13.4 C
New York

A Sicilian sizzler: Pretty Palermo is ideal in autumn, with fewer crowds and many sunshine

Published:

The Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez said: ‘Going to Sicily is best than going to the moon.’ That is likely to be overdoing it, but the most important island within the Mediterranean has an enigmatic element to it, with its baking hot interior, religious fervour and associations with organised crime.

Now pedestrianised, the historic core of its magnificent capital Palermo is a delight — on the centre of which is the Piazza Pretoria — and when taking a tour, I’m enchanted by the mighty buildings and wealthy history of this powerful port city.

‘My home town is sort of a lasagna with 16 layers,’ says my guide Gabriella.

Ancient and modern: Nigel Tisdall explores the Sicilian city of Palermo and finds that he’s ‘enchanted’ by its ‘mighty buildings and wealthy history’. Above is the central Piazza Pretoria and the Santa Caterina church behind 

In her view, essentially the most tasty influences are from the heydays of Arab, Norman and Spanish rule, that are reflected in star sights resembling the dazzling Twelfth-century mosaics adorning the Cappella Palatina within the Palazzo dei Normanni and the Quattro Canti, a Baroque crossroads from 1620. That is where haughty coats-of-arms oversee a bustling stream of awestruck sightseers and teenagers whizzing around on e-scooters.

Life here is affable and welcoming, although you do wonder what goes on behind all those heavy wood doors with solid brass knockers.

And what concerning the Mafia? Their criminal activities reached a peak here with the murder of two judges in 1992, but Gabriella is unfazed. ‘They’re still there but with a lower profile,’ she says.

One of the star sights of the city is the Quattro Canti (pictured), a Baroque crossroads from 1620

Considered one of the star sights of town is the Quattro Canti (pictured), a Baroque crossroads from 1620

The dazzling 12th-century mosaics adorning the Cappella Palatina in the Palazzo dei Normanni

The dazzling Twelfth-century mosaics adorning the Cappella Palatina within the Palazzo dei Normanni

Since that grim yr, town has undergone a remarkable transformation that kicked off in 2015 when nine historic sights were awarded World Heritage status and continued with Palermo’s designation as Italy’s Capital of Culture three years later.

For an summary of the historic centre, I climb the roughly 140 steps to the cupola of the Santissimo Salvatore church, which at times is like ascending a corkscrew.

Here, you possibly can enjoy a 360-degree panorama over a sea of terracotta-tiled roofs punctuated by domes, belfries and towers that stand up like bookmarks from town’s illustrious past.

Nigel climbs the roughly 140 steps to the cupola of the Santissimo Salvatore church (pictured), which 'at times is like ascending a corkscrew'

Nigel climbs the roughly 140 steps to the cupola of the Santissimo Salvatore church (pictured), which ‘at times is like ascending a corkscrew’

Nearby, the Santa Caterina church is value a nose around for its beyond-OTT Sicilian Baroque interiors that were hidden from view for 150 years.

With massed cherubs, gleaming silver angels, huge barley-twist pillars and never an inch undecorated, it’s an eye-popping reminder of Italian flamboyance.

Then there’s Capo market, a narrow lane through which Sicily’s bountiful produce flows like a gastronomical river. 

Sicily¿s bountiful produce on display at the Capo market. 'I yearn to take it all home,' says Nigel

Sicily’s bountiful produce on display on the Capo market. ‘I yearn to take all of it home,’ says Nigel 

Jewel-like tomatoes, moist slabs of fresh tuna, divinely sweet apricots and the intriguing, 4ft-long squash called cucuzza — I yearn to take all of it home, but accept a reviving glass of pomegranate juice for €2.

Fortunately, there are many small, unpretentious restaurants where you possibly can try all this, resembling La Galleria, only a skullcap’s throw from the Cattedrale. 

Here, we lunch outdoors at wood tables with vases of sunflowers and a view of the neighbour’s washing.

Because the afternoon heat kicks in, it’s bliss to retreat to my bayside hotel, Villa Igiea, only a 15-minute drive north. 

Nigel's base is Villa Igiea (pictured), a bayside hotel that lies just a 15-minute drive north of Palermo

Nigel’s base is Villa Igiea (pictured), a bayside hotel that lies only a 15-minute drive north of Palermo 

You can expect to find fabulous salons adorned with art nouveau murals and devoted staff dressed in immaculate uniforms at Villa Igiea, according to Nigel

You possibly can anticipate finding fabulous salons adorned with art nouveau murals and devoted staff wearing immaculate uniforms at Villa Igiea, based on Nigel  

The restful, refined atmosphere of the hotel is the 'perfect antidote' to the famous grittiness of Palermo

The restful, refined atmosphere of the hotel is the ‘perfect antidote’ to the famous grittiness of Palermo

Opened somewhat over a yr ago by Rocco Forte Hotels, this stately, Grade I-listed residence dates from 1900 and comes with 100 exquisitely composed rooms, enchanting terraced gardens, fabulous salons adorned with art nouveau murals and devoted staff wearing immaculate uniforms.

It’s not low cost, but its restful, refined atmosphere is the right antidote to the famous grittiness of town. 

All in all, Palermo is right for an authentic Sicilian short break combining cultural wonders, terrific food and poolside downtime.

The mile-long sandy beach of Mondello (pictured) lies a 15-minute taxi ride north from Palermo

The mile-long sandy beach of Mondello (pictured) lies a 15-minute taxi ride north from Palermo

I even manage to squeeze in a dip within the bewitching Tyrrhenian Sea on the mile-long sandy beach of Mondello, a 15-minute taxi ride north. 

In July and August, it’s as packed as a tin of anchovies but in early November, when the island experiences the ‘Summer of St Martin’ (like an Indian summer), it may be warm enough to swim.

Indeed, Palermo will warm the cockles of the toughest of hearts.

TRAVEL FACTS

Elegant Resorts offers three nights at Villa Igiea from £1,199 pp, including flights, private transfers and breakfast (01244 897581, elegantresorts.co.uk).

sportinbits@gmail.com
sportinbits@gmail.comhttps://sportinbits.com
Get the latest Sports Updates (Soccer, NBA, NFL, Hockey, Racing, etc.) and Breaking News From the United States, United Kingdom, and all around the world.

Related articles

spot_img

Recent articles

spot_img