20 May 2005

A continent, one ocean...and 38 hours later!

Fontana Pretoria
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Or to be more precise: one continent, an ocean, two seas, three planes, a taxi, a shuttle, a bus…and 38 hours later I arrived at my final destination in Palermo, Sicily.

In the interim, I was too exhausted and weary by the time I figured out the domestic flight situation to take the train in to Rome. Neither was Air One the model of efficiency on that particular day--I feared missing my connection. Since my layover was whittled down from 7 hours to about 4, Rome will have to wait until another trip!

The bus from the airport deposited us at the main train station in the historic quarter of the city. A gentleman from Australia was also in search of his hotel, so we set out together in hopes of finding our information adequate and our sense of direction accurate. He had just flown in from London to spend a week sailing around Sicily with friends. After that, he was off to Norway. This, of course, left me curious as to what circumstances allow him time for all of that travel.

After checking in to the Hotel Letizia, I found a shop around the corner that was open and ordered a panino with prosciutto and mozzarella to consume before gratefully collapsing into bed.

May 21st was my first full day in Palermo, and I discovered what was to become one of my favorite items to eat--arancine. Basically, they are sticky rice balls that are stuffed with different things and lightly fried. Some I ate had mozzarella and prosciutto in the middle; others had meat in red sauce with peas nestled in the center.

I spent the rest of the morning wandering the neighboring streets, and happened upon the Archivio di Stato di Palermo. Since I was planning on visiting the state archives in Enna, I was particularly interested to see how this one was organized as a precursor to what I might expect to find later. In the reading room, there were five or six individuals intently searching through old volumes of civil records. Adjacent rooms had steel shelves packed with old manuscripts and record indices from the floor to nearly the ceiling. In fact, a rolling ladder seemed to be the only way to reach the upper shelves approximately 12-14 feet above ground level.

After the requisite nap and lunch, I spent the afternoon exploring Via Maqueda. I stopped by the Fontana Pretoria, a fountain designed by a Tuscan sculptor named Francesco Camilliani. Apparently, it has been known as the “fountain of shame” because of the nude statues that stand as sentinels around the base of each level.

I continued on window shopping, wandering through part of the Capo Market, successfully bartering for a small painted cat (made out of wood), and ultimately ended up on the steps in front of the Teatro Massimo. This is a place I would return to more than once to rest my feet and watch the people passing in their evening ritual of enjoying the passeggiata.

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