Il Capo Comes Alive

Il Capo Comes Alive

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Stepping into the neighborhood just behind the somber bulk of Palermo’s Cathedral feels like entering another country. An Arabic one, to be precise. Il Capo is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, and has managed to retain a distinctly Moorish influence in its streets and market.

Bell Boy

Il Capo occupies the northwestern quadrant of Palermo’s historic center demarcated by the Quattro Canti, and reveals its charms like a jack-in-the-box. The first hour we spent walking around, we were unimpressed. The streets were narrow and photogenic, and had strange names like Via Sedie Volanti (“Flying Seats”) and Scippateste (which I can best translate as “Head Snatcher”), but there wasn’t much life.

But then: POP. As soon as we came upon the Piazza del Monte and Via Sant’Agostino, Il Capo burst out of its box. A busy market with vendors hawking everything from espresso makers to swordfish greeted us. Shopping around for the pine nuts and basil we’d need for pesto, we discovered the neighborhood’s charms. A wedding was taking place in the church, and preparations for a weekend festival were underway. People seemed in unnaturally good moods; a barber and the customer he was shaving waved us in and asked us to take their picture. Random, but sure, why not?

Next to the barber, we found a bakery with white tiles and huge ovens in the back. I don’t know if we’re just having good luck, or are conditioned to dealing with more guarded Latin Americans, but people here are extraordinarily gracious to tourists. When we asked if we could see the bread being made, the woman in charge immediately bellowed, “Certo!! Entrate!”, and ushered us in.

A couple days later, we returned to Il Capo to check out the festival. The church and adjacent streets were decked out in lights reminiscent of those from Valencia’s Fallas festival. Unsurprising, since the best lights from Fallas are organized by Italian companies.

Morning is the best time to visit Il Capo, when the market is at its most hectic. But regardless of the hour, this neighborhood is worth a look.

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8 Comments

  • Godiva Sicilia

    Beautiful photos of the Capo of Palermo. We hope to meet soon with Zatlo’
    House ‘. Meanwhile, please access on facebook:
    http://www.facebook.com/godivasicilia Thanks!

    September 27, 2011 at 9:24 am
  • carlo

    Wow!Do you know where is the barber shop?Thanks!!

    November 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm
    • Juergen

      If you need the exact address I could walk by there again …Let me know!

      November 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm
      • carlo

        It was in the market of ‘Il capo’?

        November 28, 2011 at 3:06 pm
        • Juergen

          One of the side streets but right off the market next to a bakery

          November 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm
  • Evelyn

    Thanks so much for your interesting site!  Do you know who made the 3 headed sculptures at the entrance to the Passeggiata delle Cattive in the Porta Felice area?

    October 2, 2012 at 6:58 pm
  • Patty M

    These are awesome photos!! Love..

    June 23, 2014 at 1:08 pm
  • suzanne

    Beautiful pictures! Do you have a favorite food artisan who is making a traditional product? I would love to find a few to be sure to visit (that will hopefully remind me of the food my Nani made) when I travel there!

    July 22, 2014 at 3:52 pm
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