So apparently I am as good at writing a blog as I am at keeping a diary.
Last time I wrote it was a week before my 22nd birthday – around 12 weeks ago – and so much has happened since then that if I put it all into one post, nobody would read it, or at least, if they did, people would be dying of old age before they got to the end of my ‘essay’.
So I’m going to break it down, into November, December, and January – much shorter, easier-to-digest chunks.
When I last wrote, I was about to go off and spend the weekend with a family in Castelbuono. I was a bit unsure if it was such as good idea, since I didn’t really know them all that well, and my spoken Italian was even worse back then.
In the end I had nothing to worry about. We all managed to communicate perfectly well between English and Italian, they were lovely, warm and welcoming, and I had a wonderful time. I got to eat all kinds of lovely home-cooked Sicilian family meals, and it was a great change to get out of Cefalù for a couple of days.
And it turned out, by fantastic coincidence, that this particular weekend was the ‘Festa di San Martino’ – the feast day of St. Martin, who just happens to be the patron saint of wine. We ended up at a house party in the middle of the countryside, where a bunch of young local wine-makers had brought along very generous samples of their produce.
When we arrived there was a group of guys trying to get a barbecue going using a hairdryer, and I think I was the only one who thought this was a bit odd. It clearly worked for them though, because before long there were plates full of food EVERYWHERE. I knew the Sicilians love to eat, but this was just an endless conveyor belt of meat and cheese and bread and olives and wine! I love how the Sicilians party!
The weekend after that was my 22nd birthday. Being my first birthday away from family, I was a teensy bit emotional and feeling just a little bit lonely when I woke up to an empty flat. However, I cheered myself up with breakfast pancakes and the birthday card from mum and dad that I’d kept tucked away on my bookshelf.
Next was an amazing lunch with some of the wonderful people I have met in Cefalù, at Ti Vitti (which is Siclian dialect for ‘I saw you’). The food was incredible - from the mixed antipasti of cured ham, salami, cheese and caponata (a Sicilian aubergine stew), to the pasta main, and the deliciously light cake, topped with fresh fruit. Of course, as with any decent Sicilian meal, there was also wine!
Although I didn’t expect to receive any presents, I was lucky enough to be given a beautiful necklace, and some very nice toiletries. Later, I returned to the flat, for a peaceful evening, catching up with some of my far away friends.
The next Saturday (24th) I went to Palermo to catch up with Joel. I was a bit nervous going to find him on my own after the previous visit, but after spending much of Friday evening studying Google Maps, I felt quite confident that I’d be able to track him down.
We started out at Quattro Canti, which is the remains of the ancient centre of the city, beautiful, but also decaying, with lots of horse-and-cart ‘taxis’ around the square.
We headed towards Teatro Massimo and Teatro Politeama, and then onwards to the Giardino Inglese, and luckily the weather was beautiful so there were lots of photo oppurtunities.
Next we returned to Quattro Canti, and off into a side street that led to the Ballarò street market, which stretches forever in every direction. I feel quite sure you could buy anything you wanted here – from whole cheese, to clothes, to giant slabs of fish, to bedding – if you look hard enough, it can probably be found.
We decided to have lunch at a trattoria in the market, which we soon realised was a mistake when a group of about 6 ten-year-olds started firing BB guns at passing cars, stray dogs, and eventually, each other. We all felt pretty nervous, and neither of us wanted to have our backs to them, so we ate quickly and moved on.
After lunch we decided to take a slow walk up Via Vittorio Emmanuele, one of the main streets in Palermo, which leads (eventually), to the Catacombs. I hadn’t really known what to expect when we arrived, but Joel insisted that it was worth a visit. It was incredibly strange to walk among so many mummified bodies, hanging grotesquely, almost as if they’re leering at the passing tourists. We didn’t stick around for long, and were soon heading back towards the centre, and the train back to Cefalù.
I’d like to say that day completely changed my view of Palermo, but that’s not entirely true. I definitely saw a different side to the city, which I loved, so while I no longer think of Palermo as a dangerous, scary place, I know that I need to stai attento, and maybe not venture into the Ballarò alone!