Today we will leave Sicily. A week in Siracusa, two days Modica, a week in Palermo. This week clouded by a quite unpleasant virus for us both. Remarkably fortunate to have been where we were, above the ultimate fresh food market, able to fetch small delights to cook as well as strawberries and blood oranges and bottles of strangely delicious and pale 'Fanta' - not the real thing really, just a pale Italian version authorised by Coca Cola, containing real juice (three oranges to the bottle, lacking colouring agents. No escaping the globalisation though, bring home a bottle of standard local mineral water (fraction of price of such in Australia) and discover it is a Nestle product.
Many writing projects incomplete. But lasting impressions in the mind. We realise that to be in Capo district we are very much at the centre of old Palermo. Which deserves several essays. Yes you do still have to pay mafia protection for a stall downstairs (conversation with someone who has to pay); yes, we do have, for more research and writing perhaps, photos of the names on the memorial to the fallen in the war against the Mafia, 100 metres away, round the corner, other side of the apartment, piazza of the Tribunale of Palermo and the Ministry of Justice. Yesterday we took the town bus to the hill village of Monreale, where the Normans left their greatest buildings. And shared a superb lunch in a small trattoria with charming Korean friend Lee Junyoung (following the rule: walk 100 metres + away from a tourist attraction).
Today we take the 10am train, the west Sicily intercity for Rome, which meets the east Sicily (Siracusa) intercity for Rome at Messina, at the top left corner of Sicily for the train to the mainland, where the two trains are joined to travel onward. Naples by 8pm. To our apartment in the San Lorenzo district, next to the new modern art museum. Having trained in Sicily for an apartment on the fifth of five floors.
While disappointed that we have been frustrated in not seeing more of Palermo, we sense its size and character and we are prepared in a way not possible coming from the north, to arrive at the other historical capital of the kingdom of Sicily or the Two Sicilies — Naples.
We are not unaware (speak to an older local at the bus stop and swiftly be warned of the dangers, a conversation subject that comes promptly after the weather) that there are personal risks in these places; we have prepared variously for that. At the same time, we compare such risk with other modern cities and suburbs of Sydney in particular. But this is not central to our focus on these remarkable places, full of life now, full of great history. We did not get to the Greek theatre at Siracusa; we did not take the train from Palermo to the Segesta temple (eat your heart out, Athens). Now the whip may come out, to take, from Naples, the train to Pompeii (the Circumvesuviana railway system) and the bus for Amalfi — the Amalfi drive with the Monterey Peninsula drive in California and Reedy Creek Rd, Eurobodalla, the three most spectacular of the world's scenic roads.
While in recovery from the virus, we watched Il Divo and The Leopard, Italian films of importance both in the history of film and for illumination of Italian history... nice to be able to pause the DVD on the computer and fetch historical background. And special to watch them here in Palermo, with a box of tissues not for the film but the virus.