The annual family holiday is usually a well-planned affair. This year with the destination picked out of a hat, everything booked less than 48 hours before take-off and with no time for a huge shopping spree, the holiday mood hadn’t quite kicked in as I boarded the wobbly looking Ryan Air jet at the crack of dawn. Things didn’t go off to a flying start; the plane was delayed for two hours because of an ominous smoky smell. One issue resolved, but the rest of the journey was filled with the shrieks of angry babies, who joined in to the cacophony when one particularly loud toddler decided he would spend the next two hours bawling his eyes out. Needless to say, the holiday buzz still hadn’t quite hit as I made my way to our rented flat in a zombie-like daze.
After a nap, we hit the streets of Palermo, Sicily’s capital. We were promptly hit in turn by the scorching heat. Sicily is famous for its culinary delights and it did not disappoint. Granita, a flavoured slushy of sorts, which comes in a range of mouth-watering flavours, is just one. It may be odd to think of shovelling ice into your mouth at dawn but with temperatures soaring to 35 degrees during the summer months, this treat introduced to Sicily by its Arab conquerors is absolutely perfect. Another little delight can be found in all gelaterias. Fried pastry tubes are stuffed with a deliciously creamy filling. The result is an achingly sweet, rich, gooey crunch of yum that anyone with a sweet tooth will find irresistible. It certainly wouldn’t be hard to spend the entire holiday tasting all that Sicily has to offer, but the sights and sounds of Palermo cannot go unseen.
The majority sported Speedos, the tight, pant shaped kind.
The Old Town of Palermo that I was fortunate enough to discover consists of mazes of streets bordered by pinkish flats and iron balconies. There was something of a community feel around the area, with boys as young as nine zooming around on scooters and the green grocer shouting greetings jovially from behind his little truck turned stall to everyone passing by. At night Palermo comes to life. The squares buzz with activity, the restaurants are open till late and couples walk hand in hand under the city lights. Granted, the back streets and my voyeuristic view isn’t the typical tourist trail, yet it exudes the liveliness and love for life that is evident in the lifestyle of the locals.
No holiday is complete without a bit of sand and sea. Luckily, Mondello is a bus ride away and with its white sand and warm blue water, it’s rather convenient. At this point it’s worth noting a thing or two about Italian men. They are all buff, bronzed and utterly gorgeous, as are the women, who comfortably parade around in barely there bikinis. It’s not hard to notice that the men tend to be as brave as the women when it comes to swimsuit choices. The majority sported Speedos, the tight, pant shaped kind. Each to their own and all, but it’s awfully hard to know where to look. My discomfort was heightened and my embarrassed giggling became almost uncontrollable when one gentleman decided to squat and chat to me and my sister, legs wide open, Speedos and everything else, in plain sight.
…I am already planning my return…
By a happy coincidence, the spontaneous, spur of the moment holiday fell on the feast of Santa Rosalia, the patron saint of the city. The festivities and parade invited thousands, the streets of Palermo brimming with its inhabitants and it was all capped off with an inspiring firework display near the port. The week provided an introduction to some of the nicest people, most delicious food and brushed up my rusty Italian somewhat. The journey home was unsurprisingly similar to the other. Despite a couple of horrendous flights, two weeks after a holiday in the beautiful ball-shaped island of Sicily I am already planning my return, hungry for more (everything but the Speedos).