Time for a Coffee

I’m not going to lie. My coffee consumption has increased since moving to Palermo.

I try to limit the number of coffees I have a day. During the week this is easy; one in the morning at home, then one during my lunch break at work. Basta.

The weekend is another story.

You see, wandering around the city, stopping off for coffee is one of my favourite activities.

Palermo has huge number of bars. When I first arrived here I though it strange that I was invited to a bar at 9 am by a friend. But I then realised that “bar’ in Sicily means a coffee bar.

Real Sicilians usually take their coffee standing up. They pay at the till, then go to the bar and order their espresso. I sometimes do this, but I admit that I prefer sitting outside and enjoying my coffee in a leisurely fashion watching the world go by. I can’t be Palermitana in all things!

A coffee in Palermo – and by coffee I mean an espresso or a macchiato – will set you back between €0.80 and €1.20, depending on the bar. You can choose from a stylish Belle-Epoque bar near Teatro Massimo, or a down-and-out hole in the wall near the station. Wherever you go the coffee is ace and will set you up for a day of exploring!

Driving in Palermo

This is probably the first in a series of Driving in Palermo posts. It is a subject about which there is much to discuss.

Everything that people tell you about driving in Palermo is true. It is chaotic. Drivers don’t exactly follow the rules. Parking is atrocious. There is occasionally some pretty heavy traffic, and almost everyone is angry behind the wheel.

All that being said, I do love driving in this city.

Almost all the cars here are beaten up. I once was told that scratches and bumps on cars where called “Neapolitan kisses”, but I think that “Palermitan hugs” would be better. My car was in my care for barely a week before someone scratched it when trying to park next to it. Prissy car owners need not even bother here.

You don’t really need a car for a trip to Palermo, as you can get around fairly easily by foot. But many visitors have a rental car as they then go on to explore the rest of the island.

If you do choose to drive in Palermo, my advice is as follows:

  • stay calm
  • breathe
  • forget the highway code as you know it – driving here is more intuitive
  • keep your eyes open at all times, and if possibile grow another pair of eyes before signing the rental agreement
  • watch out for scooters
  • ignore the honks, shouting and swearing from other drivers

I tell you from experience that once you have completed your first journey in the car in Palermo you will feel on top of the world. So park the car as soon as you can and go and enjoy an aperitivo – you deserve it!

 

Amunì!

Let’s start with a simple one: amunì.

Amunì is likely to be the word that you hear the most when you are in Sicily.

It means, “Let’s go!”

Wherever you are in Palermo, you will hear this. In the markets, in a bar. By old men sitting outside under the sun, by children begging their parents to be taken home.

Old, young, Sicilian and otherwise. This is the easiest Sicilian word that I know, that even I utter every now and again.

 

Christmas in Palermo

In my three years in Palermo, I have never spent Christmas here. The lure of my grandmother’s Christmas feast, log fires,  and pints of beer in the pub is too much for me. I always fly home.

So truthfully, I can’t really say anything about Christmas proper here in Palermo.

However, I can tell you about the build up.

It starts on the evening on 7th December. Everyone is at home, playing cards and eating sfincione.

And so the season begins.

The 8th December is a national holiday in Italy- the Festa dell’Immacolata Concezione. Offices are closed (although shops are open for the all important purchasing of presents) and local spend time with family and friends. 

There’s a procession (when isn’t there a procession in Palermo!), with a statue of the Madonna leaving San Francesco church and making her way to San Domenico. Here, firemen place flowers on top of the statue. I cried the first time I saw it. Although I must admit that it was probably more atmospheric when a ladder was used, rather than a fire engine!

From now until Christmas Eve, Palermitani are in holiday mode. Cards are played in continuation. Eating is mandatory. Aperitivos are rife.

One day maybe I will experience Christmas itself. But not this year. Not yet.

I’ve got potatoes to scrub back home and a grandmother who needs her annual panettone. Maybe this year I will get her one with a nativity scene made of white chocolate

Buona Festa a tutti!

Hungry?

Don’t come to Palermo for Carbonara. Italian food as you might know it doesn’t exist here. Go to Rome for Carbonara, go to Bologna for Ragù and go to Liguria for pesto.  Trust me.

Do come here for food bursting with fish, vegetables and the occasional north african accent.

Food is the central theme to an evening. We are either eating, talking about what we just ate, or planning what we will eat tomorrow. The classics are sacred, although everyone has their own way of doing things.

In restaurants, Sicilian food prevails. Caponata, cous cous, pasta alla norma, cannoli, panelle, arancine. Each has its history and each has its charm.

Come to Palermo and try it – you won’t be disappointed.