The beauty of Palermo

This city has either an ugly beauty or a beautiful ugliness. Many people consider it ugly. I consider it more beautiful than ugly. I think this is because I was able to see it beyond the abandonment and negligence much seen in its old center, the ravaged buildings and deep marks of long-gone conflicts: in other words, the neglect from its rulers… again the resemblance to Brazil! Or maybe because I was able to see beyond the narrow streets decorated with hanging clothes, a typical scenario in Sicily as it is in Naples. I even think it has its own charm. If one day they decide to remove all the clotheslines and hanging clothes, the feeling would not be the same. The shouting of vendors in the street markets can even scare tourists who are not used to this frantic noise; but what would these street markets be without their dialects and disputes of who screams and sells the most? You cannot visit Palermo without visiting its street markets. One of the best known, called La Vucciria, is especially busier on Saturdays, but in the evenings, it shows its “wilder” side and becomes a party for young people and locals flocking to the streets to drink, enjoy, flirt, and listen to music. Some prefer Ballarò or Il Capo street markets, which are also touristy and may differ very little from Vucciria. I particularly like Ballarò, although it is much noisier than the others, I believe I can find a greater diversity of fish, seafood and vegetables: during the artichoke season, especially in March, it's a delight to see them plump and arranged in a row in the stalls. Ballarò is in the popular Albergheria district, where I suggest taking a walking tour through its decaying streets with palaces and baroque churches. Since I like old buildings - even the poorly preserved ones - this was a neighborhood that caught my attention. This is also where one perceives the settlement of Arab and African immigrants, which has grown and bothered a lot in recent years.

The port region has another type of charm, though. Early in the morning, small vendors (especially of small fish) scatter along the sidewalk. Groups of friends or loners pass by them – like me - who love to walk or run outdoors while admiring the sea and the boats. In one of my morning runs, I caught myself noticing how thin Italians are in this part of the country - healthy, by the way. A Mediterranean diet has its advantages - lots of fish and seafood, olive oils, al dente pasta that best aids digestion, homemade and preservative-free sauces, a good glass of wine and plenty of water. And you can soon realize that the presumption some foreigners have that Italians eat too much is not quite correct. You eat well, in stages, and people generally devote more time of their lives at the table and with their families and friends. More calmly, more peacefully, because in Italy it is sacred to have a good meal and enjoy it calmly. And I realized that in Sicily this is taken even more seriously. Maybe because there is such a different pace in Palermo, for example, than in other cities around the world, but the truth is that throughout the time I spent there, I never saw a Sicilian skip lunch because he or she was working frantically. This, by the way, does not exist in Palermo. Also, because there is the well-known "siesta", which means the long break for people to have unhurried lunches, to be with their families and be able to go to their homes and recharge their batteries for the second shift of the day. Actually, there are places that close their doors completely, so check the schedule of some shops between 12 and 4pm. But nothing can prevent us from running errands at other times of the day.
Tip: Always mind your belongings. Palermo is not a violent city, but there are many pickpockets who keep an eye on carefree tourists.  


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