Posted by on 5, Feb 2023 in 2023 - Sicily and Italy, Italy, Tilly the Tandem


After we had managed to find a restaurant for our first Sicilian supper, which turned out to be delicious, things didn’t start well on day 2 when I managed to lock us out of our bedroom when we went to breakfast, leaving the key in the door inside the room. In my defence, I’m an idiot. Anyway, the hotel were used to it and took the handle off the door so quickly it made you wonder what the point of the lock was!

But after 24 hours here we think we’ve sussed the drivers. The people we’ve met are nice, kind, enthusiastic about us and just how we find most people in most countries – lovely.

You already know we constantly obsess about drivers. If you’re a cyclist yourself you’ll totally get this and if you’re not you’ll probably just think we are moaning minies.

However, when they get behind the wheel they sign a pact with the devil and leave their manners behind. They hoot, gesticulate and shove their cars out into oncoming traffic until something eventually either hits them or lets them in and they park anywhere and anyhow they like. Space not big enough? Just park nose on and bump up on the pavement, right up to the wall. In the UK most pavement parking leaves room for a pram to get past, or at least a person. Here, Victoria Beckham wouldn’t get past if she breathed in!

They don’t let anyone out and are terribly impatientit which makes for utter chaos in the town centres but it’s also so counter productive it makes everything have to go at a crawl too, which is actually great for us!. But our flag pole manoeuvre (which sounds like a great title for a book) is just what they’d do. Look after number 1 first!!… and they don’t seem bothered by it either. So, we’re sorted, at least for now anyway!

The cycle from Mondello to Palermo was along the coast and very dramatic. The old fishing port sea side resort of Mondello was a bit run down and tatty but still had hints of its former glory, especially with the baths being on a very grand and ornate pier. The sea front had a nice beach and promenade complete with cycle track!

The road up to the Buddhist temple in the hills behind was lit up like a Christmas tree the night before we left and looked spectacular, though far too steep for us to contemplate!

The coastal route was gorgeous but Palermo sea front is just a park and the main port. No wonder they all zip off to Mondello in the summer. The old city though is spectacular but again, a bit dilapidated and shabby. This could easily become a gem of a city with a bit of reinvestment to rival some of the great Spanish cities and to be fair a few areas of the city do seem to have started renovation work.

The buildings are fabulous, even if some are abandoned. They are monumental inscale and boast a great variety of styles, Norman, Roman, Islamic. It’s all a bit odd at first but works well and is extraordinarily beautiful. The city is full of churches too, all seemingly trying to out compete each other in their ornate interiors. But the cathedral, though more like an Anglican cathedral in the interior in it’s plainness, is spectacular from outside. Easily one of our favourite architectural exterior cathedrals.

The main city centre has been shut off to cars which must have gone down well with a region that treats double parking as a national sport. But it makes it a lovely place to stroll, if a bit nippy still in January when out of the sun. I’d be contemplating sandals and shorts now for cycling but the locals are still wrapped up like nanook of the north.

Our hotel is a good walk from the centre and it’s a challenge to get safely across the 5 lane roads and navigate the footpaths (where they’re not car parks) and avoid the dog poo. The street lighting is about as effective as those solar powered garden lights and so getting home poo free is Sicilian Poolette! So far we’ve been lucky!

The highlight for us so far has been the Palatine Chapel, a Norman chapel covered from top to bottom in ornate mosaics with gold eveywhere. It’s part of the UNESCO site here and gorgeous. We can’t imagine how people must have felt nealy a thousand years ago upon entering it.

Another highlight for us has been the food. Many of you will know I’m extraordinarily fussy, to put it mildly, but here we’ve tried various local dishes which have been very good. We’ve encountered the normal issues of wanting to eat early but restaurants not opening until after 7pm and the fact that many don’t have any indoor seating and it’s not warm enough for us to sit outside in thick parkas and wooly hats like the locals, mainly because we didn’t pack thick parkas and wooly hats!

So we got up on our departure day from Palermo to be greeted by a full on street fight with a man bashing another guy over the head with his motorcycle helmet outside our bedroom balcony.. He was in full berserker mode and 4 people couldn’t restrain him. They’re very expressive the locals and we shut the door a d decides to ignore what was going on.. We said goodbye to Deborah and Michael our absolutely amazing hosts at our hotel, which was fantastic and set off past the debris and into Palermo to visit another part of the UNESCO site that we had tried to visit twice before only to find it closed.

Another church with more amazing frescos – what a great way to finish our visit here. We then headed for the mayhem of the traffic exiting the city at the breakneck speed of about 5kph. They say traffic in London moves slower now than in the Victorian age, well Palermo it moves slower than the stone age, well maybe not Fred Flintstone… Hooting, shoving in and generally no road rules, but at last we found a segregated cycle lane and sailed along having to be extremely cautious at junctions as the cars took no notice of the cycle lane and just ploughed right through it. To be fair they’d probably never seen a bicycle on it before and we have seen around 100 bike racks throughout the city and not one bicycle in them. It’s not popular here… I wonder why!

Still, we loved the city and all the people we met there, but glad to be underway.. even if it was a murky wet day….

One Comment

  1. No parkas and wooly hats ?
    What on earth did you pack !

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.