A golden time
Favorite thing: Photo: "Anna, mother of the priest Grisanto...."
If you've read all the Palermo tips I've written here, you'll have gathered that there are many remarkable things about the city. For me, nothing is more remarkable, or speaks more eloquently of the most extraordinary period of the city's past, than this small stone that sits in a glass case in the little museum on the upper floors of the palace of La Zisa.
It's a tombstone that was carved in memory of a Norman-Sicilian noblewoman who died in 1148, when Palermo's greatness was at its height, when Western and Eastern Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together in a climate of acceptance that was unique. It wasn't Utopia, it was the Middle Ages, life was short, brutal and hard, The King was all-powerful and his will was law. For a few short years however, the island was blessed by being ruled by a King, Roger ll, whose grace, wisdom and sophisticated ability to adopt and use the best of all his subjects' abilities and cultures saw the flowering of a society that had no parallel then and, even today, stands out as a beacon of harmony, learning and tolerance.
We only know her as "Anna, mother of the priest Grisanto, priest to the sovereign Ruggero" (Roger). It tells us she was buried in the Great Jami (the mosque that was to become Palermo Cathedral) and from there taken by her son to the Church of San Michele Arcangelo and the chapel known as Sant’Anna, built by Grisanto in 1149. The telling thing about this stone is that Anna's story is recorded in four different languages - the languages of the four different faiths practised by the the people of 12th century Palermo - Latin ( Western Catholicism), Greek (Byzantine Orthodoxy), Arabic (Islam) and Hebrew (Judaism). The date of Anna's death is recorded in each section according to the the calendars of each of the faiths -1148 Latin, 6658 Greek, 4904 Hebrew, and 543 Arabic.
It's almost impossible to imagine that the climate this small stone speaks of, a climate that allowed the acceptance of the validity and integrity of a man's right to believe and worship God in his own way, existed on this small island in the middle of the Mediterranean 900 years ago. That it was also a time that saw the creation of magnificent art and architecture, glorious gardens planted and learning flourishing and honoured is just as amazing.
It was not to last - within 50 years of Anna's death Sicily had come under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor and Roger's golden world was swept away in bigotry, almost constant warfare and exile. Nothing quite like it has been seen since. Maybe Camelot was really in Sicily.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Saint Peter's Fish
Favorite thing: Saint Peter's Fish
Tilapia, Cleaned, about 2 Pieces per person
Celery Stalk, Chopped
2 Stalks of Fennel, Chopped
1/2 White Onion Chopped
Splash of Wine
2 Garlic Cloves, Sliced Thick
Salt & Pepper to Taste
In a skillet heat some extra virgin olive oil. Add in your chopped celery, fennel, onion, but save the garlic until the other ingredients have had a few minutes to start cooking. Salt & pepper to taste. After about 5-10 minutes or so over medium heat, deglaze with just a splash of whatever wine you are having with your meal (preferably a lighter, sweet red like burgandy) or chardonnay, or pinot grigio.
Carefully flour your tilapia pieces of fish in a separate plate, and put aside for a moment. Cut 3 slices of lemon and put into your skillet, and place each piece of fish on top of the lemon. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side. Once you flip sides, you can take some of the celery/fennel/onion with it, so now it is on top of your fish, and, if you really like your lemon, you can add a squeeze of it over the fish in addition to the lemon slices which will already give it the lemon taste, but it is not necessary. Remove from the pan with a spatula, vegetables and all, serve immediately. There is a wonderful taste of sweetness from the onions and wine, plus the sourness of the lemon, plus the taste of the fennel which makes a wonderful medly on the pallate.
Favorite thing: Baked Salmon
Salmon Steak, Skin On
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Red Bliss Potatoes (Optional)
Fresh Rosemary (Optional)
On a flat oven or cookie tray put down some tin foil and lightly oil it. Put your salmon down on it, if using the red bliss potatoes, slice them as thin as you can, and arange them around the salmon overlapping them. Season all of it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, chopped rosemary on the potatoes only, but all the other herbs over the salmon. Put in a preheated oven at 350F for about 25-30 minutes. When you remove it, serve with fresh lemon
Favorite thing: Flounder in White Wine & Lemon Sauce
INGREDIENTS (About 4 Servings)
2 Cloves of Garlic, sliced
1/4 White Onion, sliced
1 Fresh Lemon
1 Glass of Pinot Grigio
Sicilian Sea Salt & Pepper to Taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Find some fresh fish at your market, wash carefully as to not make it break, and put aside. In a sauce pan, add your olive oil and butter and heat until the butter has dissolved. Add your sliced and/or chopped onions, allow to sautee. Add your garlic and allow both to slightly brown (not burn). Deglaze with the white wine, and continue to cook until it comes back to a simmer. Cut your lemon in wedges, squeeze into the sauce and add the lemons in. Place your flounder in a glass pyrex dish and pour the suace over it, lemons and all. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes at 375F. Serve with rice, risotto, or steamed/sauteed vegetables.
Sicilian Seared Tuna
Favorite thing: INGREDIENTS
Sushi Quality Tuna Steak
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sweet Roasted Peppers
Peeled Roma Tomatoes
The night or several hours before, marinate the sun-dried tomatoes in white wine. In a heated pan add some extra virgin olive oil, garlic, the roasted peppers, sun dried tomatoes and allow to cook for 5 minutes, add the peeled roma tomatoes, then some good white wine. Simmer for 10 minutes, then put in a blender to make a smooth sauce.
If you are using a grill, marinate the tuna in olive oil, salt, and pepper. If you are using a stove top, add some extra virgin olive oil, season with fresh ground pepper. Add the tuna, season with salt. When you turn the tuna, season the other side with a pinch of salt.
Place some of the sauce on a plate, add the cooked tuna, put some more sauce on top.
Warm Seafood Salad
Favorite thing: Warm Seafood Salad:
Small Calico (Bay Scallops)
1/2 Small Red Onion
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Pint (or 1/4 cup) Grape Tomatoes or Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 Cup Fresh Chopped Parsley
3 Cloves Garlic, sliced
Salt & Pepper To Taste
In a pan heat your olive oil. Add your chopped onions and sweat until they turn translucent, about 5 minutes. At that time, add your sliced garlic. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes.
At this time, add your pasta or ravioli to the boiling salted water and cook according to directions, most likely the cook time will be about 10 minutes.
Cut your grape tomatoes in half (quarters if they are larger) and continue to cook for about 10-15 minutes and/or until the liquid is mostly out of the mixture. Add a squeeze of lemon, mix together and serve.
4 more images
Seen on the streets
Favorite thing: One of the real pleasures of exploring a city like Palermo lies in simply wandering the streets and taking in the sights, the expected and the unexpected. At eye level there are shop windows and grand doors; higher up fine architectural details over those doorws and windows, balconies - some with lines of washing hanging limply or dancing in a sudden gust of wind, flags and flowerpots too; and higher again the cupolas and domes of fine houses and the city's countless churches standing high above the rooftops. Narrow streets and lanes lead off to unknown endings around a corner; deeply shaded alleys open into bright sunlit squares. Doors half-open reveal glimpses into private lives. Pink oleanders and lemon-laden branches spill over high walls and friends sit gossiping under cafe umbrellas.
Streets that are busy, busy at eleven thirty are deathly quiet at one as the important matter of lunch draws almost everyone off the street. An hour later it all starts to pick up again and business of the afternoon gets underway. Come the evening and it seems as if every one in town is out and about on the end-of-day ritual of the passegata. Find yourself a seat at a streetside cafe, order a drink, sit back and just enjoy the scene.
Favorite thing: The typical aromas of Sicilian cooking can be smelt all over Palermo, not just in the restaurants but in the city streets and squares, where the kiosks still prepare and serve panelle (fried chickpea pancakes) and crocchette (croquette potatoes) to passers-by.
Once very tasty example is pasta con le sarde, a recipe made with simple ingredients but which is served in even the most luxurious restaurants in Palermo. This is a very tasty first course, made with wild fennel, fresh sardines, anchovies, saffron, sultanas and pine-nuts. Panelle are also a typical Palermo dish: rectangular snacks made with chickpea flour, salt, pepper and parsley, fried in vegetable oil and served in the open-air kiosks. Other typical “street” snacks are sfincione, a kind of pizza topped with tomato, anchovies and onion, and pani c’a meusa, a sandwich filled with spleen.Related to:
- Food and Dining
What should I visit in Palermo? Where should I go?
Favorite thing: Palermo: what to visit
There are a lot of monuments, museums, churches and buildings to visit in Palermo.
Let's start with: Piazza della Rivoluzione; San Francesco d'Assisi Church; Palazzo Mirto; il Museo Internazionale delle Marionette; Santa Maria alla Catena Church; l?Oratorio del Rosario di Santa Cita; Sant?Agostino Church
Let's go on visiting: Palazzo Sclafani, the Cathedral; Chiesa del Santissimo Salvatore; i "Quattro Canti"; Piazza Pretoria, in its centre we find a wonderful fountain; Palazzo Pretorio; Martorana Church.
Don't miss: Palazzo dei Normanni; Porta Nuova; chiesa di San Giovanni degli Eremiti.
Visit also: Museo Archeologico Regionale; Teatro Politeama.
General information on Sicily (english version)
Favorite thing: Sicily is the largest region in Italy, and it is surrounded by the Tirrenean Sea, the Ionian and the Sicilian Channel. It is surrounded by many islands: Eolie, Ustica, Egadi, Marsala, Pelagie and Pantelleria. Many are the rivers with a low stream and the mountains, the Etna with its 3.263 m which is the biggest active volcano in Europe. The region is big producer of wines, olives, citrus fruit, legumes, vegetables, cotton, tobacco, cereals and fruits, spread is also cattle, sheep and pig breeding. Longed destination for tourists thanks to the bathing resorts and beautiful natural and archaeological spots.
General information on Sicily (italian version)
Favorite thing: La Sicilia è la regione più vasta d'Italia, ed è bagnata dal Tirreno, dallo Ionio e dal Canale di Sicilia.E' circondata da molte isole: le Eolie, Ustica, le Egadi, Marsala, le Pelagie e Pantelleria. Molti sono i fiumi con scarso corso e i monti, tra cui l'Etna che con i suoi 3.263 m che è il più grande vulcano attivo d' Europa. La regione è grande produttrice di vini, olive, agrumi, legumi, ortaggi, cotone, tabacco, cereali e frutta, diffuso è anche l'allevamento di bovini, ovini, suini. Meta ambita per i turisti grazie agli stabilimenti balneari e alle bellezze naturali e archeologiche.
My travelmate 8)
Favorite thing: Lo is a good traveller... He's very resourceful and has a good sense of orientation. So that's a bliss havin vacation with him by my side. Even if we had tough times, he never lost his composure and we had an amusing weekend! 8))
Favorite thing: Our hotel was very near to Palermo University... So whilst walking down to historical center I've taken a photo... There are no students around since it's an official holiday in Italy... "Anniversary of foundation of Italian Republic"
Favorite thing: SICILY is the largest of the Italian islands and perhaps the most famous.
It has been one of the most conquered islands in the world. Greeks, Romans, Spanish, Arabs, Carthaginians and Normans have all influenced today's Sicilian culture. Ruins, ancient cities, Arabian style outdoor markets, Roman chariot roads and castles remain from various cultural colonizations !
IL GATTOPARDOIf you wanna...
Favorite thing: IL GATTOPARDO
If you wanna imagine how people lived in Sicilia in the 19th Century, read the book by Giuseppe Tomaso di Lampedusa, or watch the movie based on that book, by Visconti. Both are masterpieces!
'Il Gattopardo' is a monumental anthropological, historical and psychological study of a remarkable man and his culture. The Sicilian soul unveiled, a historical perspective on the people of this still recalcitrant part of Italy (140 years following annexation) is provided through the eyes of a privileged, sophisticated observer. The customs, the conventions, the dreams, the everyday life, even though most of the movie takes place in palaces, the portrayals of the commoners and the forays outside give an idea of how people lived.
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