I’m currently sitting in a hotel in Genoa, waiting for my travel partner to get out of the shower so we can start our day of fun and frivolity, some of which will actually deal with candy, which is somewhat the purpose of this trip. I figured now would be the perfect time to discuss Palermo.
First, let me apologize for the “Palermo is a city of contrasts” line in the previous post. There’s no excuse for that sort of writing, at least not at this stage of the game. It’s a cheap line, one might write for a High School report. It sounds trite, pedestrian, and forced.
What’s so frustrating is that it’s true.
It’s Italian, but not quite
In Old Town, the city’s layout is a hodge podge of major streets that are claustrophobic, and criss-crossing back alleys that are so narrow, the buildings seem as if they are caught in each other’s gravitational pull. But the the grid in the newer parts would make a city designer in Seattle beam with pride.
The traffic is near chaotic, with no discernible lines to help guide the drivers, and a limited amount of sidewalks, which makes pedestrians forced to hug the side of the road. But it somehow works, even as the scooters, motor bikes, and the plethora of 4 cylinder cars weave in and out of each other.
Middle class wealth is shoved up against homes and neighborhoods of the lower class. In the Old District, Via Roma is one of the major thoroughfares, and it contains shops and retail outlets familiar to those throughout Europe. One street over is a section of town where there are still buildings bombed out from the Allied invasion from World War II.
Yet somehow, the city works. It has a vibe of its own. It’s not of the Continent, and this works to its advantage. It’s the type of city where one can walk around town and run into a monument, piazza, or shop not highlighted in a guide book, and this be the best part of the trip. This city is as close to an urban representation of a pack rat as you can get, as the city planners seem to want to keep everything around that they can, with churches and buildings that can go back as far as eight hundred years.
That it’s nearly smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean? Well, that’s both an added bonus, yet one of the reasons of why there’s so much history here.
Like I said, it’s a city of contrast.
But I still shudder at that line.