Tuesday, 18 October 2011
Girl v. City - Round 2
After yesterday's successful walking encounter with Palermo, there was every chance that today would fall flat on its face. It didn't, however, I'm glad to say - the tour bus did, but that's another story.
After braving the pavements and guiding myself round Palermo yesterday on foot, today I opted for the open top bus tour to see what else I could learn about this fascinating city. The answer, somewhat surprisingly and gratifyingly, was not much actually. I had wondered whether I should have done the bus tour first and then walked the city to explore more fully once I'd got my bearings. But the bus route, constrained as it was to the more major streets, barely scratched the surface of the place - even less so than these tours normally do. I would have been no more confident after the bus tour than I was anyway. Diving in was definitely the right approach - it allowed me to be seduced by the city, instead of just learning to tolerate it.
The streets in Palermo, even the main ones are - on the whole - fairly narrow affairs. Negotiating a bus along them would be tough at the best of times, but in amongst the frankly terrifying Palermo traffic, it's nothing short of a miracle. I thought the traffic in Rome was mad, but here it takes on a whole new level of psychosis. It seems to come from all directions at once, even one way streets aren't. And the areas pedonale, well, they're the most dangerous of all. I'm rapidly learning that signs in Italy, whilst extremely stern, are entirely advisory. Or so it would seem.
But back to the bus tour. That the bus manages to thread its way through the traffic, as I said, is amazing. That it does so without incident would be nothing short of miraculous. So, no surprise then, that the bus I was on managed to rear-end a car during our tour. There was much gesticulating and shouting, and then everyone went back on their way again. To be fair, the guy in the car was clearly at fault - he had a whole 10 cm in front of him of unused road space, what did he expect?!
The other effect of the narrow streets is that when you're travelling on an open top bus, you feel like you could just stretch out your hands and touch both sides at once. Unfortunately, this doesn't really come out in a photo so you'll just have to take my word for it.
So, did I see anything new? Yes and No. As I've already said, I don't think I got to Palermo any better than I'd already started to do. I did, however, find some new places and get some new impressions of places I'd already passed. Today's discovery was Monreale - a hilltop cathedral and small town just outside Palermo. Built to rival the Cathedral in Palermo itself, the simple Norman outside belies the glittering and simply dazzling interior - almost the entire inside is covered in the most beautiful mosiacs, telling almost the entire story of the Old and New Testament. Even 3 showings for Rebecca, the loyal (stop laughing!) wife of Isaac, and mother of Jacob. And an exceedingly grumpy looking Eve, post eviction from Eden.
What else? I saw the Villa Malfitano and Castello Zisa - maybe for another trip. I also saw Mercato Del Capo, that's for tomorrow, along with a tour of the Teatro Massimo and lunch at Casa Del Brodo. And then it's the overnight ferry to Genoa and the start of my homeward journey - via Paris and London.
Enough for tonight. This post has taken far longer to write than it should have. Hope you enjoy it!