Felt I had to write this; has anyone visited?
Ok it's a bit random but it is
Italy so therefore linked sufficiently with our four-wheeled friends
In a word, madness...a crazy, lively, sprawling city whose arteries trail away from the coast in all directions like an enormous jellyfish, dead straight in true Roman fashion and ascending from the bay. It's big, somewhat dirty in places and displaying a fair amount of poverty which spawns the hawkers and street/tourist-spot beggars, a commonplace sight.
In recent years, good autostradas and modern electrified 160 kmh railways have improved links considerably and is encouraging both to commerce and tourism. The land is so fertile that food appears in abundance along with their seafood specialities that grace the restaurant and taverna menus.
Mrs Ed and I arrived with another couple that we've travelled with many times, deciding not to scrimp on accommodation this time. We aimed for a central location close enough to the to-do list - these were fairly regular touristy things but made more fascinating by the strong culture mix of Arab (Sicily was an Emirate for c. 250 years) then Normans, who arrived about 1090, oh and don't forget the Crusades getting their oar in - all leading to a healthy mix of faiths including Jewish, Christian, Islamic and more who were quite capable of living side-by-side perfectly contentedly. We could all do more of that.
The resulting architecture is often bonkers, hybrids of Islamic elegance, Norman solidity and Baroque reliefs muscling in on each other; in no little way due to the Norman king Ruggero (Roger II) who encouraged it, resulting in three massive cathedrals within the locality (Palermo, Monreale and Cefalú) containing an insane amount of decoration. Even if one is not very comfortable with this sort of thing it is still breathtaking.
Traditions remain strong and central, and now that mafia control is long gone daily life rocks along in the now-pedestrianised historic centre with rows of bars and cantinas, endless cafés, takeaways and friendly restaurants energetically vying for business - it seems that everyone is always
Small shops selling homemade arancini, cakes, or ice-cream compete for business and street-traders perch impossible makeshift counters upon shopping trolleys or push-chairs, displaying jewellery tat and gyrating, beeping, transforming plastic cars. There is only a brief afternoon period of respite where yawning waiters keep watch up-and-down the streets until 4-ish when the first signs of the long evening passeggiatas
emerge. By evening the flashing light decorations and music are back in full swing, buskers on shifts at the street corners.
Leaving in the morning - I will miss it. Oh and I found out today that the visiting Arabs in 800-odd was only half the story - five or 6 centuries BC it was going strong with Phoenicians. These people, I also learned today, were from the Levant - basically Lebanon - and were dodging about from around 3000 BC!
It was my Catalonian daughter-in-law who got me interested there as she mentioned that her people were referred to as Pu-ne, or Punic...i.e. Phoenician; so these unflagging seafarers had island-hopped the Mediterranean via Sicily, Malta etc. and hit dry land at Barcelona - they weren't daft! And that made me understand a little more why they craved independence from Spain....
Enough already...mustn't mention the cat-carrying dog/museum banana trees/puppet theatre, you'll think I've gone bonkers