Saturday, May 21, 2005

More of Palermo

Palazzo Abatelles

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.

Antipasti rustico

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!

Cappella Palatina

Vucciria market

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!

Maybe Cucuzzi?

Next time - Monreale and Erice


Reid said...

Hi Cathy,

Wow! Sounds so interesting, but I don't think that I'd be able to stomach a spleen sandwich. I have to give you credit for at least taking a bite of it! =)

The pictures are gorgeous. I can't wait to see more. were the food prices there? Reasonable?

santos. said...

i read something (somewhere) that said the no.1 confiscated food product at customs is homemade sausage from italy. i always think of that i love lucy episode where she tries to smuggle in a giant chunk of cheese. if you could've smuggled anything in, what would have it been?

Cathy said...

Hi Reid - I was trying to be brave! Actually, unbeknownst to me at the time, I also ate some goat. Our lunch at Antica Focacceria San Francesco included something called "castrato" which we guessed to be lamb. I later learned from a book I was reading during the trip that it was goat.

I thought the food prices were very reasonable. This lunch was one of the more expensive meals - it was 25 Euro (about $33) for the meat menu, not including the wine - but it was a HUGE meal.

Hi Santos - I can see why! I think I would choose cheese. Sicily has a type of provolone called cacciocavallo which we ate lots of during our trip. It showed up in breakfast buffets, on pizza, and even in that spleen sandwich. At one place we stayed (and ate) they had both young and aged varieties - all very good. I would have loved to bring some of that home.

Anonymous said...

At Palazzo Mirto the man who followed you was a guide. You'd no reason to be afraid...

Cathy said...

Hi Laura - I wasn't afraid - more distracted and annoyed than anything. He never spoke to us and in the beginning I actually thought he was also visiting the Palazzo and just staying annoyingly close. Guess I'm more accustomed to the guards being assigned to a room rather than a person!

Anonymous said...

I know that it may sound strange :) Well, I think that they prefer staying quite and answer only if you ask something to them. My "silent guide" started talking to me when I was questioning my friend about the wonderful dishes collection of the firs room. And I think that he wes your same guide, from your description ;)
I think also that they don't speak very well English, and they are more confortable with Italian guests

Cathy said...

Hi Laura - oh, time I'll know! *sigh* Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a next time? :-)