Saturday, May 21, 2005
More of Palermo
After leaving Villa Giulia, we headed over to Palazzo Abatelles, not really expecting to find it open. Happily, it was. Palazzo Abatelles houses the Galleria Regionalle della Sicilia, a beautiful little museum with a really great collection. Our ticket for Palazzo Abatelles also included admission to Palazzo Mirto, an 18th century palace that still has many of its original furnishings. Shortly after entering the Palazzo, I noticed a man in dark glasses and got the sense that he was following us. I wasn't sure what was going on, but Chuck thought that the other people visiting had "escorts" as well. Unfortunately, I was so preoccupied with what this guy was up to, that I didn't pay very close attention to the Palazzo itself.
Lunch on the grill
We had a fantastic lunch at Antica Focacceria San Francesco, a restaurant recommended in all the guide books, the Art of Eating, and Chowhound. It is a part of the "Slow Food" association and known for its panelle (fried chickpea flour patties), pane ca' meusa (spleen sandwiches), and other Palermo street food. We sat outdoors and had their fixed price menu. Chuck and I both had the carne menu and Bob had the pesce menu. The best part was that we got a sampling of many of those Palermo street foods. We had a couple different arrancini (deep fried rice balls stuffed with meat or cheese), panelle (that little chickpea thingy), sfincione (almost like a little slice of pizza), some caponata (an eggplant relish), and the infamous pane ca' meusa (the aforementioned spleen sandwich). Bob and Chuck each dutifully ate the whole pane ca' meusa. One bite was enough for me. We were already filling up and we were just getting started! Next to arrive were huge plates of pasta, which were followed by plates of grilled meats and vegetables (or fish and vegetables for Bob), and finally dessert.
After lunch we walked up Via Maqueda to take a look at Teatro Massimo and Teatro Politeama and window-shopped along the way. We ate dinner at Pizzeria Bellini and though they have a full menu, we all chose to get pizza. I had a Schiacciata, which is sort of a stuffed pizza with salami, ham, tomato and cheese inside. It was delicious!
The following day brought visits to the Catacombe dei Cappucini, the Cappella Palatina, and the Vucciria Market. The catacombs at Catacombe dei Cappucini are strange and ghoulish, yet at the same time a little sad. Like the ruins we would see later, but on a more personal level, here we were confronted with the remains from hundreds of lives. It was a surreal experience. Our next stop was the amazing Cappella Palatina where nearly every surface is covered in gorgeous mosaics. The first mosaics I saw were so detailed I thought that they were tapestries!
After two earlier attempts, we finally found our way to the Vucciria Market. What we found was smaller than I expected, occupying one short street. The stalls were more like little shops that spilled into the street. Bob and I each purchased jars of pistachio pesto and walnut pesto (more like nut pastes than what we think of as pesto). There were many other tempting items that wouldn't have made it through US customs, but it was fun to look. If anyone knows what these squash are, do let me know!
Next time - Monreale and Erice