Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Rome. We’re in Rome, after having visited the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. Back at the hotel and he’s checking to see how much money he has left (it was an expensive day). He sees a side pocket he hadn’t noticed before and slides a finger in to see if there’s anything there.

There is.

A picture of his mother.

Like I said, supernatural for some, normal for us. Like finding wine in Alaska with Michele’s name on the label. Like all the pennies his mom used to find on his father’s gravestone. I have no doubt, Nina Ingandello Duprey is visiting Palermo, home of her grandparents, right along with us.

My zucchini something
Right now, I’m sitting in a sidewalk café, having just finished something I’ve never had before. At home I’d call it a pizza with zucchini on it, but here it had a different name that started with an “f”. But he said it fast and I didn’t catch the whole word. A pizza dough bottom with butter on top and thinly-sliced zucchini. Steven had the regular pizza, which had a very thick dough. Both are served in rectangles and cut into small pieces you eat with a fork.

Steven, having finished his meal, is now across the via, painting in the piazza. I took some pictures from here. The trees have beautiful purple blossoms on them but we’re not sure what they are. Steven thinks they might be Jacaranda trees, but we’ll have to see. Me? I’m still in the café, listening to the Italian being spoken around me and just watching all the people go by. It’s a Sunday, but there are tourists all over the place as well as natives. There is a large population of Indians here as well. They’re the ones selling all the selfie sticks and other junk.

The cafe where I sit while Steven
So far, no one has asked me to leave, although my lunch is obviously done and my Coke-a-Cola can is empty. I seem to remember something I read that said you are encouraged to linger…to not rush from the restaurant. I hope that’s true. I can’t see Steven from where I am, although I’m pretty sure I could find him if needed. How many painters would there be in a two-block piazza? Before we head back to the ship, I’ll take a picture of the two points of interest in this area.

Another point to note: There are police EVERYWHERE. Both Rome and Palermo have a heavy police/army presence. We’ve seen several military buildings and the Carabinieri are parked not fifty feet from me. And they carry machine guns. These are not guys to cross.

You know, now that I think on it. I’m in an Italian city all by myself. It’s very cool to sit here, typing away, not understanding but one word in a hundred spoken around me and know I can survive.

There is a typical Italian scene happening now. A car wants a spot right beside me, but another car is there already, blinkers on to show the driver won’t be long. The car that wants the spot is continually beeping its horn to get the person to hurry up. Turns out there is a driveway right next to the garage. Vendors were in front of it, so I didn’t notice until the car pulled up onto the sidewalk. I’d seen the two vendors move their stuff but didn’t realize the gate behind them led to a private parking area behind the buildings.

The park where Steven is painting; the
view from the cafe
I’ve decided I never want to drive in Italy. They’re nuts! Steven says there are no rules; there are, they’re just not adhered to quite as rigidly as they are in the States. If I DID drive, I’d want a Segway (we’ve seen several). It would be the most sane way to get around. I might learn to drive a Vespa – they’re pretty cool, too. But they dart in and out of traffic and I’d probably zig when I should zag and that would be the end of the Vespa (or me!).

Hmmm….all the two-person Vespas I’ve seen have the man in front and the woman behind. Although a lot of women solo on them as well.

A note about the dogs: There are several and not always on leashes. And yet, my dog-dar has gone off only once. So far they’re all well-behaved and don’t approach. Or if they do, it’s more out of friendly curiosity.

LOL Okay, so I’m sitting alone at this table and the place is getting busy. No one, however, has asked me to leave, although if I find a waiter again, I’ll get another Coke. Two very Italian women asked if they could share my table and we had a good conversation, sort of. They speak very little English and I have very little Italian. But we made friends and they now think I’m from New York City (EVERYONE thinks we’re from the city when we say we’re from New York). It’s okay. They think they met a cosmopolitan and I’m okay with that. Started a new story based on that incident. We’ll see if it goes anywhere.

Later, back on the ship.

Got back to the ship around 2:00 in the afternoon. Took pictures of the big cliff outside our veranda again – interesting lighting change from morning to afternoon.

Steven had quite the audience as he painted in the park. A few boys watched him from beginning to end and wanted him to paint in some cabo (horses). He drew a crowd, a few of whom asked him if he planned to sell it. He’s not happy with the painting, said he felt rushed. It’s pretty flat in perspective and I suspect he’ll do another version when we get home and he can take his time.

On our way back down the street (literally down – Palermo is not flat at all) to the dock we stopped because Steven wanted a gelato. I was still full from lunch and didn’t want anything until I saw the cannoli. Yum. I could only eat half, though, so it was a good thing I had my husband with me to finish it off. J

Play safe and happy travels!

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