"The Insides of an Ox"
I have no idea what it is called, and I'm not even sure what it really is, but I had some sort of sandwich from a street vendor that kind of resembled stir-fried liver. I have to admit I was skeptical as I watched the guy scoop out the strips of something I couldn't quite recognize (I remember thinking, is that eel? mushroom? liver?)
But the lady next to me said it was a specialty of Palermo, and she had just asked the street-car-guy to make about 20 of them for her to take home to a party, so I figured they can't be all bad if someone in that dress is serving them to guests. She couldn't remember the name in English, but she said it was "the insides of an ox". mmmm.... Actually, she was right, it was really tasty.
Antica Focacceria San...
Antica Focacceria San Francesco
This is THE place to go to eat typical Palermitan food. It exists since 1834 and has wondeful marble tables and iron chairs in liberty style. The ground floor is a 'focacceria' where you can eat pane e panelle or pani ca meusa, the upper floor is a nice restaurant. Outside tables in summer. Pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines), involtini di pescespada (rolls of swordfish)
Churches ornate ...
Just a minute's walk from the Baroque splendours of Piazza Pretoria, and on the same piazza as the entrance to the Santa Caterina, two small churches stand side by side. Much the same age but very different in their interior decoration, they take you back into another world completely.
Step into the church dedicated to Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (Saint Mary of the Admiral) and the cultural fusion that was such a part of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily becomes very apparent. Possibly intended as a mosque but completed in the mid-12th century under the patronage of one of King Roger's Greek admirals (hence the maritime dedication), the foundation charter (still in existence) written in Greek and Arabic, its Romanesque belltower still standing, with many North African elements in its construction and much of the interior covered with wonderful Byzantine mosaics, it is an extraordinary testament to the time in which it was built. Later 16th century additions are frescoed in typically Baroque style but they pale into insignificance as your eye is caught by the glorious mosaics that completely cover the dome, the walls and the arches of the older sections.
The church became known as La Martorana in the 15th century when it became part of a Benedictine convent. The marzipan fruits known as Frutta Martorana and sold all over Sicily these days were the speciality of the nuns of this convent.
Glimpses of a fascinating city
We thought we would visit Palermo by ourselves to see some of the sights and experience something of the historic main city of Sicily. This proved to be a mistake.
The day started promisingly with a train ride but once we arrived we were unable to get on to one of the hop on, hop off buses for sometime so waited at the bus stop watching traffic chaos. We found the bus, when it did arrive, was very crowded and the commentary was fragmented. The midday traffic was chaotic, progress was slow but we eventually alighted at San Domenico church near the market La Vucciria.
"La Vucciria Market"
After refreshing ourselves with a coffee, and watching the ongoing altercation between the cafe and a man who was refused entry, we made our way into the market. We bought a large quantity of plums and other fruit from one stall holder who kept pressing filled paper cones on us. The stalls along the winding alleys were nearing the end of their morning trade and were starting to pack up.
"Lunch, and then what?"
There were several trattorias and we passed on the Shangai Trattoria (Italian-Chinese perhaps) and settled on Toto's where we had a most entertaining lunch. While I'll include the food information in my tipa, the entertainment came from the proprietor Toto.
He flirted with the young women at the next table, did magic tricks, sang, and did match puzzles which had nearly all the diners participating.
After lunch, everything remained shuttered until late afternoon. We walked in the afternoon heat to the Politeamo Garibaldi where we eventually were able to catch the bus and continued around the circuit, before deciding to get off at the station and returning to Cefalu.
We were disappointed we had seen so little of what is an intriguing city with so many different influences, and many fine monuments. There are defitinitely times when an organised tour can be an excellent investment but if we had been on a tour we would never have had such a memorable lunch!