The train and plane ride over turned into a train, taxi, then plane because the train had an hour plus delay in Bracciano. We would not have made our plane if we did not take a taxi. So I guess I got my first taste of Italian transportation issues.
Because of our trip to Sicily, I had to take a zero on my Italian test. It counts for 25 percent of my class grade. We also missed the selection of the new pope. Francesco the first, named after the Patron Saint who lived a life of poverty to test his will to God. He is also the first Latin American pope.
After landing in Palermo, Sicily, my friend Kevin and I saw the catacombs which were amazing. Over the course of 850 years, the friars of Cappuchin preserved over 3000 men, women, and children down here. Allegedly Velázquez, Spanish painter, was buried in the Fuensalida vault of the church of San Juan Bautista (Madrid, Spain), and within eight days his wife Juana was buried beside him. Also Rosalia, a two-year-old girl engulfed in a glass box, died in 1920 is very well preserved.
We took photos and narrowly escaped a 500 Euro fine by popping our memory cards and shielding our faces as we walked out. Seeing all those corpses wasn’t so much as scary, but more invigorating and holy. This being the land of my ancestors on my mom’s side. I had a different feeling about this trip all along. It hasn’t been about seeing cathedrals and castles and museums, it’s been about soaking up the feeling of being on an Italian island and creating vivid pictures in my head. Believe me, I have seen enough Duomi,castles, and sculptures, especially after a trip to Florence.
The Duomo was very pretty. Had lots of Spanish influence actually. The outside was most beautiful because it looked most inviting. There was a beggar asking for offerings outside the church instead of inside. That’s how we knew he was lying. Afterwards we walked around in the rain looking for authentic Sicilian food, which we found at a restaurant around the corner from our very nice hotel. Now that that’s over we are looking to be cost effective.
After dinner I got a piece of cassata, an authentic Sicilian dessert. The barista at the caffe tried to rip us off though. We are not going back there.
We started our day after a long and peaceful night of sleep. It was the first night i’ve slept until 9 a.m. in a while. We decided to hit one of the largest open air markets in Palermo, the Ballaro Market. The market stretches just off the main road in the alleys for almost ¾ of a mile. There were food stands and cosmetics suppliers. Everything from raw seafood to ready to eat food is available at Ballaro.
I saw pounds and pounds of live shellfish and fish. Fresh produce littered both sides of the alley in a carefully planned order. The canopies covering each stand were dripping with water right onto my head. Incidentally, this happened no matter my position in the market and it wasn’t because it was raining. It just so happens that all the water falls where the most high traffic walking area is.
The market was beautiful and cheap. Bananas, strawberries, blood oranges, you name it. It was there and very affordable. I think its be because there are so many competitors in this market. Nonetheless, I had an amazing time in the market and walked away with the sturdiest umbrella I have found in Italy.
My friends Kevin and Henal, both of whom speak fluent Hindi, were able to barter with a shop merchant to get me a great deal on an umbrella. This was the second time Kevin did this for me. They both really made the merchant feel bad. Pulled a massive guilt trip from what they told me. If it wasn’t for them, I would have been cold and soaked.
Afterwards, we walked for miles around the city in the pouring rain. Through puddles and portholes, arches and alleys, we reached the central station in Palermo where we bought our tickets for Catania.
The group broke apart so I walked to one of the many churches in Palermo to pay tribute to my grandfather. I spent almost an hour there and was able to dodge the intermittent rain and hail storms. When the rain stopped I fast walked back to the hotel avoiding yet another rainstorm.
Here, I took refuge for the night, anxiously awaiting tomorrow’s journey.