Palermo – from Porta Felice to Porta Nuova – by Raffaella Saba

Last time I told you about Porta felice or “porta a mare” (door to the sea) and now it’s time for Porta Nuova or “porta alla montagna” (door to the mountain).

I cross the entire Via Vittorio Emanuele,  few miles that are definitely too many for a lazy person as I am, and I only stop once I reach Piazza Vigliena, the intersection between Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda, also known as Quattro Canti.

This is the very center of the city within the old walls and one each of the four corners buildings there are three loops: in the first loop you can find the fountains of the seasons, in the second one the most important kings and the last you, you can find the female saints.

There is a very complicated Cabala theory behind all of this; somebody even explained it to me some time ago, but I really can’t say anything more. Something about the number three which is the divine number, and the number four which represents humanity. That’s all I can remember.

Somebody told me that if you stand in the middle of the crossroad, you can the mountain on one side and the sea on the other. You just need too find the perfect time to do this, which is when there is no traffic at all, which it is quite a challenge.

You can try at any time if you like, but chances are somebody will curse at you, but look at it as part of the local culture (I’ve been cursed myself before….I should write a paragraph about how inventive that can be!)

This part of town is also known as Teatro del Sole (Theater of the Sun), since at every hour during daylight, the sun reflects on at least of the four corners.

As I had already explained to you, monuments in Palermo can have several names, and often none of the names is the proper one.

I keep going and only later I will be able to have a taste of the Palermo delicatessen, such cannolis, sfincione, or pane con milza.

After leaving the cathedral behind me, I walk through Porta Nuova.

This is also known as Porta dei Giganti, but since everybody calls everything the way they want it, I call this ‘porta quattro mori’ and you can understand why once you see the picture! (NDR “Quattro Mori” means “Four Moors” which is the name of the Sardinian flag)

Well, I’m still very found of my fond native island and it makes me feel like home.

Some people also call it Porta dell’Aquila (door of the eagle), because of the emblem on the top part.

So if you ever visit Palermo and need to ask for direction or information, you need to remember all the different names: nobody will remember the real one anyway. But also remember that if you ask me, you need to mention the four Moors, or most likely you will end up at the other side of the city!

The door was built in the sixteenth century by the Senate of Palermo to celebrate Carlo V’s victory over the Turks in 1535.

A top part was added in the following century, after an explosion severely damaged it as since it was also used as storage for gunpowder.

The eagle with spread wings is also the emblem on the Palermo soccer team jerseys, but let’s not talk about this subject now. Will the team be able still play in the major league? This is the most discussed topic in every bar each Monday morning, when everybody becomes a coach and a manager, while drinking beer and playing cards.

I’ve walked enough for today. Are you tired? Because I am!

I stop at Mercato del Capo, nothing more than a dive, but where you can taste the best “panino ‘ca meusa” you’ve ever had.

You can choose between a “schietto” or maritato” :

The schietto  (“unmarried, single” in Sicilian dialect) which is made with lever, lungs and other entrails that have been boiled at first and then deep-fried in lard, or maritato (married) which has also ricotta and caciocavallo cheese.

Mamma mia, what a feast!!


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