Palermo, Exploring the Capital of Sicily
The next morning we set out to explore Palermo. But to do that, we needed coffee. The place right across from our hotel turned out to be a hard core coffee shop, with big containers of coffee beans labeled with their countries of origin. Just like a fancy coffee shop in the US, people came in and ordered bags of coffee to take with them. We ordered our cappuccinos and pastries, and hung out and watched people come and go. One woman was perched on a chair drying her feet that had gotten wet from the rain in her open toed sandals. She apologized, and then made friendly conversation about how when she left the house she didn’t think it was going to rain today. I know this doesn’t sound like a terribly significant episode … but this is when we knew Sicily would really be different from Rome. Someone had made random conversation with us in a coffee shop … and that just doesn’t normally happen.
The Ballarò local market was our next destination. Crowded with fish and vegetable stalls, it had quite a middle eastern feel – except less crowded and with fewer pushy salespeople. We wandered through and ogled vegetables and meats, and tried to identify the fresh seafood we saw. It was really amazing. I kind of wish I had more pictures of it, but it was one of those situations where taking a picture changes everything … so we just wandered and enjoyed.
In the market we stopped at a recommended (and packed) stall for pane e panelle with croquete … aka carbs, with a side of carbs served on a bed of carbs. It’s basically a bread roll (pane) with fried chickpea things (panelle), and potato croquettes. The ordering process was completely intimidating … but I think the lady behind the counter was looking out for us since she saw us standing there (and not pushing/shoving/shouting). I just watched what everyone else asked for, and asked for the same thing.
Thus nourished, we made our way to the cathedral. It was quite gorgeous on the outside. I’d heard it was less interesting inside (and I was wearing a tank top), so we just hung out outside … and then went to hunt for more food.
We tracked down a recommended pastry shop that turned out to be well off the beaten path … but well worth it. We had a small cannolo, Ryan picked a pistacchio granita (Sicily is known for its pistachios), and I had some *ridiculous* profiteroles covered in chocolate mousse. So far … we’re liking Sicily. :)