8/22-24, Palermo, Sicily

Palermo has been a complete surprise. I was ready to be underwhelmed based on Palermo’s online reputation, but I was wrong. I like Palermo quite a bit. An incredibly rich history, beautiful hybrid Moorish and Norman architecture, surprisingly nice artwork and great stories about every place in the Old Town.

Admittedly, the bar was pretty low. Catania has few positives, so the generalization one does led to low expectations. But Palermo was relatively cleaner, relatively safer feeling and had a much stronger sense of history than Catania.

Our BnB was in an area that at first glance looked to be a huge mistake. But inside it was spotless, architecturally interesting and hosted by wonderful people. And it was central to everywhere we wanted to walk and visit.

We visited several palaces, cathedrals, piazzas, gardens and landmarks all in a 15 minute walking radius from our BnB. Pretty sweet. The car has stayed garaged the entire time, aka no stress.

One big surprise in Palermo is that truly good wine is hard to find. Most restaurants serve Nero D’Avola and Grillo (red and white Sicilian varietals) exclusively. Pretty much just chilled table wine. While we had a great bottle from an excellent wine list  in Catania, that restaurant seems to be the exception. We hope for better in Malta.

We took a bike tour of the Old Town that was a lot of fun. Learned a lot, saw a lot and got a tiny bit of exercise. Bikes are definitely a great way to get around these crazy streets. We’ve seen some electric bikes that are pretty cool.

The palace and cathedral tours were impressive. Palermo isn’t Florence, but it’s trending that direction. I was really impressed with the history of Palermo, all encoded in the buildings and museums. Turns out that all the Crusader movies we’ve all seen take place here in southern Italy and Sicily in particular. This was the most contested area of the war 500-year religious war between the Normans and the Arabs. We’ll have to watch some of those movies again with our newfound appreciation for Palermo in mind.

Tomorrow we travel back to Malta for the final leg of our Euro trip. We hope it will be relaxing, and there we meet up with our friends Todd and Tania.

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