Midpoint during the “Sensational Sicily – Yoga, Culture + Self Discovery in Italy” retreat with Kimberly Larkin and James Bene, we embarked on a comprehensive food and history tour of Palermo, on the northern coast of Sicily in Italy.
Palermo is close to Cefalu, and my experiences are detailed in “Cefalu, Italy: An Afternoon Stroll on the Northern Coast of Sicily” – but a world away in history, ambiance and vibe.
Walking through the city gate and to our meeting point was visually incredible. It was unfortunate to see the empty buildings that directly resulted from the Mafia’s involvement in Palermo’s city life.
We met with our tour guide, Domenico Aronica, at the QUATTRO CANTI. This was a vibrant central square that is the jaw dropping showpiece of Palermo.
Yes, I know the Norman Palace is beautiful. However, the best way to explain it is that standing in the middle of Quattro Canti, with a local performer skillfully playing music while the crowds bustle by is the epitome of romanticized Sicilian life.
I can’t put it into mere words.
It’s one of those moments where you truly realize that the path that you stand on has been used by ancient civilizations, long before you were born.
After gathering, we made our way to the PRAETORIAN FOUNTAIN IN THE PIAZZA DELLA VERGOGNA. Piazza Pretoria, better known as Piazza della Vergogna, is located in the historic center of Palermo. Domenico gave us a detailed history of the area and I took copious photographs. The history of the FOUNTAIN OF SHAME was so delicious to hear.
Who knew naked forms in from of a nunnery could bring so much scandal?
Next, we walked to the CHIESA DI SAN CATALDO, which was high on my list of sites to visit. I loved the Arabian meets Norman architecture that is the quintessential design aesthetic of the city.
We toured the SANTA MARIA DELL’AMMIRAGLIO (Church of St. Mary of the Admiral), which was overwhelmingly visually beautiful.
LUIGI GUIDERA was our next stop, to see examples of what authentic tools are used to create cannolis and Italian cuisines.
After a brief stop at the JEWISH QUARTER, we continued to the ARCHIVIO STORICO COMUNALE.
This was a powerful view of the municipal historical archives of the city. To see collected papers from the 1600s on the shelves was a powerful reflection of time. Those papers marked moments of time that existed before my life – and will exist after. Each binder was a time capsule of beginnings and endings.
From learning and reflecting on Palermo’s past, Domenico transitioned us to celebrate the culture of food.
Our tasting stops during our food tour:
Bolognese aranchini at Al Negretto
Prickly pear fruit
Fontina with olives
We had a short seated rest at a local restaurant, where we tried more local delicacies.
Soon after, we began the final food portion of our walk. We stopped at a street food vendor for SFINCIONE (Sicilian New Years Pizza with Bread Crumbs, Onions, and Caciocavallo) and Domenico passed out samples.
Our final major stop was a visit to the CHURCH OF SAINT MARY OF GESU. The church was a baroque style and simply visually overwhelming.
We ended our tour by revisiting the symbolic four corners of Palermo, QUATTRO CANTI, located at the intersection of Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda.
Domenico explained the history of the square to us. From Wikipedia:
The street level up to second story feature four fountains, each dedicated to one the four seasons. The third stories have statues in niches of four Spanish rulers of Sicily; above them in roofline are their respective coat of arms. The fourth and top stories of the buildings have statues of four female patron saints of Palermo: Christina, Ninfa, Olivia and Agata.
Domenico ended our time together with a choice of cannoli or gelato at RUVOLO QUATTRO CANTI.
As I sipped on my cappuccino, I reflected on the history of the land. The tour was a lovely mix of cathedrals, incredible points of interest and food from the vibrant food market stalls of Palermo. Domenico was skillful in weaving Palermo’s past with its diverse and stimulating presence in the present.
Walking Tour – Street Food Tour Palermo with Domenico Aronica