Walk 108: Palermo City Walk: A foodie & cultural stroll

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Difficult to estimate, but about 4 miles at a stroll

Time to walk: Impossible to put a time limit on this walk as the ‘Streaty Palermo’ guided tour took 4 hours alone with eating stops etc

Difficulty: Easy, flat walking all on hard surfaces

Parking: n/a

Public toilets: Cafes / bars etc

Map of the route: The map only shows the section of the walk we did with ‘Streaty’. The other sections are easy to follow

We’ve always wanted to visit Palermo…capital of Sicily & the home of the Mafia! Mystique, a crumbling city, touched by many civilisations, the largest island in the Mediterranean, but more importantly, the Street Food Capital of Europe!

It all started after watching Rick Stein‘s ‘Long Weekends‘ TV programme where he met Marco Romero from Streaty Food Tours. So, after booking into Rick’s hotel & checking in on the four hour tour let’s see if it measures up. This walk takes in the Streaty tour, but also builds on other places Rick visited, plus our own inputs to other sites in the city we wanted to see

The city was founded in 734 BC by the Phoenicians & then became a possession of Carthage, before becoming part of the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire & eventually part of the Byzantine Empire, for over a thousand years. The Greeks named the city Panormus meaning ‘complete port’. From 831 to 1072 the city was under Arab rule. Following the Norman reconquest, Palermo became the capital of a new kingdom (from 1130 to 1816), the Kingdom of Sicily & the capital of the Holy Roman Empire under Emperor Frederick II & King Conrad IV

Palermo is Sicily’s cultural, economic & tourism capital & is a city rich in history, culture, art, music & food. It’s dusty, it’s got great architecture, some of which is crumbling & has, in the past few years, worked hard to rid itself of petty crime. On the surface, the Mafia doesn’t appear as prevalent as it once was which has encouraged more tourists to visit. A 2.5 hour flight from the UK, it’s an ideal place for a short break. The airport transfer bus is cheap & drops you right in the middle of the Old Town which is where all the action is

So let’s show you around…

Let’s Walk!

1. Our look at this city begins with an early morning espresso & a cappuccino (never after 10am!!) sitting outside a cafe on the pedestrianised Via Maqueda looking across to the magnificent Teatro Massimo

The Teatro Massimo is the largest theatre in Italy seating 1381 people, with 7 tiers of boxes rising up around an inclined stage, & shaped in the typical horseshoe style. An international competition for the creation of the opera house was announced by the Palermo Council in 1864 at the instigation of the mayor, Antonio Starrabba di Rudinì. For many years there had been talk of building a large new theatre in Palermo, worthy of the second biggest city in southern Italy (after Naples) & designed to promote the image of the city following the unification of Italy in 1861

The opera house was designed & overseen by the Italian architect Giovan Battista Filippo Basile, who was well known in Sicily for his previous cathedral restoration design in the city of Acireale, as well as garden & villa designs in the city of Palermo & Caltagirone. Following Basile’s death in 1891, construction was then overseen by his son, Ernesto

Construction started on 12 January 1874, but was stopped for eight years from 1882 until 1890. Finally, on 16 May 1897, 22 years after the laying of the foundation stone, the third largest opera house in Europe, after the Palais Garnier in Paris & the KK Hof Opernhaus in Vienna, was inaugurated with a performance of Verdi‘s Falstaff conducted by Leopoldo Mugnone. In 1974, the house was closed to complete renovations required by updated safety regulations, but cost over-runs, corruption, & political in-fighting all added to the delay & it remained closed for 23 years, finally re-opening on 12 May 1997, four days before its centenary

The final scenes of the film The Godfather Part III were filmed at the theatre with Pacino‘s daughter getting shot on the steps

If you’re in the area at night & can avoid the ‘massacre’ the Opera looks magnificent illuminated…

2. We continue across the crossroads & along Via Ruggero Settimo for a couple of hundred yards to arrive at another, smaller, but no less spectacular, theatre…Politeama Garibaldi. In 1864 Palermo launched an international competition for the construction of a monumental opera house (the Teatro Massimo) &, a year later, an internal competition for the construction of a multi-purpose theatre (hence the name “Politeama” from the Greek language)

Unlike the “aristocratic” Teatro Massimo, the Politeama would house more popular shows (operetta, festivals, equestrian shows, etc.). In 1882 Giuseppe Garibaldi died & the theatre was named after him

The building is an important example of Neoclassical architecture with a large entrance by way of triumphal arch topped by the bronze quadriga designed by Mario Rutelli. This depicts the “Triumph of Apollo & Euterpe” flanked by two statues of knights on horseback, representation of the “Olympic Games”,  a work of Benedetto Civiletti. On both sides of the entrance there are commemorative plaques recording the epigraphs dictated by the historian Isidoro La Lumia. At the top there are two bass reliefs depicting the “Fames” draw by the painter Giuseppe Pensabene & another, under the quadriga, depicting little angels, work of Mario Rutelli

It’s somewhere else that’s worth visiting after dark

3. It’s time to start our 4 hour food tour so we return to Teatro Massimo, where we meet our Streaty guide, Salvo & the rest of our party including an American theatre producer / writer who’s shortly putting on a play in London, based on Andrew Morton‘s book ‘Diana, her true story’

Walking round the back of the Opera House, we head up leafy Via Volturino…

We’re entering the famous Capo area of the city & home to its biggest daily market. It was here that Salvo got us to look up at the balconies of the surrounding buildings with their material coverings. These were allegedly placed to cover ‘ladies modesties’ from people looking up from below, when they may not be wearing undergarments during the hot weather!

4. We walk through the magnificent Porta Carini to enter the incredible Capo market. This doorway was erected in 1310 on what was then a road leading to village of Carini (some 10 km from Palermo). In 1782, the doorway was completely rebuilt

Palermo has four ancient markets…the Ballarò, Capo, Vucciria & Borgo Vecchio…

The Capo dates back to the age when the Arabs ruled Palermo &, at the time, served primarily as a haven for the Schiavoni (pirates & slave merchants). It’s a major trading place for fruit & vegetables. This lively & distinctive food market with all its color, screams of the vendors, combined with its folklore, forms an essential part of the character of Palermo

We were told many stories including how the produce costs more on the edges of the market as people pull up in their cars & use it like a convenience store rather than get out & shop in the middle. Also, how generations of families had always shopped at the same stalls. There was a code of silent communication between the stall holder & his trusted locals when enquiring as to what was the best produce – all done with twitches of the face to indicate whether something was good enough for his regulars or not

5. The Capo is a market you could return to again & again & is simply buzzing with noise & smells. It’s time however for our first food stop so we sit down on plastic chairs outside an unassuming cafe…

…& soon Salvo introduced us to a Sicilian staple…the Arancina (that’s the local spelling!), stuffed rice balls coated with bread crumbs & then deep fried. They are usually filled with ragù (meat & tomato sauce), mozzarella, & peas

A number of regional varieties exist which differ in fillings & shape. The name, which is translated as “little orange”, derives from their shape & colour. Arancini produced in eastern Sicily (especially in Catania) have a more conical shape. They are said to have originated in 10th century Sicily at a time when the island was under Arab rule & in the cities of Palermo, Siracusa, & Trapani are a traditional food for the feast of Santa Lucia on 13 December when bread & pasta are not eaten. This commemorates the arrival of a grain supply ship on Santa Lucia’s day in 1646 which relieved a severe famine

Utterly delicious & next up comes another typical street snack, Crocche, Sicily’s version of potato croquettes. However the real crocche are made with mashed potatoes, fresh eggs, sharp grated Italian cheese, a dash of black pepper & a sprinkling of freshly chopped mint leaves

Two down in this establishment & one more to go, something even more traditional…Panella which are chickpea flour fritters. The way the locals eat them is as a filling in a bread roll – too filling for us!

6. It’s not even lunchtime yet, so time to move on further down the Capo &, after all that fried food, we’re in need of something to cleanse our palates – those oranges look pretty inviting…

This was another of Salvo’s connections & we enjoyed some of the sweetest orange juice we’ve ever tasted – normal or red, your choice. What we also loved was the owners necklace showing what his job in the market was

7. The quality of the vegetables in these markets never ceases to amaze us & there were also plenty of dried herbs…

As we exit the hustle & bustle of the stalls we were reminded of the story we were told when we entered it of the drapes used to protect the ladies modesties. There were plenty along this stretch which Salvo told us were more of a case of preserving a tradition rather than a modesty!

Suddenly the voice of a local woman from an upper balcony rang out over the crowd & a bucket was lowered on a rope! We were told that this was another local custom where women were too lazy to come down to the market & shouted for their groceries to be put into the bucket & then hauled up again

8. The next food experience was at the bottom of the street in Piazza Beati Paoli, at a small booth offering the Autista – a refreshing but rather ‘explosive’ drink made of tangerine juice, lemon & bicarbonate of soda! Once they put the bicarbonate in, it’s time to drink quickly without spilling any – impossible!

Burping for the next 30 minutes we turn back up a narrow alley into the Capo once more…

…& turning right into Via Sant Agostino, where the nature of the Capo changes from food to material, clothing & more household items

9. Salvo reminded us of how the history over the years, with different cultures coming to the island, has made the people of Palermo a very tolerant society with everyone getting on

The Al Falah Jame Mosque is on the right…

Straight over the crossroads is the church of Saint Augustine, also called Santa Rita, because of the devotion to this Augustinian Saint. The church was built during the Angevin period replacing an earlier church that dated back to the Hauteville era. The building was subject to subsequent changes over the centuries

10. Straight over again & there’s more clothing & material stalls & shops…

The oldest dressmaking shop is close by. Many people think that the dresses are for brides, but they’re actually worn by children at coming of age ceremonies etc. It was pointed out to us that even the poorest families try to buy the best & will often get into debt for many years for these occasions

All along here & around the city are shrines to Saints that are looked after by the people living in the neighbourhood

11. At the end of Via Sant Agostino is a man with a cart – it must be our next Palermo Street Food stop & one of the tastiest…Sfincione. Some people might call sfincione a sort of pizza, but we don’t recommend doing that &, after one bite, you’ll realise it’s nothing like a pizza

The Sicilians take their sfincione seriously & locals inhabitants eat it for a mid-morning snack. Whilst it looks like a heavy brick, it’s extremely light with an airy dough & one slice contains only about 250 calories. Usually, it has a topping of tomato, onion & caciocavallo. Anchovies are sometimes added as well. Caciocavallo is a Sicilian cheese made from sheep or cow milk. The name comes from the Latin word ‘spongia’ or ‘sponge’

It is incredibly tasty & addictive & probably the one thing we’ll try & replicate at home as there are several recipes online

12. We continue straight across into Via Bandiera passing the Alliata Palace of Pietratagliata.  The palace was built by the Termine family in the 15th century , who sold it to the Marassi duchi of Pietratagliata in 1748 . In 1808 Maria Cirilla Marassi inherited the palace & later married Luigi Alliata of the princes of Villafranca, who belonged to one of the most important Sicilian families of the time

We were told that they hold some amazing parties

13. The alley opens out at Via Roma & we cross into Piazza San Domenico which derives its name from the Church of San Domenico. In the past it was called “Piazza Imperiale” (Imperial Square), because its creation was decided by the Emperor Charles VI

The middle of the square is dominated by the Column of the Immaculate Conception, designed by Tommaso Napoli in 1724 & erected by Giovanni Biagio Amico in 1728. The former Dominican convent overlooking the square is the location of the Museo del Risorgimento . The church is the second most important church of Palermo after the ancient cathedral & has hosted the burials of many eminent figures of Sicilian history & culture

Salvo told us that the church played a significant part in the island’s fight against the Sicilian Mafia. It’s here that two leading anti-Mafia magistrates were buried after being murdered in 1992…Giovanni Falcone & Paolo Borsellino. Following those events, the younger generations said “No more” & the city has since made strides to rid itself of the Mafia’s influence

14. The piazza is also the entrance to our next market, the Vucciria, Sicily’s oldest market, which founded over 1,000 years ago by the invaders from north Africa. Once known as a ‘mad house’ & a den of Mafia activity, it’s much more muted than the Capo & more touristy. The area was once a major battlefield between developers & the Mafia

These days it becomes more alive at night when barbecues are set up & you can buy an amazing amount of street food to go with your beer. On the right as you wander down there’s a copy of a famous painting of the market. ‘La Vucciria‘ by Sicilian painter, Renato Gattuso supposedly shows the man at the centre, his mistress in the foreground & his wife behind

It’s the vibrancy of the market that draws you in though…

The originalis in the Palazzo Chiaramonte, known as the Palazzo Steri

15. Time for another stop, this time in one of the oldest bars in the market, Taverna Azzurra, a place that Salvo tells us “You wouldn’t go in on your own as a tourist”

The bar’s been run by two brothers for years & it can best be described as “local” – we loved it & tried the local Masala & Sangue (blood) wines, along with olives, dried tomatoes, bread & cheeses we’d bought along the way

The guy in the red was trying to put wifi into the bar!

16. And…suitably fortified by alcohol, it’s time for the food to take a turn & get serious! If you watch Rick Stein’s Weekend in Palermo, you’ll see his first night in the city in the Piazza Caracciolo trying out the street food including the simple, yet most amazing spring onions wrapped in bacon – unbelievable & we’ve tried them at home…

Take 2 spring onions together & rub with olive oil & black pepper. Wrap them in streaky bacon & grill on a BBQ or under the grill until crispy. Snip into pieces & serve with a cold beer – amazing!!

This square is the epicenter of Vucciria & street food peddlers serve up their delights on the many illegally placed tables that fill the square. But hey, you can eat on a dish of meat or fish for between 10 & 15 euros

We’d seen Rick Stein eat & say the quickly boiled octopus with lemon & black pepper was the best he’d ever had – so if it’s good enough for Rick…it’s good enough for 10 of our euros

And yes…it was superb

17. And while eating your octopus why not take a look at some of the amazing graffiti that’s on the walls around the square. Didn’t we see that bloke in the video earlier?

So…if you thought octopus was getting hardcore then what comes next is a challenge. It’s time to visit the street cart of Giuseppe Basile whose family have been providing Palermo’s most famous street food snack here for many years…

Guiseppe sells ‘Pani ca’ Meusa’ – to you & me the epic spleen sandwich of Palermo! Around the year 1000 there was a large Jewish community in Palermo & many worked as butchers. They traded their skills for parts of the animals they butchered. Much of the meat they kept was the organs & offal of cow

Around the same time, the Arab population of Palermo used to make a sandwich with ricotta & caciocavallo cheese.  Centuries later the two street food traditions were combined into the spleen sandwich closer to what we know today

Today, the meat for this sandwich is boiled & then fried in pig lard. The tradition of frying in lard heats up the meat & gives it a soft texture. This softness meant that even people without all their teeth could eat it

The American guy at the back in the photo wasn’t too keen, but it was fab & tasted of the tenderest brisket ever

18. We walk out of the square & turn right up Via Vittorio Emanuele…

…to arrive at another famous Palermo landmark…Quatro Conti

Quattro Canti is a baroque square laid out on the orders of the Viceroys between 1608-1620 by Giulio Lasso at the crossing of the two principal streets. The piazza is octagonal, four sides being the streets; the remaining four sides are Baroque buildings, the near-identical facades of which contain fountains with statues of the four seasons, the four Spanish kings of Sicily, & the patronesses of Palermo, (Christina, Ninfa, Olivia & Agata). The facades onto the interchange are curved, & rise to four floors; the fountains rise to the height of the second floor, the third & fourth floors contain the statues in niches

At the time the piazza was built, it was one of the first major examples of town planning in Europe

19. This is where we take a slight detour from the food map & do our own thing so please bear with us. Turning left into Via Maqueda we find the magnificent Piazza Pretoria…

Piazza Pretoria is also known as the ‘Square of Shame’ due to the number of naked bodies here. Many have lost their manhoods & there’s a rumour that the local nuns had something to do with this!!

In 1573 the Senate of Palermo bought a fountain initially intended for the Palace of San Clemente in Florence, with the intention of placing it in the square. To make way for it several homes were demolished & the fountain was re-adapted to the site with the addition of new parts

The fountain is the focal point for sixteen nude statues of nymphs, humans, mermaids & satyrs. Since eighteenth century in 1860, the fountain was considered the representation of corrupt municipalities, & Palermo nicknamed it the Square of Shame (Piazza della Vergogna)

Three of the four sides are enclosed by buildings: on the right, the Praetorian Palace (the town hall), built in fourteenth century & renovated in nineteenth century. It’s free to wander inside & well worth a visit…

On the other side is the Palazzo Bonocore & Palazzo Bordonaro

20. We pass through the gap on the right side of the piazza to arrive in the UNESCO site that is Piazza Bellini. Two of the buildings here date back to the era of Norman Sicily…the churches of Martorana & San Cataldo (both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites as part of Arab-Norman Palermo & the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù & Monreale)

Probably the first building that strikes us as we walk into the piazza is the domed San Cataldo

Founded around 1160 by admiral Majone di Bari, in the 18th century the church was used as a post office. In the 19th century it was restored & brought back to its original use

The ceiling has three characteristics red, bulge domes (cubole) & Arab-style merlons. The church provides a typical example of the Arab-Norman architecture, which is unique to Sicily

Next door’s the Church of Santa Maria Ammiraglio which belongs to the eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi , a circumscription of the Italian-Albanian Church. Unfortunately it was closed when we visited

21. Perhaps though the most impressive building in this piazza & the one you should definitely pay the admission fee for is the magnificent Church of Martorana, also known as the Cathedral of St Mary of the Admiral

Inside it is truly spectacular…

The church’s name comes from the founder of the church, the Greek admiral & principal minister of King Roger II of Sicily, George of Antioch. The Martorana connection comes from the nuns of who were famous for their moulded marzipan, which they made in the form of various fruits. Although the convent no longer exists, ‘frutta di Martorana’ are still one of Palermo’s most famous & distinctive foodstuffs

22. We’re going to break from our map route again now as we want to show you the Jewish Quarter of Palermo…La Guidecca

We walk back out of Piazza Bellini onto Via Maqueda once more. Across the road’s the University. Also as you leave the square near the Tourist Information Office’s a part of the old Roman city wall

About 50 yards on let’s dive into the back streets where tourists fear to tread once more & turn left down Via Calderal – it’s about time the rubbish collectors turned up though!

This street in Palermo is famous for making pots & pans, bbqs & all things cooking – we loved it…

23. We strolled down & then had to come back along the road to follow the route through the gap leading to one of the entrances into the old synagogue…

The Oratorio della Madonna delle Grazie, which dates back to the 7th century, is just through the arch

24. The alley here is typical Palermo, narrow with washing hanging out above us…

At the end we turn right into a small square, where we find the Aula Damiani Almeyda which was designed by Giuseppe Damiani Almeyda with exactly the same dimensions as the ancient synagogue

The street here is called Via Lampionelli which gives you an idea of what was once made in it…lamps

25. We walk back up Via Giardinaccio which feels really edgy & extremely local!

The narrow, very old, archway, Arco del Notary, on the right, leads to a traditional Palermo courtyard. It’s well worth ducking your head to go & have a look

26. Upon reaching Via Maqeda once more we cross the main road & force our way past the piles of rubbish down Vitolo Viola…

…to arrive in a small piazza where at the end is Palazzo Marchesi which dates back to the late 15th century, although only the bell tower today dates back to that period. Around 1500 it was bought by Charles V to house the Inquisition Courts & prisons in caves below the building

In 5668 it transferred to the ownership of the Jesuits of Casa Professa

27. We leave the square through the narrow gap to the right into Piazza del Ponticello (we really did feel like tourists here!). We were looking for Chiesa de Gesu as we’d heard it was one of the most spectacular baroque churches in the city

Turning left from the piazza the church was directly ahead & it didn’t disappoint…

The Jesuits arrived in Palermo in 1549 &, by the late 16th century, began building a church adjacent to their mother house (Casa Professa) using a design by the Jesuit architect Giovanni Tristano. The original design called for a single nave with large transepts & several side chapels, but it was changed by the early 17th century, to a more grandiose layout typical of Jesuit architecture. The church was consecrated in 1636

In 1943, during the Second World War, a bomb collapsed the church’s dome, destroying most of the surrounding walls & most of the wall paintings in the chancel & transepts. These frescoes were replaced during two years’ restoration work, after which the church reopened on 24 February 2009 with a solemn mass presided over by Paolo Romeo, archbishop of Palermo

If there’s one church you should visit in your time in Palermo, it’s this one

28. We retrace our steps back to Via Maqueda & then to Quattro Canti, turning left up Via Vittorio Emanuele…

A couple of hundred yards up the street on the left’s the extremely serene & beautiful Piazza Bologni…

The bronze statue is of Charles V of Habsburg & the locals joke about the hand he’s holding out saying “When the rubbish get’s this high we’re in trouble”

We can really recommend taking a seat in the piazza & watching the world go by. When we were there musicians were playing

29. There’s one more place to visit so we continue up the street to arrive Palermo’s Cathedral

The church was erected in 1185 by Walter Ophamil (or Walter of the Mill), the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo & King William II‘s minister, on the area of an earlier Byzantine basilica. By all accounts this earlier church was founded by Pope Gregory I & was later turned into a mosque by the Saracens after their conquest of the city in the 9th century. Ophamil is buried in a sarcophagus in the church’s crypt

30. The cathedral’s free to enter & it’s vast, although not as decorative of some of the other churches we’ve visited

There’s a couple of sites in the cathedral that are worth a look at. Firstly the tomb of Giuseppe Puglisi who was born in Brancaccio, a working class neighbourhood in Palermo into a family of modest means. His father was a shoemaker & his mother a dressmaker. He entered the church age sixteen &, following ordination, worked in various parishes, including a country parish afflicted by a bloody vendetta

Puglisi was ordained as a priest on 2 July 1960 by Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini from Palermo. Ruffini regarded Communism as a greater threat than the Mafia. He once questioned the Mafia’s very existence. To a journalist’s question of “What is the Mafia?” he responded: “So far as I know, it could be a brand of detergent.” This denial persuaded Puglisi of the need to challenge church authorities. “We can, we must criticize the church when we feel it doesn’t respond to our expectations, because it’s absolutely right to seek to improve it,” he said. With his trademark humour, Puglisi added: “But we should always criticize it like a mother, never a mother-in-law!”

In 1990, Puglisi returned to his old quarter Brancaccio & became the priest of San Gaetano’s Parish. He spoke out against the Mafia who controlled the area & opened a shelter for underprivileged children

With little support from the Palermo archdiocese, Puglisi tried to change his parishioners’ mentality, which was conditioned by fear & imposed silence. In his sermons, he pleaded to people to give leads to the authorities about the Mafia’s illicit activities in Brancaccio, even if they could not actually name names. He refused their monies when offered for the traditional feast day celebrations, & would not allow the Mafia “men of honour” to march at the head of religious processions

He tried to discourage the children from dropping out of school, robbing, drug dealing & selling contraband cigarettes. He ignored a series of warnings & declined to award a contract to a construction firm which had been “indicated” to him by the Mafia for the restoration of the church, where the roof was collapsing. Those parishioners that made attempts to reform matters were sent strong messages. A small group who organized for social improvement found the doors of their houses torched, their phones receiving threats, & their families put on notice that worse things lay in store

On September 15 1993, Puglisi’s 56th birthday, he was killed outside his home by a single bullet shot at point-blank range. The murder was ordered by the local Mafia bosses, the brothers Filippo & Giuseppe Gratiano. One of the hitmen who killed Puglisi, Salvatore Grigoli, later confessed & revealed the priest’s last words as his killers approached: “I’ve been expecting you”

Puglisi’s murder shocked Italy. There was an immediate call by eight priests in Palermo for the pope to travel to Palermo to be present at his funeral. Pope John Paul II, however, was scheduled to be in Tuscany on that date & did not attend the memorial service. At the funeral Mass the archbishop of Palermo, Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo, spoke out very strongly against the Mafia, echoing the Pope’s words on a visit to Agrigento, Sicily, just months earlier

On April 14, 1998, the Mafiosi Gaspare Spatuzza, Nino Mangano, Cosimo Lo Nigro & Luigi Giacalone received life sentences for the killing of Puglisi. The Graviano brothers also received life sentences for ordering the killing

The Beatification of ‘Pino’ Puglisi took place on May 25, 2013. The Open-Air Mass was attended by 50,000 people attended the Mass. During his address, Pope Francis stated that the newly beatified Puglisi was first & foremost ‘an exemplary priest & a martyr’, as well as condemning mafia groups

31. To the right of the cathedral’s the chapel of Palermo’s patron saint Santa Rosalia, with the urn containing some relics that are paraded through the city on the 14th July each year. Rosalia was born of a Norman noble family that claimed descent from Charlemagne. Devoutly religious, she retired to live as a hermit in a cave on Mount Pellegrino, where she died alone in 1166. Tradition says that she was led to the cave by two angels. On the cave wall she wrote “I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses, & Quisquina, have taken the resolution to live in this cave for the love of my Lord, Jesus Christ”

In 1624, a plague beset Palermo. During this hardship Saint Rosalia appeared first to a sick woman, then to a hunter, to whom she indicated where her remains were to be found. She ordered him to bring her bones to Palermo & have them carried in procession through the city

The hunter climbed the mountain & found her bones in the cave as described. He did what she had asked in the apparition. After her remains were carried around the city three times, the plague ceased. After this Saint Rosalia was venerated as the patron saint of Palermo, & a sanctuary was built in the cave where her remains were discovered

As well as the July celebrations, on September 4 there is an event related to the festino & St. Rosalia. The tradition is to walk barefoot, or crawl on ones knees from Palermo up to Mount Pellegrino

32. The walking over, there’s a couple more local delicacies to try…firstly the traditional Cannoli which originated in Sicily & are a staple of the cuisine

They consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet ricotta. They range in size from “cannulicchi”, no bigger than a finger, to the fist-sized proportions here – it weighed like a brick & was extremely sweet


Cannoli’s are traditionally served during the winter months, if you think that’s sickly then the final street food, traditionally served in summer takes the biscuit (or the Biscotti) – it’s a sweet brioche bun stuffed full of pistachio ice cream!

So that’s just about finished us & this walk off!

Palermo is a great city to spend some time & it’s made us want to go back & see the whole island. A trip to the beach at Mondello is also worth a mention – we decided to go by local bus & you buy tickets from a man in a little wooden hut on the pavement

After finding out we were English he struck up a conversation & we found that that he had relatives in Rushden, Wellingborough & Bedford…it’s a small world!

Go visit Palermo