I only spent one evening in Palermo, the capital of Sicily, despite spending eleven weeks in Covid19 isolation, only thirty minutes away. Palermo has a population of 673,000 – which to some folks may feel small. Certainly small compared to Rome or Florence or Chicago. To me, it was a big city. More traffic and more people than I wanted to navigate. Yet, undoubtedly, a gorgeous city with a rich history. My Balestrate host (and now, friend), was kind enough to take me there for my last night in Sicily, just before I flew back to the mainland. I didn’t see a lot, but what I did see was lovely. And yes, I look forward to returning!
See the flowering bush behind us? They are everywhere – EVERYWHERE – in Sicily! I made Nino take this photo with me, specifically in front of these flowers. Love them!!
The Feast of Santa Rosalia, patron saint of Palermo, is a BIG deal. Planning the annual festival is apparently one of the most important duties of the mayor – and can make or break a political career! The celebrations begin on the evening of July 14 with a procession led by a vessel (a float? a chariot?) which carries the statue of St. Rosalia. This vessel is constructed new every year and remains on view for the remainder of the year. This was the chariot from 2019.
Rosalia died alone, as a hermit, in 1166 CE. In 1624, during an unprecedented plague in Palermo, she is said to have appeared to a hunter and told him to bring her bones to the city. When he did, and her bones were processed around the city three times, the plague ended. Today, as you might imagine, everyone is praying to St. Rosalia for another miracle in ending the spread of Covid19.
In Italy, police are allowed to stop vehicles randomly, for no reason at all. It’s a check. Do you have insurance? Is your car running properly? As an American, I was stunned and a little bit unnerved. But it does reduce the number of uninsured motorists!
We picked up Nino’s good friend, Fabio, and headed out to dinner. Along the water. Appetizers of mussels in tomato sauce, calamari (I didn’t partake), and a couscous that incorporates breadcrumbs – sooooo yummy!!! Nino’s favorite dish of pasta and clams. I went for the whole fish special. Can’t remember what Fabio ate. Great bottle of wine.
Then back into the center of town for a nightcap.
So wonderful walking at night, when the buildings are bathed in the glow of the lights.
The annual festival celebrating Saint Rosalia didn’t happen happen yesterday. Cancelled due to Covid19. And then the flash floods happened. Maybe she’s angry. ? More than ever, at least in 400 years, the people are praying for her help. Me included. 🙏🧡