Palermo–What an Awful City

Warning: Never come here! This place is the pits. It’s so bad that I was even looking for an earlier flight out of here. But alas! The only flight out tomorrow is the one we already have–at 2:55 p.m.

It’s a maze of narrow alleyways that pass for actual streets, with cars & people on scooters roaring around every corner. Pedestrians are never given the right of way–if you want to cross the street it’s too bad. You end up making a mad dash & hope for the best.

Most of the buildings have a dirty blackish moldy-like appearance, there’s dog crap all over the sidewalks, which are very narrow themselves in most places. Also, scooters and sometimes even cars are parked up onto the sidewalks, which often makes it necessary for the pedestrian to step out into the street. One who values his or her life doesn’t dawdle around here.

The streets are paved with large uneven blocks rather than small cobblestones, which gives it a sort of medieval feel. Even the landmarks we set out to see today are nothing compared to what we saw in Rome. Finally, we gave up looking and came back to the hotel to watch TV (I also took a nap).

First thing this a.m. we set off to find the Capuchin Catacombes, which were located far to the north of us. The hotel receptionist had told me last night that it was within easy walking distance. (She also told me that east was north.) Well, we have 3 different maps, & none of them give the names of every single street. After we finally figured out which way was REALLY north, we walked, & walked, & walked until a nice man noticed that we appeared to be lost. He didn’t speak English, but he deduced that we had gone way too far. We got it out of him that we needed to back track & take Cappuccini street where it veered off to the right of the main street we were on. So we walked back & then took that street.

Now we were walking through the ghetto area of town. This was even worse than before. I didn’t take any photos in this area, because I was afraid someone would take offense & go after us. We were, after all, getting some rather strange looks, & Bill kept saying we needed to get out of there fast. Although, when I did venture to ask a few people where the catacombs were, they seemed very friendly & were happy to point out the way. Finally, we found the place.

These catacombs are located beneath a church & convent. The ticket area was manned by a monk. I had read the info. about this place in my Frommer’s Sicily book, so that’s why I wanted to see it. Unlike the catacombs we visited in Rome, the dead people are still IN these catacombs. Not only that, but they are all dressed in their Sunday best clothes & are mostly hanging upright along the walls in their small niches. Some are lying on shelves. They had special sections reserved for men, women, children, priests, etc.

Here is what my book says: “In the most macabre of Sicilian style the labyrinthine catacombs of the Capuchin convent are full of deceased Palermitans. Over 8,000 mummified bodies–dried out by a secret liquor-draining process–dressed up in their best, hung on walls or lying in stacked glass coffins–apparently grin out at you: an unnerving and utterly extraordinary sight.”

This place would make a great setting for a Halloween party. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any photos, but I did purchase a brochure & a postcard that show the mummies. The people were interred here between 1599 and 1920. Here’s a link where you can see a little of what it’s like:

After that, we were able to find our way back to fairly familiar territory. There were a few parks, a pretty cathedral (Il Duomo), a couple of fountains, but that was about it. We did walk south as far as the port, hoping to find a nice restaurant for lunch. Of course, there was none we could find that overlooked the water. So we settled for a panini (very good) in a small restaurant along the street.

Now we’re sitting at the hotel drinking wine.

Tomorrow we’re off (thank goodness) to Paris & civilization to see our lovely daughter & faithful tour guide, Miss Willie!