Beyond this poor area of the city was the busy port where there were urgent preparations being finalised before tonight’s big parade. Today was the culmination of a six-day festival in honour of the City’s patron saint, Saint Rosalia, who, according to legend, saved the City from a terrible plague in the seventeenth century.
In the middle class Piazza Marina district there was an interesting park with large ficus trees with aerial roots hanging from the branches and reaching out to the ground below to strike down into the earth and add to the tree’s fortress like appearance. The park was peaceful and sedate and surrounded by impressive iron railings outside of which an impromptu boot sale was beginning to take shape.
A quick look around confirmed that there was nothing worth purchasing and we went back to the Via Roma to complete our walk to the central station stopping briefly on the way for quick refreshment in a bar with pavement tables next to the busy thoroughfare. It was even more hectic now and we were amused by a cyclist on a suicide mission weaving and wobbling through the traffic with all of his attention diverted towards the huge ice cream bun that he was enjoying whilst being completely unaware of the great peril that he was putting himself in.
If yesterday was confusing at the bus terminal I am not sure why we imagined that it would be any easier today, and of course it wasn’t. As it turned out there was no direct bus service to Mondello and it all seemed a bit of a palaver so we abandoned the idea and I revealed my alternative plan. Tomorrow we could hire a car and drive out into the countryside and see some more of Sicily. Kim agreed that this was an excellent suggestion and then I looked back across the Via Roma and the traffic turmoil and wondered what on earth must I be thinking!
Just outside the station was the Arab quarter where the traffic mayhem increased and everywhere quite frankly was a bit of a shambles so we left this manic part of the city as soon as we could and made our way back to the centre and discovered the Cathedral standing proudly next to the Piazza Dei Sette Angeli where there were more preparations for the festival parade.
I was beginning to understand that this was going to be a very big event indeed. Next to the Cathedral was a quiet little street where we discovered a charming little trattoria and Kim overcame the language barrier by performing an impressive range of animal and fish impressions in a bid to establish the exact content of the dishes on the menu. The staff were kind and indulged her but I noticed that they kept the small children a safe distance from her after that!
After a very pleasant pasta lunch we continued our tour of the city by circumnavigating the very impressive cathedral and then walking along Via Vittorio Emanuele towards the city gate, the Porta Nuova, where we saw the large and visually striking floats being prepared for tonight and then through another street market area with dangerously low standards of hygiene with produce laid out on impromptu stalls of old wooden crates before we emerged out of the maze of streets at the Teatro Massimo, which is one of the iconic images of Palermo. It was completed in 1897 and is one of the largest opera houses in Europe.
I am not a fan of opera but what attracted me to this building was the fact that this was the setting for the penultimate scene of the Godfather trilogy of films where Michael Corleone’s daughter takes the assassins bullet that was intended for him. This is one of my favourite movies so I was quite thrilled to see this location.
We walked back to the Cathedral and the starting point of the parade and we secured a good position to see the concert but when it started we were disappointed not to recognise any of the pieces of music and without the liveliness of Vivaldi or Mozart and feeling a little conspicuous in what was a very local affair we left the Cathedral piazza and returned to the restaurant that we had found at lunch time and enjoyed another excellent meal. After that we returned to the piazza and as we had only just missed the parade of floats we followed it down the road until it was impossible to make good progress because of the swarms of people and we broke off from the crowds and returned to our hotel. It was a very good parade and there were thousands of people on the streets and we wondered who was going to clear up all of the mess?