During our day trip to Sicily’s northwestern extreme, we only had a couple hours to explore Trapani. That’s not nearly enough time to do justice to this city of 70,000, but it was winter. Days are shorter, and we also had Erice to get to. So we confined ourselves to Trapani’s historic center, which begins as the city branches off from the island and becomes a narrow strip of land jutting into the sea.
We’ve been in Palermo for almost two months now, and although we’ve gotten familiar with the main streets, the winding alleys still offer endless opportunities to get lost. And we often do, sometimes even on purpose. There’s nothing like the bewildered frustration of being absolutely without orientation to inspire an attack of random photography.
In the 18th century, the elite of Palermo chose Bagheria as the place to escape city life and erect their villas. These remain into the present day, and give the town of 55,000 a peculiar feel. Gorgeous Baroque and Neoclassical villas with poetic names like Palagonia, Spedalotto and Serradifalco are spotted throughout the town, hidden among ugly newer constructions thrown together in the post-war years.
Almost every day, it seems like another massive cruise ship docks at Palermo’s port, and thousands of tourists pour out like molten lava. With only a few hours to see everything Palermo has to offer, they hop on the big double-decker sightseeing buses which cruise around the historic center. Maybe they’ll have a chance to visit the Norman Palace or the Catacombs but, after a couple hours, it’s right back onto the ship. I wonder how many of them are captivated by the city’s charm, and promise themselves to return.
We’ve been here for about two weeks, and are just starting to adjust to life on Palermo’s streets. On the chaotic alleyways of this city, scenes of striking beauty are almost as common as mountains of trash. But somehow, ancient elegance and modern grime work together well, giving Palermo an authentic feeling of life. If it all were clean and sparkly, the city wouldn’t be nearly as captivating.