Art, history and… food lessons!
Saturday, June 17, 2017 + Sunday, June 18, 2017
There is a lot to see in Palermo. You might have to pick and choose, but you cannot leave the city without visiting the Royal Palace (Palazzo dei Normanni) and the Palatine Chapel. Both go together and a 12 euros fee gives you access to these two adjacent sites PLUS a special exhibition in one the palace rooms.
Again, no line ups, no crowds, and a cool environment. You could not have asked for anything better during this hot day.
We started with the exhibition in Sala Duca di Montalto (Novecento Italiano, Una storia), where a wide variety of paintings and sculptures, most of them from private collections, were paying tribute to XIX century artists. A beautiful and interesting display!
On the first floor, the Palatine Chapel – a magnificent harmony of Byzantine, Islamic and Latin influences – awaits. This is our second visit, but I could never get tired of it! The small church is dedicated to St. Peter, the Apostle, and every space is covered with rich and detailed artwork. What an amazing sight! I have been told that with the right connections (of course!), you can have your wedding there. The problem for me is that I would pay more attention to the arches than to the groom. Not a good start… LOL
The second floor leads to the Royal Palace, and royal it is!! The royal apartments are a series of beautiful rooms with high ceilings and amazing frescos. Each room has a theme and most of the furniture is made of unique pieces worth a fortune. The Hercules Hall is still the the place where members of the Regional Assembly of Sicily meet and therefore, no pictures are allowed.
Picture this! The hall leading to the Royal Palace is punctuates by large beautiful vases sitting on pieces of furniture. A beautiful mirror at eye level reflects the scalloped drapes from across. This is picture perfect and I ask Raymond to pick an angle. Oh, wait… I notice this “Do not touch” sign in front of one the vases and promptly remove it for the sake of photography. So far so good EXCEPT that the guard sees me, comes rushing in and asks what I am doing! I explain the photography thing. He tells me that everything is recorded on camera and that HE would be blamed for the incident. I say I will take responsibility. He says no… HE would be blamed. Period. I put the sign back. He is happy and walks away. Phew! Hope the picture turns out the way I wanted… without the ugly sign!!!
Food Etiquette – Travellers beware!
Etiquette #1 – It is a mortal sin to ask for cheese with any kind of pasta with fish!! Here is my story: We were having a beautiful dinner at Al Vecchio Club, Trattoria Rosa Nero (a trendy place with a hard core Palermo soccer team decor), and ordered a seafood spaghetti entree (Spaghetti alle vongole). When I asked for some cheese, the waiter almost had a stroke! Flabbergasted, he said this was definitely a no-no. After the shock, he realized he was talking to a customer, and told me that if I really wanted some cheese, he would bring it… nice recovery but by then, I knew better than to says yes!!! LOL
P.S. The restaurant does not have a website, but if you google it, you can see some pictures of its “one of a kind” decor.
Etiquette #2 – It is a mortal sin to eat arancini with a fork and knife! This I learned at our last family dinner on Sunday evening. Arancini are rice balls (they come in other shapes as well), filled with a meat-base preparation or other savoury ingredients. After it is shaped, you first roll it in a flour liquid dough, then in bread crumbs. You let it sit in the fridge for a while (at this stage, it can also be frozen), then gently fry it like a potato croquette. When served, you pick it up with a napkin and bring it to your mouth. Any other way is, well… NOT the right way! LOL
It was an evening of goodbyes. The cousins from Belgium are flying out tomorrow morning, while Angela and Giuseppe – both teachers – will be resuming their classroom duties. We certainly enjoyed their company and all the conversations!
It is difficult here to go to bed before midnight, and this evening is no exception.