Cousin Babs was our go-to girl for Sicily planning. She gave us tons of good advice: Taormina--loved it, Oliveri/Tindari--check plus, rent a car--we wish we did, Palermo--skip it. Only we didn't skip Palermo. The train ride from Taormina to Trapani would have been so long that it just didn't make sense considering how poorly we are still feeling. So we stopped in Palermo, hoping maybe Babs was wrong.
While touring the rest of Sicily, many of the locals here told us that it is cleaner and safer than in years past, and the architechture is beautiful and rich in history. Well, if it is cleaner and safer now, I'd hate to have visited before. Granted, the trash workers are on strike, so that stench that hits you when you walk off the bus? It's probably multiplied this week. Maybe a few weeks ago, it wouldn't have been so bad. There are dead birds all over the roads, mangy dogs and cats licking the sores, and sad people without homes, begging on every corner. To be honest, the city was heartbreaking. The immigrant population is HUGE, making it hard to move without being accosted (even at dinner) to buy Hello Kitty keychains and Indian and northern African kitsch. We met two other couples at dinner, who were both slightly horrified at the city as well.
At the risk of sounding like a spoiled American, Palermo is just not worth it. I kept my money purse tucked into the spandex shorts I wore under my dress (PS -- don't wear dresses in Palermo). I felt safe in Barcelona, in the rest of Sicily, and certainly in Switzerland. But there is something about this place that just makes me nervous. Everyone moves so quickly, like they're running away from something. People walk so close to you that you feel their breath on your neck. Motor bikes zip around corners and leave you with a mouthful of exhaust. It's hard to breathe here, between the emissions, the trash, and the cigarettes. Granted, some of the architecture is beautiful, but it hasn't been very well kept. We looked at one section of the city and Mark asked if there had been an earthquake, because everything was falling apart.
The hotel we stayed in was a great value, and the reception desk was incredibly helpful. Ironically, it was the best service we have gotten on the trip. It beat the Hilton! Still, we won't be back to Palermo. Off to catch a bus now, then to Girona to stay with Alicia for the next two days. We'll be going to Dali's museum and maybe another beach. Home on Thursday!