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Sicily 2003



Produce in La Vucceria market

                May 24, 2003

    We drove into Palermo in the morning and proceeded to get lost in desperately poor area outside city walls near cathedral. As the streets got narrower and narrower, I thought, "Here we go again". Fortunately, we found our way to the Hotel Joli by 11 AM. Of course, our room was not ready and the gentleman befind the front desk clerk was less than helpful and dismissive. We had the car for one more day and needed to park it for the night. The hotel does not have a parking garage, but supposedly we could use a garage down the street. The desk clerk did not know how much parking cost, or anything about a bus to airport. It appears that very little English is spoken by any of the staff here. My Italian is better than ever by force.

    After unloading the luggage, we parked on the street and bought a ticket from a local tabacchi. The we went to the recommended parking garage down the street to check it out. The attendant asked first where we were staying, and then said it would be 30 Euro a night to park there! This seemed excessive to us so we went to look for a public parking lot, which just happened to be posted on the free map given to us by the hotel. I really wanted to point out to the front desk that they should try reading the maps, but I held my tounge. We found a lot about 5 blocks away from the hotel with a cost 1 Euro per hour until 8 PM and then free for the rest of the night and all day Sunday. Nine Euro vs thirty? You chose.  In order to park in these lots, one must buy one scratch off tiket for each hour of parking in a tabacchi, or in this case in the local copy shop, and display on the dash of the car. My mother handled this all admirably by herself, I was so proud.

    Back at the hotel, we finally got into our room. The rooms here are nice but I really can't tell difference between superior roon and "junior suite".
Our room had has 25 foot ceilings, a small balcony, pale pink walls with baroque crown mouldings and domed ceiling with plaster decor around light fixture. The shower is small and does not drain well. Ask for a room overlooking the Piazza Florio if you stay here, it seems like it would be a nicer view.

Herbs and Fish in La Vucceria

    We left our things in the room and walked quite a ways down the Via Roma to the open air market called La Vuccceria, located near the Piazza San Domenico. This market has mostly food products including cheeses, olives, dried herbs, fresh produce and meats and fish. An alleyway of stalls leads into a small piazza where I recognized a tiny bar that David and I had patronized on a previous trip. The Piazza is surrounded with crumbling buildings so typical of this area of Palermo and at night (as we would later learn first hand, can be a little scary.

The tiny bar at the heart of La Vucceria and the neighborhood's crumbling buildings.

     From the end of La Vucceria, we headed for the famous La Antica Foccacceria di San Francisco which has been serving food since 1832. We sought it out for the traditional Milza sandwich which consists of sauteed veal spleen served on a roll with a slice of frech ricotta and grated parmasean cheese. This may sound disgusting, but believe me, it tastes great. We continued to walk heading back toward the Il Capo market, marveling at everything available here, from food to housewares to clothing. I bought a georgeous Indian shirt from a Banglideshi woman. It's easy to get lost here, even with a map and we must have walked for miles. When we finally made it back to the hotel, hot and tired, we settled for lunch across the street, which had decent, but not fabulous pizzas.

Above, a Milza sandwich and the facade of La Antica Focacceria


    In the evening we set out on foot in search of Ristorante Sant Andrea. It seemed straightforward enough, but we got completely lost trying to use the map in the Lonely Planet Guidebook (I've always maintained they have the worst maps on this Loney Planet). Finally, I stopped in a bakery and was told by a typically beautiful boy who worked there, not to walk through the alleys of La Vucceria by ourselves in the dark, "e bruta" he said. He told us to go around and stick to the main streets. We finally found the restaurant in cute little square, right off The Piazza San Domenico, right where we started.

    The Ristorante Sant Andrea sites in a lovely little square opposite a beautiful ancient church. The restaurant is more of a modern trattoria with a twist on traditional Sicillian food and has prices to match. Unfortunately, my mother was feeling ill while we were there, so we could not completely enjoy the meal. I ordered the hot and cold Sicillian Antipasti, a seabass with pea puree rolled in seasame seeds, and 2 glasses of Nero d'Avola Distincto. I fed much of the food to a sweet little cat hanging around, and spent 32 Euro. By the time we left, my mother was hungry and wanted soup so we walked back to where we'd been lost before dinner, and stopped at the Casa de Brodo for tortellini en brodo. The tortellini had too much nutmeg for my taste, but Mom was happy with the broth. Another long walk back to the hotel and to bed.

 last updated on 11/30/03

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