Palermo for New Year's

Dec 12th, 2000, 02:50 PM
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Palermo for New Year's

I am traveling to Palermo for the Christmas Holidays. Does anyone have any thoughts or ideas about what to see and do or what to avoid. What is your impression of this part of Italy? Did people seem friendly to Americans? Anyway just share all that you can. I will be interested.

Dec 12th, 2000, 05:35 PM
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I loved Palermo, I think we were treated quite politely, a group of us, 3 yanks, 2 aussies and a kiwi were given a private tour of the provincial palace for no darn good reason other than asking why there was such a crowd gathered outside.
While in Palermo, check out as many churches as you can - they are all different and extraoridarily beautiful. Near the Quatro Canti is the Chiesa del Gesu, check out the red domes, very interesting. Also if you're into the gruesome, the catacombs are pretty darn creepy. You might want to check out the neighboring town of Monreale and see the cathedral there.

Palermo pretty much closes down at night, so don't plan on any partying. You might find it interesting that it's the cleanest and most orderly city in all if Italy, and there are quite a few big luxury cars on the road, though not quite as many as in Southern Italy.
Dec 12th, 2000, 07:44 PM
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We were in Sicily at the end of September. Spent 3 days in Palermo and another 3 driving around the island. The people were warm and friendly, the food was terrific and the prices were very good. We love old buildings, art museums and churches and there were wonderful things to see - all listed in any good guide book. The mosaics in the Palazzo Di Normanni were incredible! We felt very safe. However while riding a city bus, the woman sitting across from me leaned over and told me to remove my gold bracelet.
Dec 12th, 2000, 11:15 PM
russ i
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Below is an excerpt from my journal from New Year's 1998. We had a great time and I'm sure you will too.

New Year's Eve in Palermo was quite an experience. At midnight we were gathered in the main piazza with thousands of the locals, dodging exploding bottles of champagne and firecrackers. These were not, however, the little firecrackers that you see in the US. These ones practically left mushroom clouds when they exploded. They were huge - and deafening. As if this weren’t bad enough, people would actually throw these sticks of TNT right at you. My ears were ringing all night and I was exhausted from trying to look in all directions at once for fear that a limb was going to be blown off.

There was a stage set up in the piazza and an announcer that nobody listened to who spoke non-stop. At midnight there were fireworks - in the sky where they belong. For an extra bit of excitement a group of men playing drums where suspended from wires above the crowd while an acrobat did various acrobatic kind of things - very Cirque du Soleil.

Except for the occasional explosion, things quieted down enough by 1:30 to attempt sleep. Although our room looked onto a major street, there was very little traffic - that is until about 2:30 - after which a procession of huge trucks rumbled by for the following 3 hours. I think Cal Tech measured them as 4.5 on the Richter scale. We finally slept from 5:30 to 8:00. We figured out the next morning that we were on the direct path out of town from the piazza where the festivities were held. The parade of trucks must have contained the disassembled stage, etc.

Since we had had so little sleep and the hotel room was the worst one that we had ever had (I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that I would rather have been sleeping in Pompeii the night that Vesuvius blew), we decided to cut our trip to Palermo short. However, on our way out of town we saw three of the most amazing sites of the entire trip. The Palatine Chapel, built in 1132, combines Romanesque architecture with Byzantine-influenced mosaics and Moorish ceilings. It is simply stunning. In fact, Sicily was under the control of so many cultures in its history that it’s very interesting to see the conglomeration of influences that affect its architecture: Greek, Roman, Moorish, Byzantine, and Spanish, among others.

Amazing in a more macabre sense were the catacombs of the Convento dei Cappuccini. 8,000 skeletons line the walls, with parchment yellow skin stretched across their bones. All of them are still wearing clothes - top hat and tails, evening gowns, or religious vestments. Bizarre.

Five miles outside of town, in Monreale, was my favorite church on the island. It contains the most extensive mosaics in the Christian world. Started in 1174, they illustrated episodes from the Old and New Testaments. The cloister next door contains an arcade supported by 216 twin columns, of which no two are alike.

Dec 12th, 2000, 11:16 PM
russ i
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Since I've come this far, I may as well finish the trip:

After Monreale, we set out for Agrigento, stopping along the way to see the amazing Greek temples at Segesta and Selinunte. These were far better preserved than anything that we have seen in Greece, and better yet, surrounded by fields and countryside - no urban sprall to detract from the setting.

We spent the night in Agrigento, at a very uncharming Jolly Hotel, but after the horrible hotel in Palermo we really appreciated the quiet and modern rooms.

The highlight at Agrigento is the Valley of the Temples. This complex of several temples, set on a slight ridge in the valley below town, gives the best example of the ancient cities, cemetaries and places of worship from the Greek Empire. I have to say that I was really surprised that Sicily and southern Italy had a huge number of Greek colonies. It is absolutely dumbfounding to see these incredible engineering feats which were accomplished over 2500 years ago.

Moving on to the center of the island, we continued to the ruins of the Villa Casale, built by a Roman emperor in the 3rd century. The floors are decorated by over 4,200 square yards of mosaics, depicting hunting scenes, Roman myths, even women gymnasts wearing “bikinis”.

We spent the last two nights in Taormina. This was Nirvana. (Sorry, I don’t know where the ancient Greeks or Romans thought you go when you die. There’s a lot of eastern influence in Sicily, so Nirvana it is.)

Taormina is a seaside resort perched on the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. The weather was warm, the views were excellent and the days lazy. From the ancient Greek amphitheater in town you can see the snow covered peak of Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in recent history.

Anyway, you wouldn’t know it, judging from the amount of space that I’ve given it, but Taormina was our favorite town on the island. There are not as many “sites” as in the other places, but that wasn’t the point. The point was the sea, the sun, the mountains, the food, and the narrow winding streets of a small town. It was the perfect way to end the trip.
Dec 13th, 2000, 07:52 AM
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Most of my time in Sicily during three trips to Sicily was NOT spent in Palermo. I found Sicily (mainly eastern Sicily) to be one of the friendliest places I've ever traveled in, with generous, inquisitive, proud, dignified and kind people who were exceptionally friendly and hospitable to foreigners, including Americans (and not just to ones like me who are of Sicilian descent). I plan to go back again and again. I felt unusually "safe" in eastern Sicily, especially rural areas. However, while Palermo (NW Sicily) has a fascinating, complex, rich history, beautiful geographic setting, interesting architecture and other sights, it is the one place in Sicily where I felt I needed to be particularly on guard. I do NOT think it's the safest and cleanest city in Italy, or in Sicily, by any stretch of the imagination! (Besides street crime, which I did not happen to observe or experience, a few things to beware of: illegit. cab drivers, cars driving backwards into the crosswalk.) (But in case you're wondering this caution has nothing to do with the Mafia, which I'm sure couldn't care less about vacationers, unless maybe we're investigative journalists). For impressions of Palermo, and Sicily in general(especially western Sicily), including Christmas customs, see Mary Taylor Simeti's On Persphone's Island, if you haven't already read it..
Dec 14th, 2000, 07:24 AM
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Hi Parker,
We are going to be in Sicily at the same time. Maybe will see you there.
All information here are very helpful. Thank you all

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