The Albergheria is the oldest neighborhood in Palermo. This is where the Phoenicians founded the city, and it hosts the royal palace which all the city’s rulers have called home. Despite this rich history, today’s Albergheria is one of the most run-down sections of Palermo. Nowhere else is the juxtaposition of dilapidated housing and exquisite historic buildings quite so jarring.
Apparently, cilantro isn’t an herb much used in Sicilian cooking. The stand in the Vucciria Market had piles of basil, sage and oregano, but the seller had never heard of cilantro. Still, he was determined to help me out, and asked if I would recognize it by sight. “I think so, probably”. Producing herb after herb from the back of his store, he held out branches for me to sniff and inspect.
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.