“Palermo: the beginning” by Raffaella Saba

Palermo: the beginning.

Palermo is a challenge. And it all starts trying to choose how to get there. Since I live in Sardinia, I only have two choices: I either fly or go there by boat, as swimming is out of the question since I can barely float. The boat ride takes between twelve and fourteen hours if the weather is good and the sea is calm, but again it only leaves once a week. There’s no direct flight: I either fly from Cagliari to Trapani and I take a bus from there to Palermo, or I fly from Cagliari to Rome and from Rome to Palermo. At the end, because of connections, flight times and delays, it’s going to take me about twelve or fourteen hours anyway. Moral of the story: whether by airplane or by boat, it’s always a journey of hope.

Yeah, hope the get there safe and sound. Have you ever been in the middle of the ocean on a Tirrenia’s ship, when the waters are very rough? (and if you have, you know what I’m taking about!) You could spend an entire day without being able to communicate with your family because obviously cell phones don’t’ work here, and you relatives are thinking of you at the mercy of the waves or at the bottom of the sea. What about when you are landing in Punta Raisi instead? The wind is so strong that you think the plane is going to hit anything, from the mountains on your right to the surface of the water below. Anything but the narrow strip of land that is the airport’s runway.


Palermo is a challenge.

Yes, it is a challenge because when you are crossing the streets you are pretty much telling everybody what you real intentions are: you are going to kill yourself.  Please do not deny this!! Even Johnny Stecchino said it back in the 90’s: “The biggest problem of Palermo is the “ttrafic!” (ndr. Double “t” as to simulate the Sicilian accent) Take the busy Via Francesco Crispi for example. Once you leave the port and try to get across the street, you could spend a good half hour hoping that somebody will stop to let you pass, and this it will be a miracle when and if it happens. And you can read about this in the latest Tom Tom Congestion report: Palermo is the fifth city in the world when it comes to traffic jams, after Moscow, Istanbul, Warsaw, Marseille

(ndr: I don’t’ think Tom Tom people have ever to been to Delhi!)

What the hell!!

Any solution? You start praying, cross your fingers and just jump in the middle of the road hoping to be able to reach the other side…. The most important thing is to believe that you can do it.

Palermo is a challenge.

How can you speak Italian with other Italians and they ask you: “Are you a foreigner?” Where in the world am I? I feel discouraged. And it wasn’t Joe Schmoe asking me but a university professor I met when looking to do a Master. “Well, in a sense I am a foreigner. I’m Sardinian and not Sicilian. I couldn’t be any ‘stranger’ than this”. The poor soul could not apologize enough but he knew he had just made a fool of himself.

Palermo has conquered my heart.

Its history, its art-nouveau buildings, the Arabic domes, its dialect, the people, the monuments, the uneven roads, the garbage, the social degrade, the colorful markets, the “abbanniate” from the vendor down the street (ndr: “abbanniata” literally is the act of the town crier in Sicilian dialect)…I love every aspect of this city.  But, even if I’ve been living here for ten years now, I think in Sardinian still. So do not pissed me off, or you have a share of “frastimmi” (Sardinian curses). So I’m still a tourist between the tourists that come to my Bed and Breakfast. I’m still in awe when they are in awe, when they show me pictures of a landscape, when they are so enthusiastic about their vacation and want to know more about this beautiful place.

Yes, Palermo is just like this: an ongoing discovery.


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