Cefalu and Isola di Ortigia

This is a the balcony of our rental near Palermo. Having meals with fat bumble bees and watercolor sunsets made me want to stay forever.

We took a day trip to Cefalu

There was a defense wall along the sea, and a path along it just on the water’s edge

Everyone wanted their picture beneath these arches

The old aqueduct system was accessible and the water, freezing cold. Refreshing!

Sort of attached to Syracuse is a small island called Ortigia.

On the recommendation of our host, we sought out the sandwiches made of smoked mozzarella. I watched in doubt as he made the sandwich: sun-dried tomatoes,¬†prosciutto, smoked fresh mozzarella, then thin sliced lemon — with the rind, olives, mushrooms and mystery sauce. I shouldn’t’ve worried though. Best sandwich ever.

The magic of this island is that there are basically no cars. Just Vespas

And a beautiful old square

At night, one of the restaurants filled the night with old white people music, the pleasant kind: Frank Sinatra.

At one end, there was a fortress. Too bad, it was closed by the time we got there. So I peeked through the gate to get this pic

I was negligent and didn’t get pictures of our pizza from Mario’s pizza. We were proud of ourselves for eating at a place that wasn’t at all popular with tourists. And it was cheap. About 5 euros for the whole meal.

Palermo and Monreale

Besides the general splendor…

And the total randomness…

(because, why not?)

(gives new meaning to the nickname “bread van”)

There’s also the food. In particular, arancini!

Not oranges, but deep fried rice balls with various savory fillings. Like bbq ribs (the Americana, of course). In Sicily, they’re really orange-sized, not like the sad meatball-sized ones you see here at Italian restaurants here.

We went to a market in search of street food and found this meat stand. Makes me think of my friend Ben, an avid carnivore.

We tried the intestine. It was shockingly delicious. So good that I kept trying to repeat the experience, looking for it in supermarkets and at roadside stands.

We also tried the octopus. Delicious, but probably even better grilled.

(Here he is before the chopping)

We took a side trip to Monreale, which is perched so high over the sea. And full of sleepy dogs.

It was one of the hottest days on our trip. Which meant dessert for lunch. Sicily is famous for the cannoli, as mentioned in the Godfather movies. With good reason. The filling is like a fluffy cream cheese, and its slight saltiness balances the rest of the sweetness well. Loved the candied orange rind.

This is called a brioche. Basically, it’s an ice cream sandwich. But with real bread.

I’ll leave you here with a nice memory from the beach near the place we stayed. There were a couple of feral dogs who decided they were our guards. They didn’t want food and they didn’t come close enough for pets, but they stayed by us all afternoon, one on either side. Just napping.

That thing back there is a “Singbox” — it’s a karaoke machine that (I think) actually grades you. Someone blasted Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and nailed it.

Here’s the sunset from up in the hills

Palermo, part 1

Let me just whine briefly about the ferry between Sardinia and Sicily. First, it’s a 12 hour overnight trip. Second, they sell tickets that do not include accommodations. Even a seat costs extra. If you don’t pay for a seat — which is like an airplane seat, bolted to the floor and too close to all the other chairs — or a room (which has a narrow cot and barely enough room to turn around), then you have to sit at the “bar”. But they don’t let you get comfortable. We found a closed restaurant and slept for a few hours, but the boat police came around at 6am to wake us up. For no reason. Just to make our lives unpleasant enough that we’d consider spending $80 per person for a cot and freedom from molestation by the overeager boat staff. No thanks.

Did I mention that was my birthday? Well, at least when we got to Palermo, this was the beach

It was nap time! See how beautiful the world is with no other people around? It didn’t last. Within an hour there were too many rowdy others and hawkers of cheap inflatable balls and sunglasses, of ciambelle (donuts) and fruits, all of them hollering and hovering.

Palermo is home to hundreds of Baroque churches. These are just a few:

I might consider being religious just to go to services at this church

In the street, there was trash everywhere. Not just gum wrappers and cans, but enough clothes and trash bags to fill dozens of industrial sized dumpsters. Our host said it’s because the trash collectors are controlled by the mafia, and when the mafia’s unhappy, no one picks up the trash.

To be continued…