|On our way into Palermo (and below)|
If you come into Palermo by plane, you land 30 km west of the city at Falcone-Borsellini airport, named for two anti-Mafia prosecutors murdered in 1992. Makes a point. You could sweat on it during the train ride into the city.
|Memorial for murdered prosecutors, with statue of Nike, goddess of Victory|
I admit I was apprehensive about Palermo. I knew I shouldn't be scared, but I was a bit. Palermo's reputation has been terrifying for much of my lifetime.
|Coastline west of Palermo|
Once around the north-west tip of Sicily (San Vito lo Capo) and across the expansive gulf of Castellammare, we were on the coastal approach to Palermo. On the last Sunday of August, the near-to-town beaches were crammed, the dance (??) music amplified and the water churned up by over-powered inflatables - just as it is today in the harbour of Castellammare del Golfo where hundreds of tanned Sunday drivers are competing to see how close they can shave Enki's stern.
Palermo harbour is in wide sweeping arc of water called the Conca d'Oro (Golden Shell). The city spills out along the coast like creamy lather, and is hemmed in from behind by imposing mountains, the tallest of which, Mt Pellegrino looms over the western end of the bay.
|At the entrance of la Cala, Palermo harbour|
|Heavy lifting department, Palermo harbour|
|Keeping an eye out on the Galizzi pontoon|
After our first excursion into the city, I relaxed. We all relaxed. So you had to be buzzed through two sets of doors to get into the bank to take money out of the ATM...well, there are reasons for these things. The police presence in town was conspicuous but light-handed. The streets weren't particularly grubby, though there are narrow dark lanes you couldn't pay me to walk through in broad daylight.
In the more-frequented parts of central Palermo, the shops are not burnished or smart. Some areas are outright derelict. There are beggars and there are homeless people, but no more so than anywhere else. There are also vintage clothing and hat shops, whole streets of bookshops, music floating from high windows, dog walkers and brides. Strolling down Via Maqueda in the early evening, when the temperature is at its loveliest and people seem to be more at ease with each other, you could even call Palermo benign, I thought. A city for living in, for sure.
|On the beat in Palermo|
|Palermo's hub, Quattro Canti|
|Via Maquda is a pedestrian street|
|Via Porto di Castro|
|That eagle pops up everywhere|
|People and places, Palermo (and below)|
|On duty at the monastery of San Agostini|
|Fresh today at the Mercato del Capo (and below)|
|Fresh from the market - dinner on the boat|
|He said he was from Naples|
|The best panini in Palermo|
|Sicilian baroque in the Capo|
There is so much to enjoy here. The markets - that goes without saying. The surprises. It's a city where, despite the drivers (they're Sicilian, you understand), you might see a well-dressed woman confidently riding an upright bicycle wearing shoes with a small heel.
There's a bit of tourism - but it's low-key. Even the horse and carriage trade for sightseers is not offensive in Palermo - it seems quite of a piece in a city where the dominant building is not a skyscraper but the fabulous opera house, Teatro Massimo.
|Teatro Massimo (and below)|
|The magnificent Chiesa dell'Immacolate Concezione (and below)|
|Chiesa San Domenico|
|Capella Palatina, commissioned by the Norman king, Roger II (and below)|
Palermo, I've read, is a complicated city, layered like an onion. We didn't get further than the skin. That's the penalty clause in travel, even our kind of slow travel. You don't have time to peel your towns. I may be wrong but it seemed to me that if you were to cut into this particular onion, it might not bring tears to your eyes.
|Palermo in Claudia's viewfinder (and below)|
We're now waiting under the castle at Castellammare for the swell to decrease before we jump over to Sardinia. It's a treat to be at anchor again. Sicily is many things, but despite the wild dreams of those who are promoting marinas around the island, it is not a "cruising" ground. Mike, a friend from Marmaris who pulled up alongside Enki in Palermo harbour, told us he's been around Sicily both ways, and each time met current. You work and pay dearly for your cruising pleasures in Sicily....should we be surprised?
|The anchorage at Castellammare del Golfo|
|Enki is anchored between the castle and the breakwater|