Sicilians have really taken to the American celebration of Halloween, but not all Sicilians. Several religious groups got together and formed an anti-Halloween parade in which everyone dressed in white and you were invited to carry images of saints. A wooden crucifix led the cortege through Palermo's new pedestrian malls and through back streets (more…)
Rocky set up on my street corner in the Via Vittorio Emanuele every night and sold pane ca meuzza, in Sicilian, pane con la milza in Italian, or spleen and cheese sandwich in English, a typically Palermitan street food item.
University of Palermo anthropology professor Carlo Di Franco, who took the picture, writes on his personal Facebook page that Palermo's old knife makers appear in all the old markets of the city: the Vucciria, Ballaro`, and the Capo markets. He photographed Mr. Salvatore Cambria who for 60 years has operated out of his shop and workshop in Discesa Maccarrronai (Macaroni Makers Descent) in the Vucciria market.
Sicilian judge Antonino Di Matteo is one of the most threatened - and protected - men in Italy. As the chief prosecutor in Italy's "trial of the century", he has more than 20 bodyguards, ensuring his safety around the clock. On trial are 10 men who stand accused of being part of a conspiracy between the mafia and the state. Five of the defendants are mafia bosses and five are members of the political establishment.
In April Brother Biagio Conte took off from Palermo in a fit of pique because his homeless brothers were being mistreated. He decided to walk to Rome carrying a wooden cross. One of his faithful followers walked with him. When the pope heard that Biagio was nearing Rome, he scurried to clear a spot on his appointment calendar to make room for Biagio. This morning Biagio reached Rome and, according to this report in today's Giornale di Sicilia, Pope Francis met with him and Biagio's right-hand man, Father Pino Vitrano, informally for a half hour at one of his rooms at Santa Marta. ( Who was running the three urban homeless shelters, a constant state of emergency, while they were gone, I wonder?) (more…)
Exactly 30 years ago Pippo LoCascio, a learned man, took me as part of a group to the top of Monte Gallo and showed me La Grotta Regina, the Queen Cave where Phoenicians worshiped their goddess. Thirty years later, Pippo LoCascio still leads groups up the mountain to teach them about their own heritage. It is awe inspiring. I lost ten pounds the first time I made that climb. Video from a staunch La Repubblica reporter.
Tens of fires, temperatures above 115 degrees, the sirocco blowing red sand from the Sahara have forced authorities to close nursery schools, day care centers and parts of the Palermo-Messina freeway today. Because of high winds, firefighting airplanes cannot fly.
Update: a trusted Palermo source on Palermo in Bianco e Nero's Facebook page says the column of smoke on Monte Pellegrino means thefires are menacing Santa Rosalia's sanctuary. Fires have broken out in the city in the neighborhoods of Partanna Mondello, Addaura, Vergine Maria. The Rotoli cemetery may go up in flames. People who live near the Cathedral in downtown Palermo have been evacuated.
Residents of La Kalsa, the ancient Arab-founded neighborhood of old Palermo and several businessmen helped a burglar pursued by police to escape. The police were encircled by the crowd and the thief got away with 10,000 euros he and three others had just robbed from a market (more…)
Remember my blog about Yusupha Susso, the young Gambian refugee in Palermo who was shot in the head by a mafioso who wanted to prove he owned the territory the young man and his friends were standing in? Yusupha survived after five days in an induced coma. He speaks five languages, is the son (more…)
Fra Biagio Conte, the self-made brother who started a new religious order in Palermo to serve the poor, homeless and refugees, who feeds and houses a thousand people a day, is about to set off on a journey to Rome by foot, carrying a wooden cross, to see the pope about getting some support (more…)
A young man from Gambia was peacefully talking on a street corner with friends from his native Gambia when a mafioso-type jerk from the neighborhood came up to them and started insulting them. Usually, the immigrants will turn and run. But Yusupha Susso, a 21-year-old Gambian stuck up for himself and for his friends. (more…)
Mayor Leoluca Orlando had closed the La Favorita park to traffic for a few weeks of intensive cleaning before Easter. When the normally messy and littering Palermo public left it absolutely clean after Easter Monday's traditional Pasquetta picnic and barbecues, the newspapers reported the fact giddily. Now here's a scene from an Arabian horse beauty competition in the Favorita, Palermo style. (more…)
Fra Biagio Conte, lay founder of the Catholic church's youngest order, the Missionaries of Charity and Hope, says he is leaving Palermo hurt and disappointed because of what he calls the city's obstruction of his plan to help unfortunate people. Biagio Conte and his colleagues, guest "brothers and sisters,"an army of volunteers and (more…)
In a year every Palermo commuter spends 147 hours blocked in traffic, according to the TomTom Traffic Index and La Repubblica, which measures traffic flow in 295 cities in 38 countries for all of 2015. Palermo, where buses get stuck behind carriage horses, had the worst traffic snarls in Italy. Second worst traffic city in Italy is Rome. (more…)
New trend! Local residents at Addaura on the rocky coast between downtown Palermo and Mondello complain about the phenomenon of sex partner swappers and flashers parking on private property along the coast around 11 p.m. and exchanging sex all night. The campers arrive first followed closely by cars full of singles. The couples knock on the windows of the singles, (more…)
And these are not squatters. There are people who pay dearly to live in a place like this. I know this little piazzetta well because I saw it every day when I visited the Le Balate Library for Children and Babies just a block away.
Interior hall in three-story Palazzina Cinese in La Favorita Park
Construction on King Ferdinand IV's Palazzina Cinese in La Favorita Park began in 1799. Chinoiserie was all the rage then, and this was the second Chinese-type house Ferdinand owned and was designed by the same architect.
Bunch of grown men in their forties in the Capo market quartiere cleaned out a warehouse and found this fake mummy that had been given to one guy's father at Carnevale when he was a kid. They decided to have a laugh, dressed it up in an old ladies' shmatte, called her Aunt Titina (more…)
A new union took over the care and feeding of dogs at the municipal kennel yesterday and immediately went on strike for higher wages, showers and safety clothes. Also, they don't think they should have to exercise or feed the dogs.They are assigned to catch the stray dogs, provide veterinary services and clean (more…)
Anthropology professor Carlo Di Franco leads me through the Ballaro` street market, his favorite place -- on our way to the church of Il Carmine in the Albergheria quarter of Palermo. Professor Di Franco, who teaches a class in symbols in architecture (more…)
From Linea Verde Orizzonti (Green Line Horizons) , a presentation of RAI -tv, a fifty-minute show in Italian highlighting the mixture of cultures that made and makes Palermo what it is. Here is the link in case the embed code did not work:
The wall of Kindness in Via Celso in the city center
Following a European trend, someone in the heart of Palermo has started a "Wall of Kindness". One clothesline where people can leave what they want to donate, or take what they need, not far from the city's principal mosque. Here is a one-minute video report from La Repubblica.
Fra Biagio Conte, founder of Palermo's urban Mission of Hope and Charity, which feeds, houses, trains and cares for more than a thousand homeless people a day in four urban centers, has won a victory. The developer who bought the property adjacent to his Via Archirafi shelter where homeless men collect cardboard to recycle (more…)
The city and regional government have broken their promises and robbed the poor of hope says lay missionary Fra Biagio Conte whose Mission of Hope and Charity houses and feeds more than a thousand destitute people, Palermitans and immigrants alike in four urban missions and now on several farms in Sicily. Fra Biagio says (more…)
Another medieval street with hexagonal paving stones
Vicolo Castelnuovo is off the Via Vittorio Emanuele in the Albergheria quarter. Only a few streets in Palermo are still paved with these elegant hexagonal paving stones. The street is surprisingly free of garbage. South Asians live here.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception, in the Capo market, not far from the Porta Carini, is usually closed. It houses four incredible stone mosaics. I got to see them on a tour with Professor Carlo Di Franco's popular group, La Palermo Dei Misteri, which takes interested members and visitors on fascinating themed tours of old Palermo.
I have bought some of the best strawberries of my life in this market. It is a wonder to walk through these market streets. You often see strange African fruits here too. Like squash with bumpy bristles. It is the best place to buy small souvenirs to take home to friends, like exotic spices and Sicilian capers.
The paving stones are honeycomb-shaped! Author Giuseppe Di Lampedusa's family home gave onto this piazzetta. It was destroyed by an American bomb during WWII, rebuilt and now, just recently, turned into apartments. There used to be a water tower and fountain here that brought icy cold water from the mountains, and thirsty aristocrats would (more…)
This is why I love to roam the back streets of Palermo -- you find streets like this in the historic center. It had been a dump but now it's cleaned up, and somebody started a little garden there. From the Facebok group I Monumenti Abbandonati di Palermo, a group which also meets physically (more…)
Here's a short, silent home movie of Palermo in the thirties. It shows the Liberty gem Villa Deliella, (02:27 behind palms) destroyed in a night in the 1950s by the mafia to make way for a high rise, now the site of a car wash. Its absence breaks the hearts of Palermitans. (more…)
A barber in Palermo leaves work and goes to cut the hair of homeless men and women at a shelter near Palermo's port. I recognize some of the homeless men in this short video from La Repubblica. They are guests of the 40-bed dormitory run by La Danza delle Ombre (The Shadow Dance) a non-profit organization founded by Dr. Marina Scardavi, Palermo's street doctor to the homeless. From their Facebook page.
From the Facebook group "Palermo in Bianco e Nero" (Palermo in black and white), a group pf passionate Palermo lovers, many of whom are amateur historians of the city, great connoisseurs of the city. I will translate the first few comments here:
When the palms were still little!
When the theater was brand new!
When Palermitans loved and respected Palermo. (more…)
Let's see how this goes in Palermo. If people respect the bikes, don't steal them, don't trash them out of pure joy in vandalism. The capital city's brand new bike -sharing system is all set up and ready to go tomorrow.
The service provides 400 bikes, plus 20 more electric-motor-assisted bikes, at 37 bike stations. The electric bikes will be charged by solar panels installed in the bike stations.
From the Guardian:
From 1 January to 6 December this year, 11,360 unaccompanied children like Jamieson – mainly from Eritrea, Nigeria, Gambia, Somalia and Senegal – arrived on its shores.
‘I did not ever think I would reach here,” says 17-year-old Jamieson, staring down at his dusty blue Crocs, given to him when he disembarked from the rescue boat in Sicily, in August. “I look back and I could have died many times. But I try to stop thinking of it. (more…)
The theft of Caravaggio’s Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence from an oratory in Palermo in 1969 is still considered one of the worst art crimes in history.
The 17th-century masterpiece – a depiction of the newborn Christ on a bed of straw, painted in the chiaroscuro technique – was thought to have been painted by Caravaggio in Rome and later moved to Sicily, where it hung for centuries before being cut from its frame by two thieves in the night, never to be seen again.
If you were living in Palermo, this evening you could attend a free jazz concert given in this room at the mansion/museum of Palazzo Mirto just off Piazza Marina in the historic center of Palermo.
The Thrinax Quartet will play the canopied, tapestried, frescoed and chandeliered baldacchino room at the Mirto Palace at five this afternoon. The concert is dedicated to Louis Prima. Admission is free.
The La Spiga d'Oro bakery in Palermo says the following on its Facebook page today:
To you who are having a hard time....
To you who have a family to feed....
To you who can't stretch the budget to the end of the month...
Evenings from 8 p.m. to to 9p.m. stopby and we'll make available everything we did not sell in the line of bread, pizzas, savory buns, foccacce and more...
Our small gesture is just a little help for your life!!!!
The Spiga d'Oro Bread Bakery.
(It's name means "Golden Grain" Bakery.)
Two young Palermo architects have proposed recreating Ernesto Basile's Liberty masterpiece, Villa Deliella, according to the original blueprints which still exist, and to make a museum of it. The idea has the support of politician, art critic and entertainer Vittorio Sgarbi. The art nouveau masterpiece was destroyed over a weekend in 1959 during the Sack of Palermo by mob types who wanted to clear space for their concrete high-density retail/ apartment buildings. From Best of Sicily magazine: (more…)
It's been raining in Palermo. Pilons that hold up bridges have moved out of place on the Palermo-Sciacca highway, a boulder rolled off a mountain and killed an 88-year-old woman asleep in her bed in Mondello ( maybe the house was built illegally close to the mountain) and Corso Vittorio Emanuele stones shone under this bike.
I am grateful that one day walking aimlessly and happily in the neighborhood behind the Palermo Cathedral I found the facade of this house all decorated creatively. I just get the feeling that some older pensioner with a happy, creative bent made this. And I am grateful I had my little Flip camera which I carried in my hand everywhere in that city. Happy Thanksgiving, tutti.
Palermo cut down some ancient trees to install a new tram line, and now they are thinking about what to plant in their place. Along Via Emerico Amari, which leads to the Politeama theater from the cruise ship port, the city counselor in charge of urban greenery, Francesco Maria Raimondo, is thinking about planting (more…)
In July Palermo was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its Arab-Norman architecture, including the cathedrals of Palermo, Monreale and Cefalu` and the Cappella Palatina, all aglitter with golden mosaic tiles. Not gilt mosaic tiles, but solid gold tiles. To make the most of this prestigious world-wide recognition, the city has put together (more…)
Here's Rosalia, the star of the Capuchin Catacombs mummies, a two-year-old girl who died in Palermo around 1920 and was mummified and left behind. You can't see her in this configuration any more, nor even get close to her.
View from the Tower of S. Nicolo`, Albergheria, Palermo
On 12 September, the Tower of the Church of San Nicolo` in the heart of Albergheria in Old Palermo will be open until midnight for half-hour tours. The view is so beautiful. Palermo at night can't be beat.
Two immigrants from Ghana were riding the bus, the 101, which passes every ten minutes. Two local guys got on the bus, smoking cigarettes, which is not allowed. The immigrants asked the Palermo boys to put out their cigarettes, and the two started to beat up the immigrants, who defended themselves. The bus driver stopped (more…)
They tell of torture in the country of origin or during the long voyage to Europe, which may last years. But also psychological traumas undergone n the Italy's "welcome centers". The walk-in clinic of Palermo General Hospital Immigration Medicine has been in service for seven years thanks to the work of volunteers who work (more…)
Anti-mafia judge Paolo Borsellino, who was murdered 23 years ago, knew the risks and said so.
The text is from Judge Paolo Borsellino's red diary, the "agenda rossa" which he never showed to others and which he always kept on his person. It disappeared from the site of the bombing in Via D'Amelio which left Borsellino's corpse limbless. It says:
"They will kill me but it won't be by mafia vendetta, the mafia doesn't indulge in revenge. Maybe it will be mafiosi who physically kill me, but the ones who will have wanted me dead will be others."
It's Sunday, as it was on this date 23 years ago in Via D'Amelio, Palermo. But this time the street is not deserted and isolated like the one that awaited the three autos carrying Paolo Borsellino and his escort. A speaker's stand, flags, colors and many people await the minute, 4:58 p.m., in which a (more…)
The most recent arrivals have been turned away and sent to Sardinia and Calabria because Sicilian immigrant "reception" centers, where immigrants are housed and fed while their fates are decided-- accepted as refugee or sent back to Africa -- are overcrowded and not up to the job of accepting or deferring waves of thousands of arrivals. (more…)
The 391st edition of the five-day Feast of Santa Rosalia started today outside the cathedral where her bones are kept in a giant silver urn. The theme of this year's "festino" is Misericordia, which translates as mercy or benevolence.
You cannot tell a book by its cover. From the outside this palace does not look like much. The man who showed me around has a workshop downstairs. He went to school in this building, now a private residence owned by the family who once owned Palermo's soccer team. And a pasta factory.
In just under 24 hours, one of the poorest and toughest neighborhoods of Palermo mobilized to welcome and care for the 717 refugees, including survivors of shipwreck, who arrived in Palermo yesterday, according to La Repubblica. Volunteers from the Falsomiele neighborhood brought clothes, shoes and tee shirts to distribute to thewomen and children, people who arrived, (more…)
An Irish military ship , Le Eithne, picked up 647 migrants in trouble at sea and brought them to Palermo. Among them were 95 women, two of whom were pregnant. A group of 180 migrans were transferred by ferry from Lampedusa to Porto Empedocle where they will arrive this evening.
The first property Judge Giovanni Falcone confiscated from the mafia in 1980 will be given officially to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of Italy today, although they have been camping and working here for years. The rual compound also contains a qanat and a sirocco room which I visited with Geologist Dr. Pietro Todaro. The (more…)
A beautiful story by my favorite La Repubblica reporter, Claudia Brunetto. I translate it here:
They arrived last June at the port of Palermo, picked up on the high seas by a military ship. And since then they live in the parish of Falsomiele, guided by Father Sergio Mattaliano, director of the Catholic charity (more…)
The crumbling wall of the Oratorio of the Most Holy Rosary in Santa Cita, known locally in Palermo as just "Santa Cita" is covered with obscene graffiti. Inside is one of the baroque masterpieces of stucco moulding, by Palermitano sculptor Giacomo Serpotta, an all-white extravaganza recently cleaned and restored. But on the outside were phallic symbols, (more…)
Giovanni Falcone and his escort , Francesca Morvillo, Vito Schifani, Rocco Dicillo and Antonio Montinaro, were blown up by the mafia by 500 kilos of explosives on the highway between the Palermo airport and town. I had just returned to the states from Palermo and had been on that road after reporting on that spring's Favignana (more…)
The oldest business sign in Palermo, a Liberty ( Art Nouveau) mosaic of the goddess Demeter, goddess of grain, which advertised the only recently defunct Panificio Morello, a bakery in the Capo street market, is beng removed from its site on the front of a derepit building and being taken to the Palazzo Aiutamicristo for (more…)
Here is a video of a funeral cortege that stops traffic in the middle of Piazza Independenza in downtown historic center of Palermo. They open the door to the hearse carrying the corpse, and set off fireworks so the deceased can see them. One commentor said, " (more…)
Mayor Orlando says Europe has washed its hands of the tragedy and abandoned Sicily and Italy to its own devices when it comes to handling the huge continuing wave of refugees.
Three rescued Somalis, picked up by Maltese mercantile ship, arrived at Palermo and were hospitalized for health problems. Altogether 91 Somalis arrived at Palermo's (more…)
Last week Sicily was cut in two when an overpass on the Palermo-Catania Highway A19 broke up. One of the pilons sustaining the bridge ceded to a mudslide, leaned like the Tower of Pisa and is now pressing against other pilons. Engineers say the bridge will have to be demolished and rebuilt. Sicily has (more…)
After the crumbling of several buildings in the neglected Vucciria, the city has finally decided to spend some time and money fixing the historic market site up. It will take a year, with a firm that "works very fast", to pull up the limestone paving stones, work on the light and telephone cables and (more…)
Sicilian police have jailed 15 Moslems accused of throwing more than ten Christians overboard into the open sea. They were a hundred moslems and Christians traveling together on a trafficker's rubber raft seeking to reach Sicily ( and Europe) when a fight over religion broke out.
A thousand refugees are expected to land in Sicily today. (more…)
1,169 immigrants expected in Palermo alone by tomorrow morning. After the winter hiatus, immigrants are making the dangerous trip in unseaworthy boats and rafts again. More than ten rescue operations in the Canale di Sicilia today alone.
Archeologist Alberto Scuderi, geoarcheologist Francesca Mercadante and her husband and co-explorer Dr. Pippo Lo Cascio have discovered that a seven-foot high rock with a hole carved out of it on a hilltop in Palermo province was actually a second-millenium B.C. megalithic structure that celebrates the winter solstice. On December 22 the first rays of (more…)
This votive altar was in the Albergheria quarter. A the end of this street are five steps down and you are right in front of the gated entrance to the cathedral. I loved the lights strung on in vertical stripes.
It is a tradition all over southern Italy to promise a thing of value to a saint in exchange for a "grazia ricevuta", a favor received, often a cure. Those who could afford it often bought silver miniature bas relief replicas of the body part which received the grace. They pin them to the (more…)
From La Repubblica/Palermo edition of 22 March 2015.
A restaurant owner has given up and decided to move out of the Vucciria market area and night life hub of Palermo after a bonfire on the Eve of Saint Joseph's Feast (March 19) practically destroyed his business and put his customers and staff in danger. (more…)
Hundreds of people reduced their electric bill to zero with a single jack in a distribution box and people lined up out the door of a hacker nicknamed the Magician of the Computer to pay 300 euros to have their meter's software modified so as not to register usage. (more…)
An old photo of the sirocco room before it was filled with refuse. It is now clean and pristine again, thanks to the scouts of Sicily.
This is an outdoor sirocco room where eighteenth -century grandees would go to cool off in the summer when the hot, humid wind blew up from the Sahara. The source of the cooling, flowing water is a qanat. It is located withing the Palermo city limits, in a southern, somewhat rural, quarter called Altarello (more…)
From today's La Repubblica. This man who paid lip service to anti-extortionists and anti-mafia movements was caught red handed pocketing part of the 100,000-EURO fee he charged a pastry-shop owner in order to renew his lease at the Palermo airport. At first he denied the (more…)
Here is a shot of the art deco mosaic of Demeter, the goddess of grain, outside a bread bakery in the Capo market of Palermo. The mosaic is still there. The bakery recently closed. People are forming Facebook groups to save the mosaic, have it put in a museum.
In the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the women of Danissini, in downtown Palermo, were renowned launderers for the rich and aristocratic. They took in the counts' and dukes' soiled, frilly white shirts, washed them in the stream you see here and ironed them. Danissini is one of the poorest parts of Palermo. (more…)
Here is the mosaic of Il Capo, one of Palermo's three suqs. It is an art deco (in Sicily they would say Stile Liberty) mosaic depicting Demeter, the goddess of grains and agriculture, the mother of Persephone, and it is embedded in the exterior wall of the now closed Panificio Morello. A few tiles (more…)
Today Sergio Mattarella, who in 1980 pulled his dead brother, Piersanti, then President of the Sicilian region, from his car, was elected President of the Republic of Italy. Yes, if you lose your brother to dirty assassins, you are a victim. A man from the south, one who has shed tears because of the Mafia, is now at the head of the country. (more…)
Everywhere you walk in historic Palermo, there are mattresses in the street. They can be taken away by the city for free by simply calling a toll-free number, but I think either the Palermitani don't know about this service, or they leave the mattresses for homeless people to sleep on. Some are thoughtfully kept (more…)
My grandmother or my grandfather might have boarded one of these ships. Emigration is big business. It was legal to go to the United States, so my grandparents could travel ( separately; they weren't married when they left Sicily) in safe, steel ships instead of on rubber rafts or in unseaworthy fishing boats like the (more…)
Archeogeologist Dr. Francesca Mercadante and her husband, Dr. Pippo Locascio, of Partanna-Mondello, have dicovered an intact megalithic Bronze Age village within Palermo's northern city limits, on the littoral below the cliffs of Capo Gallo between the seaside villages of Sferracavallo and Mondello.
The Palermo city archives off Via Maqueda is an experience in itself. It was designed like the inside of a cargo ship. It was recently spruced up and the staff offer guided tours of the collections. Thanks to Facebook group Palermo in Bianco e Nero for this photo. This shot is taken from the (more…)
From one of my favorite blogs, Amo Palermo. The author walks around the city center with a camera and snaps pictures of buildings and streets undergoing improvements. It's a blog with a lot of positive energy. The author now has a regular column in the newspaper Il Corriere .
Piazza Bologni, also on the Cassaro, since last year at this time has been auto-free. Mayor Leoluca Orlando has been freeing up various historic piazzas, turning them from parking lots into pedestrian malls. From the blog "Amo Palermo," which means, I Love Palermo.
Thanks to costagar51, an avid Palermo fan and photographer, whose work I admire on the blog Domodama. even the narrowest, most decrepit alleyways in the historic center are lit by these elegant, cast iron lamps. This photo of a balcony laden with flower pots was taken on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Palermo's oldest street, (more…)
Front-page headlines on 1 January 2015. Snow on the beach at Cefalu`. Snow on the palm trees. Dirty city snowmen. Only two snowplows in all of the Madonie mountains. Photos sent in to La Repubblica by its readers at this link:
Spider Man, the burglar, caught with his backpack on.
For the autumn of 2012 I lived at the Palazzo Vannucci on the Cassaro, I had a third-floor bedroom that stretched from the facade of the palace to the back of the palace, plus the studio underneath that, (more…)
This used to be a second-floor French door with balcony overlooking the Capo market.
Much of Palermo's historic center, the largest in Europe, is walled up like this window in what used to be a lovely art deco building above the heads of the market merchants. Some such buildings house newly-arrived clandestine immigrants.
Near the end of the Capo street market in the quarter behind the Palermo cathedral is a narrow lane called Street of the Flying Chairs where once these elegant travel booths were made. The cabs were carried on long poles on men's shoulders and seemed to fly above the crowds. Men and women of (more…)
I ate my first persimmon in Palermo. You cut off the top and eat he flesh with a small spoon. So sweet, one does not talk while eating them. Friends will bring over a basket of them for dessert. They look like frosted tomatoes.
A multi-headed monster puppet representing the Cuticchio family of puppeteers
In the hundreds of episodes that make up one drama from the repertoire of the Siciilan puppet theater, there is one many-headed monster which appears only once onstage. This lifelike sculpture is a spoof on that monster, representing instead the now-deceased head of the Cuticchio family and his children, puppeteers all, growing from his head.
I found this nut and seed store while wandering the back streets of La Kalsa, the central Palermo neighborhood directly across the street from my palace rooms in Via Vittorio Emmanuele. I just liked the way it looked.
I was walking home from an event at the Santa Chiara urban mission in the ancient, low-income Albergheria neighborhood of Palermo when these boys who were kicking a soccer ball around in the street said, "Take my picture! We'll be on YouTube!"
Some of the best entertainment in the city right in the heart of it, near the Teatro Massimo in Via Bara all'Olivella. Enacting the stories of the paladins of Charlemagne.
I first saw this church on one of Anthrolpogist Carlo di Franco's Palermo of Mysteries tours in Palermo's Capo market. Usually this church is closed, but he had someone open it one night for his group of 100 Palermo lovers. we oohed at the intarsio, four stone inlay side altars that looks as though they're painted.
I am not sure what this building was before it was a mosque. The fence posts bear crescent moons and often I see clean wet laundry hung on the fence, jeans and shirts, as if someone lives there. Many Moslems go to storefront mosques on Friday afternoons, but this one is lovely with rugs (more…)
If you die young in Ballaro` someone will immortalize you with a giant mural of your face and maybe a garden, tended like an altar, that no one will defile. Pasquale Ferrara and Giuseppe Giufridda were two youths of Ballaro` and this mural of them was near the Mercato del Usato, the used items market, otherwise (more…)
Archeogeologist Francesca Mercadante, of Partanna Mondello, photographs an opium poppy growing in someone's driveway garden in Sferracavallo, a fishing village quartiere on the north side of Palermo. Dr. Mercadante said that a vase found at a Greek temple in Sicily had vegetation depicted on it. One decorative illustration, for many years, had been misinterpreted (more…)
I went out on the Danza delle Ombre meals- on-wheels run for the homeless with Chiara and Irene Campagna this evening, for the last time.
You see the strangest things. Drunken Europunks sleeping on the cold hard sidewalk where they urinate, surrounded by a pack of large mongrel dogs, one of which just had seven puppies. Across the street was this forlorn, lonely roosting hen on a leash, tied to a garbage can, waiting for her homeless master to get back from whatever it was he was doing. Different kind of pet.
When we ran out of food to deliver, the sisters, who volunteer to deliver food every week, asked me what food I liked. Pizza, crostini, cannolicchi. Then they talked about their favorite arancine, which are fried rice balls containing, traditionally, either butter (more…)
Piergiorgio Leone at the Grotta Perciata, Mondello
And I spent the morning in Mondello and Sferracavallo, by the sea. In Sferracavallo to see a complete, intact, protohistoric Bronze Age megalithic village, and in Mondello on the slopes of Monte Gallo to visit a panoramic, historic garden planted in the early 1900's, with archeological treasures from 10,000 years ago. (more…)
Fra Biagio Conte, a layman, a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis, houses and feeds more than a thousand people in his four urban shelters and communities in Palermo. His guests are Sicilians, Italians, Europeans, Asians, and Africans, men, women and children. Recently his prayers have been answered. He always wanted to (more…)
Dr. Marina Scardavi founded a non-profit called Shadow Dance to aid the homeless in body and soul. She got to know Palermo's homeless people through her homeless friend, Mohammed, an Iranian immigrant who earned a degree in architecture at the University of Palermo, but who prefers to be a vagabond who cares for other street people. (more…)
These two girls were waiting for the Dead Christ and Sorrowful Madonna to come out of the church on Good Friday. I thought they were extremely cute. They were not posing for me, but showing solidarity in the face of another, older girl, who was jealous of something they had, and who claimed, loudly and repeatedly, to have TEN of same.
OUR HOUSING PLAN: OCCUPY EVERYTHING!
This was a manifesto I found plastered to the front of the train station this morning, a place where the homeless, at least many of them, the single men, gather to accept food donations at night and sleep wrapped in blankets under the portico where they can stay out (more…)
Antonella, her friend Cetty, and Cetty's newborn daughter, Nicole, in the Convento delle Vergini which they occupied.
From our kitchen balcony I can see the lights are on in the cloistered convent across Piazza Venezia. Since December 2013, the convent, empty for two years after the last three aged nuns living there were transfered, has been occupied by palermitan homeless families. I visited them two days ago. Ten families, 35 people, of whom 22 are children. (more…)
A corner of the 100-seat dining room of the Accoglienza Femminile of Fra Biagio Conte's Missione Pace e Speranza
Last week I visited the Women's Home, one of three centers comprising Brother Biagio Conte's Mission of Peace and Hope. It houses roughly a hundred homeless women, palermitans and immigrants, single women, women with young children and women with infants. It is housed inside the former convent of Saint Catherine of Sienna in Via (more…)
I spent yesterday afternoon with Mohammed, a homeless Iranian architect, a vagabond by nature, a kind man who helps all the other homeless people less fortunate than he. He lives with three or four dogs, and visiting pigeons, cats, seagulls, lizards and human friends, in a camper by the sea, at the Foro Italico, (more…)
This is just the bottom decorative part of a 6-foot-tall faceless clock he is making to install in the Provincial office building across the street, the palace where he was born.
Marcello Lampone has invented an electro-mechanical (non-digital) watch and/or clock with no minute- hand nor hour- hand. I cannot imagine how you can tell the time from it. He won't let me see it , or explain it, until it is patented. He is hoping for a sponsor to help him pay for the (more…)
Guided visit today to the ex- Florio tonnara in Arenella, Palermo, conducted by the president of the non-profit association, La Palermo Dei Misteri, anthropologist and professor Carlo Di Franco, a man who can make the stones talk.
The tonnara had been there for three centuries when the Florio family ( the Sicilian Rockefellers, originally from (more…)
Link to wonderful photos of the interior of my favorite church in downtown Palermo, la Martorana, a Norman-Arab beauty with gold and lapis mosaics by Byzantine masters and inscriptions in Arabic on column capitals. Thanks to AmoPalermo blog for these photos. The church was most recently restored in November 2012.
Jesuit priests built a fine monastery and had use of two qanats, underground water supplies built in the persian style, to water their fields and grapevines, and they made fine wine. With the unifiction of italy, in 1861, all religious property became state property, and the state decided to use this convent and surrounding grounds (more…)
These are not tree trunks, but shoots or branches the banyan tree sends down to the ground that then root. This is not even one -third the diameter of the tree. This one happens to be the largest banyan tree on the European continent.
Filippo Basile, one of Palermo's finest architects, designed this small, square park in the Liberty style. (more…)
I just realized my last eight posts were all about food and places to get it. I've been on a diet, so I'm obsessed, I guess you could say. So today I took a walk in the park. A guided tour of the Villa Garibaldi. The cast iron fence that surrounds it and the (more…)
The overflow crowd at lunchtime, Antica Focacceria San Francesco
The food is so good and the prices so reasonable that the crowd spills out the door a full hour before traditional Sicilian lunchtime. Not so bad, though, because across the piazza is the fabulous medieval ( 1300s) Basilica di San Francesco. To see what they serve, go to www.afsf.it for mouth-watering photos (more…)
Two guys from Tunisia and Bangladesh serve bi-national fast food.
The largest foreign population of Palermo are the people from Bangladesh. Every time I walk home from the Teatro Massimo neighborhood, down Via Maqueda to the corner of Via Napoli, I pass this one fast food place, Bangla Sonar, that emits the most delicious aromas of spices unknown to me. It's a clean, well-lit (more…)
This seems to be the favorite coffeepot of the house, despite the fact that its handle fell off, or melted off, and the plastic knob on the lid has melted into a sorry blob. Once a coffee pot is seasoned, no one wants to get rid of it. It takes a long time to break in a new one. (more…)
Beautiful majolica-covered church dome in Ballaro`
Prof. Carlo Di Franco, an anthropologist, author and president of the non-profit cultural association Palermo Dei Misteri, has been walking me around the four quarters of Palermo. Most recent trip was to Ballaro`, where he pointed out this beautiful, majolica tile-covered church cupola known locally and affectionately as the Breast of Ballaro`, although he named it in Sicilian.
This old abandoned palace in the Vucciria market crumbled shortly after I got here.
Two historic palazzi have crumbled from neglect in Palermo's city center since I got here early February, and more are ready to fall. I walked around the centro with a group wearing hardhats to raise consciousness about the frailty of these once stunning medieval, abandoned buildings.