PHOTO GALLERY: Palermo and other Sicilian towns

I am delighted to have permission to reblog this from
All the pictures, and the article, are by Dave, a talented photographer with an eye for the unusual.

Sicily: a land of many faces

March 13, 2014

Traffic and graffiti: two of Palermo's trademarks.

Traffic and graffiti: two of Palermo’s trademarks.

SICILY, eh? One minute it can make you smile, the next it makes you want to weep. It all depends on which of Sicily’s many faces you’re seeing.

Five minutes spent in its crazy capital Palermo and you’re mourning the neglect of its glorious palazzi and the poverty that confronts you on all sides.

Escape the madness and visit instead its ancient treasures – the Greek temples, the incomparable mosaics, the Mediterranean beaches – and you’ll wonder why the whole world isn’t queuing up to pay homage.

If Italy’s southernmost region leaves your emotions in turmoil, then leave it to the food, the wine, the climate and the warmth of its people to win you over. Sicily encapsulates all southern Italy’s dottiness and then sprinkles in quite a lot of its own.

Twelve years after exploring the eastern half of the island and being captivated by Syracuse, Etna, Taormina and Catania, we kept our promise to ourselves to check out the western part. A first-floor apartment in central Palermo was our base.

It is a city that perfectly illustrates past glories. Like Naples, it is adorned with once-magnificent palazzi now, almost without exception, in a dire state of decay, graffiti, neglect. The streets are litter-strewn and unmaintained.

The traffic is a nightmare cross between rush-hour in downtown Mumbai and a souped-up dodgem ride, all played out against an ear-splitting backdrop of car horns, revving engines, ambulance sirens and excited Sicilian voices.

It is insane, anything-goes driving; a free-for-all, a never-ending skirmish involving cars, trucks, buses, bikes and pedestrians. The faded zebra crossings are ignored totally; road rules are non-existent; no-one gives way. If you don’t have an iron nerve, don’t drive in Palermo.

The Lord Fiat gave the Sicilians hooters on their cars so they make full use of them. Whatever you take with you, don’t forget to pack your earplugs. Palermo teems like a disturbed ant hill, swarming with people and traffic. Every niche is crammed, every second filled with noise.

For all its progress in recent years Sicily remains trapped in grinding poverty in many areas and jobs are as scarce as dent-free cars, but siren manufacture and ambulance driving are two areas were the prospects are bright; there will always be a demand.

When it comes to everyday life, Palermo is more Slumdog Millionaire than La Dolce Vita.

Accustom your central nervous system to Palermo’s throbbing pulse, however, and the city offers much to enthral the visitor. Foot power along its crowded, uneven pavements is probably a more reliable way to get around than taking a bus.

Extraordinary Roman, Byzantine and Arabic mosaics, a legacy of some of Sicily’s many conquerors down the centuries, make the Cappella Palatina, and King Roger’s adjacent royal apartments, a must-see destination

Likewise, in the Oratorio di San Lorenzo, Sarpotta’s famous sculptures, fashioned from stucco with marble dust added to give them their unique sheen; and Palermo’s best art gallery, the Palazzo Abatellis.

Palermo Cathedral is as impressive as you’d expect but with a pleasing simplicity that you wouldn’t, while the Church of San Salvatore is unusual and appealing with its theatre-style interior – it was used as such for many years. The city’s main theatre, the cavernous and splendid Teatro Massimo, is the largest in Italy and third largest in Europe. A guided tour is money well spent.

Like all Italy’s great cities, Palermo has street markets that are an entertainment in themselves. The characters who cling to them are friendlier than they look as they set out their wares, including fruit, vegetables and array of fish freshly hauled from the Gulf.

For all its fascination, Palermo would probably not be a destination of choice for many travellers. Escape its ear-bashing bedlam and you discover a very different Sicily: dramatic landscapes, quiet little settlements and some of the best archaeological sites in Europe.

The island’s previous incumbents have left some marvellous reminders of their civilisations and none more so than the Greek temples, from long before Christ. The sites at Agrigento, Selinunte and Segesta have long been on the tourist map and don’t disappoint.

To stroll in the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, among the ancient olive trees and perfumed Mediterranean flora, on a warm spring-like February day, and with hardly another soul in sight, was truly a memory to savour.

The little town of Erice, perched sky-high on a mountain near Trapani, and famed throughout the ancient world as the home of the goddess Aphrodite, provides views that seem to embrace half of Sicily, while the great mosaic-encrusted cathedral at Monreale is a favourite wedding destination for romantics from all over Italy’s mainland.

It’s a multi-layered confection, is Sicily, and the harder you look, the less you understand. Mother Nature, an eclectic past stretching back through the mists of time and some once-dazzling architecture have bequeathed it so much.

Even the dark shadow of the Mafia seems to be receding. The islanders, exhausted and despairing after decades of bloodshed, have found the courage to offer defiance, as evidenced by the prominent memorials to the victims and the rash of posters declaring enough is enough.

Yet Sicily’s friendly, proud inhabitants seem happy enough to drift through their lives while all around them so much of their heritage decays and great palazzi turn into slums.

It’s their land, of course, and what right do we outsiders have to criticise? Sicily, warts and all, has no shortage of fans.

The thing is, though, that with a little more enterprise and a bit more energy, so much of it could be so much better.

Porta Nuova in Palermo

Porta Nuova in Palermo

Palermo police attend a street demonstration against job losses in Sicily.

Palermo police attend a street demonstration against job losses in Sicily.

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo royal apartments

Palermo royal apartments

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo

A memorial to victims of Sicily's Mafia.

A memorial to victims of Sicily’s Mafia.

Cappella Palatina in Palermo

Cappella Palatina in Palermo

Cappella Palatina in Palermo

Cappella Palatina in Palermo

Some of the wonderful mosaics at the Cappella Palatina in Palermo

Some of the wonderful mosaics at the Cappella Palatina in Palermo

Cappella Palatina in Palermo

Cappella Palatina in Palermo

Palermo cathedral

Palermo cathedral

Palermo cathedral

Palermo cathedral

Palermo cathedral

Palermo cathedral

The Quattro Canti corssroads in Palermo

The Quattro Canti corssroads in Palermo

The Quattro Canti corssroads in Palermo

The Quattro Canti corssroads in Palermo

Oratorio di San Lorenzo

Oratorio di San Lorenzo

Oratorio di San Lorenzo

Oratorio di San Lorenzo

Palermo harbour

Palermo harbour

Teatro Massimo

Teatro Massimo

Teatro Massimo

Teatro Massimo

Teatro Massimo

Teatro Massimo

Teatro Massimo

Teatro Massimo

A graffiti-covered old palazzo in Palermo.

A graffiti-covered old palazzo in Palermo.

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Dog tired at Ballaro market

Dog tired at Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Ballaro market

Monreale cathedral

Monreale cathedral

Monreale cathedral

Monreale cathedral

The cloisters at Monreale cathedral

The cloisters at Monreale cathedral

Monreale cathedral

Monreale cathedral

Mosaics in the cloisters at Monreale cathedral

Mosaics in the cloisters at Monreale cathedral

Monreale cathedral

Monreale cathedral

Monreale cathedral

Monreale cathedral

Monreale cathedral

Monreale cathedral

Erice

Erice

Erice

Erice

Erice

Erice

Erice

Erice

Erice

Erice

Garibaldi's balcony at Erice

Garibaldi’s balcony at Erice

Erice

Erice

Erice

Erice

The Greek temple at Segesta

The Greek temple at Segesta

Segesta

Segesta

Segesta

Segesta

Segesta

Segesta

The Greek amphitheatre at Segesta

The Greek amphitheatre at Segesta

Segesta

Segesta

The wall-filling Triumph of Death (anon) painting, the star exhibit at the Palazzo Abatellis gallery in Palermo.

The wall-filling Triumph of Death (anon) painting, the star exhibit at the Palazzo Abatellis gallery in Palermo.

Palazzo Abatellis gallery in Palermo.

Palazzo Abatellis gallery in Palermo.

The theatrical interior of the Church of San Salvatore, Palermo

The theatrical interior of the Church of San Salvatore, Palermo

Church of San Salvatore

Church of San Salvatore

Agrigento - Temple of Heracles

Agrigento – Temple of Heracles

Agrigento - Temple of Concordia

Agrigento – Temple of Concordia

Agrigento - Temple of Concordia

Agrigento – Temple of Concordia

A bronze of Icarus at Agrigento

A bronze of Icarus at Agrigento

Agrigento Necropolis

Agrigento Necropolis

Agrigento - Temple of Juno

Agrigento – Temple of Juno

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

The ancient view of the ocean has been partially blocked by the modern addition of a visitor centre at Selinunte!

The ancient view of the ocean has been partially blocked by the modern addition of a visitor centre at Selinunte!

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte

NOW GO AND VISIT DORSETDAZE FOR MORE OF DAVE’S WONDERFUL PHOTOS!

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8 thoughts on “PHOTO GALLERY: Palermo and other Sicilian towns

  1. Thank you Veronica for the pictures of Palermo – what a beautiful city but it makes me sad to see it deteriorate – the Italian government has always done very little for the south – it was that way 60 years ago when I was 18 and was married there because my mother wanted me to marry a palermitano. I’m going to look for some ancient pictures of mine and post them on your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Angela, that would be fantastic if you could share some of your old photos!!!
      When I was showing some friends around Palermo a few years ago, one of them commented “This is a very unloved city, isn’t it?” adn I felt so sad, because you cannot deny it, it is neglected. Even the shutters of the windows of the buildings of the Quattro Canti are broken and hanging down sideways and in the Piazza della Vergogna, standing right beside the parliament building in the most desirable hotel location in all Palermo, there is a derelict building left completely empty.
      It breaks my heart but I still hope they will restore it all one day – the few buildings they have restored in Palermo are done so well.

      Like

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