Being back in Palermo was strange. The city was so familiar, exactly where I’d left it. It felt like going home, but home was still 1,130 miles away. I walked around the streets feeling very distant from all these fresh-off-the-plane tourists: I had travelled, man. I had a wicked tan and an almighty heat rash. My shoes were broken so I had developed a slight limp. Everything I needed (water bottle, filters, expectations) had started off English but were Italian now. Or rather, Sicilian.
I have a strong history of getting nervous about planes. I get my ticket from a seedy internet cafe (thank you Ryanair and your ridiculous check-in policies) and then I end up in the airport four hours early, minimum.People who work in airports have been known to mock me, but I can’t relax with important deadlines hanging over me, and ‘flight home’ always seems pretty important.
Nonetheless, there were things I wanted to do. I still hadn’t had a canollo, dammit! I hadn’t properly seen the cathderal, and I was now willing to go into some churches I shied away from paying for before. I ended up having a beautiful day, even with carrying around my backpack. I even saw a Sicilian independence parade, which was underwhelming but I’d got my canollo by then so…
The best thing I did that day was go into the Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio. It was only €1 and had a sensational mixture of European-style frescos and Islamic mosaics. The opening hours were a bit peculiar (it was probably closed for lunch) but I had arancini in the Pizzeria Bellini while I waited. For for the meat rather than cheese version, and don’t have either if you’re a vegetarian: the cheese has bacon in it.
I also went to the Chiesa di San Cataldo, which is opposite. This cost €2.5, was significantly smaller and felt a bit disappointing. It hasn’t got any art or decorations inside because for years it was used as a post office.
However, lots of things were included in the price of the ticket, including a tour of the Cathedral and a visit to the roof of the Chiesa del Santissimo Salvatore. The Cathedral was shut and I make a mistake with the Chiesa del SS. Salvatore. Basically, they make a big deal about how you can’t see the actual church with the €2.5 ticket, so I ended up paying an extra €4. This is a lie! Don’t buy the extra ticket, you walk through the church to get to the roof and you can linger on the way back down as well.
Final thoughts and reflections
What did I learn? What would I change?
I spent around €500 all in (excluding flights) which is pretty good going. Usually I’d spend less than that because usually I wouldn’t pay to go into any sights that I wasn’t certain I wanted to see. This time I challenged myself to be less of a spendthrift, with mixed results. The cloister garden (€3) in Palermo, the theatre (€3) in Catania and the duomo (€2) in Syracuse were excellent. Some other stuff was, with hindsight, not worth it. Then again, I get the under-25/student discount so I shouldn’t complain. The big cost was, as ever, the beer, and that is non-negotiable!
This was the trip were I masted the art of buying coffee from a coffee bar. This is, I think, an important life skill. I also continued my education in ‘picking the right stranger to take photos of you in front of panoramas’, which is also essential when travelling alone.
The only major change I would make would be to go to Enna between Palermo and Catania, instead of after. This would have broken up the ‘party’ atmosphere that filled the first week of my holiday. I also would have been more likely to find an Easter parade/procession, and I could have gone to the Roman Villa. Then again, if I’d done that I wouldn’t have re-found the Australian and the Argentinian in my hostel and we wouldn’t have had a merry evening drinking long island ice teas and eating ice cream.
Overall, I can’t stress enough how great Sicily is. If you’ve been you’ll understand. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?!
Over and out x