LOOKING for a guaranteed assault on all of the senses that also offers a quick and easy exit to the mountains or sea when it reaches overload proportions?
Then head for Sicily and the glorious, theatrical city that is Palermo.
Today, this bustling, magical place which has cleaned up its image big time, is attracting more and more enthusiastic visitors following a major crackdown on crime and a massive drive, prompted by civic pride, to win back those who were previously giving it a wide berth.
The city is easily one of the most exciting in the Med and multi-faceted in its attractions. Here, you’ll find lively ancient street markets and history in abundance to reflect its turbulent past and mix of cultures and multi-layered influences.
We spent three days exploring all it had to offer. I can’t wait to go back.
Thanks to that background that gives it such a distinctive character, eating out, the almost old-world shopping experience and people combine to make this a destination with a unique sense of place.
The older quarters may still be covered in the grime of years of neglect, but everywhere there are signs of a major clean-up operation underway, and that, in itself is a metaphor for what’s going on too, behind the scenes.
The opera house is a stunning example of what’s been happening as the city fathers wrestled control back from the godfathers who held such a firm grip on everything from street vendors to major civic building contracts down the years.
The Teatro Massimo, with its six levels of boxes all stacked up in a huge horseshoe shape, had disgracefully lain in a semi-derelict state for twenty five years as differing factions argued about who should get a share of the spoils of the proposed renovation programme.
Sick of the wrangling, the city council stepped in and declared they would take on the restoration job themselves.
Visit the fully restored theatre – one of the finest in the whole world – and you’ll get a true feeling for the renaissance that’s currently underway.
In this city which fairly bristles with treasures galore, it is possible to escape into another world and time zone just by strolling through the myriad of back streets.
The island itself has been a melting pot of humanity for centuries having down through the ages been in the hands of Greek, Arab, Norman, French, Spanish and Roman conquerors, all of whom left their distinctive – and spectacular – marks on the art, architecture, culture and lifestyle.
The Palantine Chapel nestling inside the Palazzio dei Normani rates as one of the most magnificent mosaic-encrusted religious buildings of the 12th Century.
Even when packed to capacity, the admiring hordes – stunned by the sheer impact of its ‘wow’ factor – talk in whispers, overawed by the sumptuous splendour of the walls, archways and ceilings. A visit to one of the old-time puppet theatres is another special experience where hand-painted marionettes