Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sicily - Day 1

A week in Sicily. Sunshine, pasta, cannoli, and wine. A and I were incredibly excited about this holiday. After flying into Palermo, we picked up our car from Sicily By Car - more about them when we get to the last bit of the holiday. We were staying in central Palermo and as we couldn't figure out the parking signs very easily - but there was a square parked full of cars with a spot open, so we pulled in. An old man came up and seemed to want payment for the parking spot, but as we couldn't speak enough Italian to figure out the charge and he seemed to be ok with us coming back in the morning to figure it out then, we went to our AirBnB to see if someone there could help us translate. Our host was lovely and after settling us in, he walked back to our spot with us to make sure it was ok to park overnight. He then saw the old guy and told us that the square was free parking, and that the old man had no authority to charge for parking there, but he also said we could give him a few euros in the morning if he was hassling us. I was a bit incredulous about this, but he shrugged and said "It's Palermo."

Anyway - the car was safe from towing, at least, so we headed off to explore. Down the street from us was Piazza San Carlo, where people were enjoying pre dinner drinks, or aperitivo next to a beautiful fountain - I was so happy to have an Aperol spritz and tuck into the generous free buffet of snacks. On holiday, A and I tend to like to graze, so we only stayed for one drink. We continued on down Via Allessandro Paternostro, stumbling across a cute bar called Bar Garibaldi - people were merrily having drinks in the street outside which snacking on more small plates of free snacks. To be clear, when I say snacks, I mean entire pans of gnocchi and pasta and sausages were laid out for you to help yourself from - it made me wonder whether it would even be necessary to buy dinner!

The eventual destination was a place recommended by a lot of guidebooks, Antica Focacceria San Francesco. It's in an absolutely stunning piazza - with a beautiful church on one end and the charming outdoor seating in the middle. It being our first evening, A and I wanted to try some Sicilian specialties, so we went for a sample of antipasto - arancino, some flat chickpea fritters (panelle), and some potato croquettes. All perfectly decent if a little greasy but to be honest, with the free snacks we'd had beforehand, it would have had to be much more impressive to make a dent in our consciousness. We also got a bottle of Sicilian red which I sadly didn't take a picture of so I have no idea what exactly it was (maybe Nero d'Avola or something like that?) - it went well with our food though. We shared a pasta dish - another Sicilian specialty involving sardines and raisins (pasta chi sarde). I was suspicious of the raisins, and I have to say this dish did not convert me into a fish and fruit lover. Then dessert was some dense cake involving ricotta - we were way too full to enjoy it and it was also way less exciting than the description. While it sounds like I didn't really enjoy this meal at all, I have to say the atmosphere in the piazza and the amazing warm weather meant that we still seriously enjoyed our evening - so I'd still recommend this place to people looking for a nice place to relax and soak up some history.

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