No travel now for nine months so taking a look back at good times in Italy…
Have Bag, Will Travel
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While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.
On 20th July 2007 I was in the classical Italian City of Palermo in Sicily…
A couple of years ago I suggested to some regular travelling pals that we should go to Naples in Italy for a few days. They were horrified by the suggestion because of the city’s reputation as being rather dangerous. They said that they would prefer to go to Barcelona in Spain even though I pointed out that the Spanish city is the pickpocket capital of Europe and had recently suffered a terrorist attack.
I couldn’t persuade them to reconsider so we travelled to Naples by ourselves. We thought of ourselves as intrepid adventurers stepping out boldly into a dangerous Italian city. For us this completed a trio of visits to so-called risky Italian cities because previously we had stayed in Bari in Puglia which enjoys a similar reputation and Palermo in Sicily, the home of the Mafia.
I have often wondered where all of these crime stories come from and are they true? It seems that they are linked to a web of crime syndicates that operate across all of southern Italy. Sicily has the Cosa Nostra, Naples the Camorra, Calabria has the ‘Ndrangheta and Puglia the Sacre Corona.
In preparing this post I did a little research and was surprised to find that not one of these cities is in the top ten hazardous places in Italy with the top three spots being taken by Milan, Bologna and Rome all of which are all further north.
I think it is fair to say that a tourist is at more risk from a street pickpocket attack than an organised crime syndicate.
A year later we went to Madrid and my friend, who thought Naples was dangerous, had his wallet stolen in the street.
Click on an image to scroll through the Palermo Gallery…
Upon my return from Naples I thought I might update my map of places that I have visited in Italy.
Click on an image to scroll through the picture gallery…
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.
Car Parking – Sicilian Style
The traffic was noisy and impatient with the usual medley of car horns, which is a feature of Italian driving or course. If the normal rules of driving do not apply in Palermo then the normal rules associated with parking definitely are completely irrelevant. At the Piazza San Domenico on the Via Roma there was a small and hopelessly inadequate car park surrounding a fountain that was full of impatient drivers looking for non-existing parking spaces, blowing their horns, waving their arms and shouting at each other in that classic Italian driving style. There was double and even triple parking and almost every car had minor accident damage as a result. I certainly wouldn’t like to park my car there.
Segesta was the political center of the Elymians who were indigenous people from the west of Sicily who built the city in an alliance with Ionian Greeks. It flourished for over five hundred years until gradually it was abandoned as the inhabitants moved away from the mountains and down to the coastal areas for trading purposes.
Woke early in a sweat! OMG! I am going to drive a car in Sicily! I must be insane; whatever possessed me to dream up an idea like that!
After breakfast we walked for a last time down the Via Roma and noticed that it was quieter today, perhaps because last nights revellers were still in bed nursing hangovers. The streets were already impressively clean so the local council had obviously been working hard throughout the night. We arrived at the Piazza Giulio Cesare and missed the bus to the airport by just ten minutes. That gave me further thirty minutes worrying time while we waited for the next one in the railway station bar (nowhere else was open).
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.
The breakfast room at the Grand Hotel Et Des Palmes was large and spacious and to get there it was necessary to walk through the expansive public areas and here it was possible to appreciate fully the grand scale of the place. It was the sort of hotel with a lot of staff with their own special jobs to do including one man in a smart waiter’s suit whose only real task seemed to be to be available to operate the hot water and coffee machine. Actually he wasn’t especially good at that because he kept disappearing for long periods that always seem to coincide with refill time.