Adventure awaits in Palermo!
The start of grad school has arrived and classes begin next week! But as the start of school began to loom ever closer last week, I wanted to take one last trip. I’ve avoided going anywhere by plane all summer because flights in the summer are very expensive. Because of that I didn’t pick a destination and then look for a flight, I went on Skyscanner to see which of the overpriced summer flights was the least overpriced. The winner of this search was Palermo! I’d never been to Sicily, so I was excited to see what it was like, and I had no idea what to really expect.
I hadn’t really done much research about Palermo, so it was all new to me, but Palermo is nearly as old as Rome is and has such a varied history; at various times through history is has been controlled by Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, and Normans. This multicultural history is most prominently seen in the magnificent architecture throughout the city and region. The historic city center is home to many magnificent churches and palaces.
I left Palermo with a much longer list of things to see on a future visit than I was able to see this time around. I spent 2 days exploring the sites in the city center, the most incredible of which were the Cathedral of Palermo, the Royal Palaces(which I wasn’t able to see the inside of this time), the Zisa Castle, and the tombs of the Cappuccin monks. Luckily this semester I will be taking a course about Medieval Sicily, which will take me back to Palermo in just a couple months, so this is not the last you will be hearing about Palermo!
My final day in Palermo was spent on an outdoor excursion that I found through Airbnb experiences. I felt that with the beautiful natural landscape of Sicily I should be sure to take the time to see some of that in addition to the historical sites. The host Luca was absolutely fantastic and I couldn’t have imagined a better day than the one he provided for us. We were all picked up near our hotel/hostels in the city center before heading out of town to various swimming spots.
We went to 3 different sea coves in the area to the west of Palermo: Cala Rossa, Paternella, and San Cataldo. Each of the three sites were unique in their own ways and it was so great to see some of the seascape of the Sicilian coast. At Cala Rossa we were able to see the pink colored rock from which it gets its name as well as a bit of sea life; Luca pointed out the sea tomatoes (which are not edible!) and areas where there were caves of sea anemones (avoid those, they sting).
Paternella was a short drive away and we were able to swim to some larger sea caves and see how the rock formations and caves are formed by the different types of rock (mainly limestones and sandstones) being eroded by the ocean at different rates. At this location Luca pointed out areas where we could safely cliff jump. I had never done any sort of cliff jumping before and luckily Luca was able to guide me to a safe beginners’ spot about 3 meters high to try (my rarely seen adventurous side almost had be jumping from the 12 meter spot the experienced jumpers were using). It was a great experience to try something new and to push myself to confront my fear of heights.
We had lunch at an amazing restaurant in Terrasini with fresh local seafood, taking a much needed rest before tackling our last sea spot for the day. San Cataldo was definitely to most incredible of the sites, and the most work to get to. We took a short hike from the beach to an old military bunker with stairs down to the water. The view was incredible and the caves at this cove were really interesting; the water deep inside seemed to glow because of the light bouncing through the clear water!
By the time we finished with our 3 sea spots I thought my muscles were about to give out from nearly 8 hours of constant swimming and hiking. Our last spot of the day was a natural thermal hot spring next to a river. The hot water was wonderful after the long day on the ocean, and we even were able to use the natural mud under the spring for a nice body mud mask. It definitely worked as well because I actually felt great the next day when I’d expected to barely be able to walk!
Palermo might have been chosen by a throw of the figurative dice, but it was the perfect last summer trip, I’m eagerly awaiting my next trip down south.