Before sunrise on Monday, J and I walked a mile through the empty streets of Venice to Piazzale Roma and caught a bus to the airport.
We landed in Palermo under two hours later, took the hour-long train ride to the central station, and walked fifteen minutes through the trash-filled streets to our bed and breakfast.
The hosts were exceedingly friendly, perhaps to make up for the grungy neighborhood and average rooms. It was a family-run place: a hand-kissing husband, the talkative wife, and a daughter in town to help out.
My mother and sister returned from getting coffee and we caught up on their adventures from the day before.
We wandered the neighborhood to figure out the bus system.
Inner courtyard of the bed and breakfast.
Nearby church entrance.
Our first stop that afternoon was the Catacombe dei Cappuccini. This vast burial chamber under an unassuming building in the outskirts of the city contains about 1252 mummies, separated into different rooms.
The variety and amount of bodies, dress, and decay is fascinating. Some are skeletal, others have hair and skin. Some seem ready to pop off the wall or bust out of their coffin and walk the halls.
No photos were allowed.
One of many mummy-filled hallways.*
Nope, not creepy at all.*
Afterward, we walked to Cappella Palatina only to find it closed for the day.
We found a popular restaurant nearby in one of the side streets. It was full of happy families eating together. Kids ran around the fish of the day display and landscaping. We ordered a delicious meal of pastas and fish. It would prove to be one of the more authentic, pleasant, and delicious meals of Sicily.
Castello della Zisa.
Abandoned apartment near the SEXY DUCK adult movie store.
Big cactus, small car.
Mom and her Fiat.
In every alley, people were grilling meats on little grills.
Stalled road improvement.
Overgrown with flowers.
More chilling and grilling.
Can I pet your bird, Charles?
Looking up at Quattro Canti.
Two old doors.
Back alley scenery.
M and the massive ficus in Villa Garibaldi.
Luchador badger prison.
Tuesday morning, we checked out of the hotel and walked to the train station. I bought us tickets to Cefalù (€5.50 each), and we waited for the next train at a coffee shop my mother and sister had gone to a few days before.
Palermo didn’t leave the best impression. It was grungy, falling apart, and full of sketchy-looking men loitering around. The epicenter of this is the area around the train station, but that was expected.
We didn’t have time to disprove our first impressions.
Outside the train window, the crumbling city quickly transitioned to small oceanside homes and farms of citrus, artichokes, olives, and greens.
After an hour, we arrived in Cefalù. Our lanky AirBnB host met us at the station and quickly led us into town.
The apartment was at the start of the old town, up some stairs from the main road. For our group, the layout was perfect: large kitchen/living room, two bedrooms on the first floor, one bedroom upstairs, and 1.5 baths. The large balcony overlooked the rooftops of the neighboring homes, and offered a sliver of view to the ocean. The only downsides were no wifi and a sitting shower that made it hard to not spray water all over the floor.
Steps to the apartment.
The roof, the roof, the roof has been fired.
Our water view.
The rock out the front door.
We unloaded our bags and strolled through town, checking out the cathedral. We turned east at the end of the main road and followed the water to the lighthouse.
The ocean was many perfect shades of blue. The large, cottony clouds drifted inland.
A touristy-looking, but empty, restaurant with an awesome view served a decent meal of fish, grilled vegetable, and risotto. The host (and possibly cook) was talkative and enthusiastic.
One of numerous types of pistachio balls we ate.
The cathedral exterior with the rock to the right.
The cathedral interior.
Our lunch view of town.
Lost in fiction.
A cool looking peninsula with ruins on it.
Meat, plate, bone, bulb.
A spigot from the medieval laundry area.
The laundry area fed by springs and draining into the sea.
A view of the sandy beach.
That afternoon, J and my sister and I hiked up the massive “rock” towering behind the city (€3 each at the trailhead).
Some remains of the ancient city are still visible on the hike, along with an ancient temple of Doric architecture. On the summit of the promontory are extensive remains of a Saracenic castle.
The walk was all uphill, and fairly strenuous. Wildflowers bloomed everywhere and a few trees provided shade.
At the top of the rock, the view was incredible: water on three sides and the green mountainous land of Sicily on the other.
The first little view.
One of the smaller old cisterns.
Looking up to the old castle.
Flowers on the precipice.
Another view of the peninsula.
The reconstructed castle wall.
J on the wall.
Hiking through the woods to the rest of the ruins.
A temple from before Christ.
Old bread oven.
Heraldic old men.
We bought groceries after the hike and my mother prepared dinner at the apartment. It almost felt like we were a traditional Italian family.
After dinner, I slaughtered them play the card game Thirteen.
On Wednesday, we went to the beach and explored the city some more. My personal goal was to find and pat as many stray cats as possible.
A large amount of different types of police were on patrol. Their focus seemed to be around the main plaza, and my mother deduced that a shop might have been robbed.
I struggled with a sluggish ticket kiosk at the train station. It had numerous disconnection errors before I was able to purchase our forward tickets to Catania (€12 each).
We ate a fancy seafood lunch and saved money by having eggs and potatoes at the apartment for dinner.
Another stroll on the beach with tons of sail jellyfish littering the sand.
What do you mean you won’t pull my finger?
Boulder blocking wall.
View from the cat’s domain.
May I help you?
What a bird sees.
Garage and caution tape.
Someone’s backyard cave.
Thursday morning, we hauled our bags to the nearly empty Cefalù train station and waited for our noon train to Catania via Messina.
If the trains don’t kill you, the electricity will.
Waiting is the hardest part.
The beachside town was a nice relief from Palermo tension. Any place with beautiful water, old buildings, narrow alleys, pretty hiking trails, and plenty of stray cats isn’t a place I’m in a rush to leave from.
*Photo via internet.