Set in the mountains just ten miles east of Palermo, the town of Carini enjoys a privileged view towards the sea. With a population of only 35,000 and a world-famous castle as its main attraction, it sounded like a nice, easy escape from city life, and we chose a Wednesday morning to explore it.
Getting to Carini wasn’t as simple as we expected. It sounds impossible, but the bus from Palermo takes an hour and a half. For a town ten miles away! Palermo’s terrible traffic was a major reason for the delay, and then there were frequent stops and winding mountain roads. We left at 9:30 and didn’t arrive in Carini until 11.
When we finally got off the bus, it was much later in the day than we had anticipated, and so we made a bee-line for Carini’s castle. Set on the city’s northern bluff, the castle was built in the 11th century in the Arab-Norman style. Throughout its long life, it’s been spared most of the ravages of war and conquest, and is still in remarkable condition. We were the only visitors, and had fun running around with no one to monitor us. There are a lot of rooms, some of which conserve their ancient paintings, and the chapel is pretty impressive.
The castle is perhaps most well-known for the crime of passion which occurred there in 1563. The Baroness of Carini was caught in flagrante with her lover Ludovico Vernagallo. Her father murdered the couple, and readily confessed to the crime. There were immediately whispers, though, that the Baroness’ husband was the true assassin, and was less concerned with being a cuckold than eliminating a wealthy rival in Vernagallo. The father took the blame because Italian society, at the time, had a certain respect for honor killings.
After we were done in the castle, we set out to discover the rest of Carini. The town is centered around the Piazza del Duomo, and we liked both the plaza and the cathedral. Unfortunately, Carini suffers from the same traffic problems as Palermo. There was no tranquility on the streets, no rest to be had. Downtown is clogged with honking cars and, besides the cathedral and the castle, we didn’t encounter much of interest. After an hour of walking around, we gave up exploring and went to eat. Our lunch at New Miramare was terrible. The pasta was awful, and it turned out to be the type of establishment which brazenly rips off tourists. (We asked for the house wine, and they brought out a €25 bottle, remaining quiet about the price until the bill arrived.) Avoid it at all costs.
Carini was a mixed bag for us. The castle is cool, but the rest of the town wasn’t all that compelling, and definitely not worth the three hours we were trapped in a bus. If you have a car, it’s worth the trip, but otherwise take a pass.
2 January 2012