Thursday, June 21, 2012

Il Festino di Santa Rosalia

Santa Rosalia
Palermo's patron saint, Santa Rosalia, is honored every year on the 15th of July, and the city is in full swing with preparations for the event!  Santa Rosalia is said to have spared the city of Palermo from the ravages of the plague after her remains were taken down from the mountain and venerated in the city. The people continue this tradition today with a magnificent parade and celebrations that begin in the first days of July and culminate with a parade on the night of the 14th into the 15th of July!

The Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia is located atop Monte Pellegrino.  There's a road that will take you up or you can walk the up the sanctuary (be sure to take some water with you and do it early in the morning on those hot days!).  The sanctuary is always packed full of tourists, pilgrims and the devout, many who crawl their way into the sanctuary.

If you have the chance, take a trip up the mountain (either by driving or walking). The views of the sea and of Palermo are spectacular!  The sanctuary is also interesting in its construction within the original cave.  It is definitely an experience to remember.

Be sure to return in time for the procession, which makes it's from from the Palazzo dei Normanni, along the Cassaro (now the Corso Vittorio Emmanuele), stopping briefly at the Quattro Canti, and finally making its way to the sea, passing through the Porta Felice, as if crossing from death to life as the celebrations culminate with a magnificent fireworks show on the banks of the sea!
"Uno. Nutti e jornu farìa sta via!
Tutti. Viva Santa Rusulia!
U. Ogni passu e ogni via!
T. Viva Santa Rusulia!
U. Ca ni scanza di morti ria!
T. Viva Santa Rusulia!
U. Ca n'assisti a l'agunia!
T. Viva Santa Rusulia!
U. Virginedda gluriusa e pia
T. Viva Santa Rusulia!”
“E chi semu muti? Viva viva Santa Rusulia”.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Palazzina Cinese

Palazzina Cinese
The Palazzina Cinese is a strange curious little building just outside Palermo.  A bit difficult to reach, it is worth a visit, located within the confines of the Riserva di Monte Pellegrino and just oustide the Parco della Favorita.  The work done to the structure in its current form was completed and realized by Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia, mainly an architect of municipal structures, in 1799 after being commissioned by Ferdinand IV di Borbone.  Marvuglia enlarged the structure and beautified it for Ferdinando and his wife, Maria Carolina.  The structure was originally built almost a decade previously by the laywer, Benedetto Lombardo.

At the time of my visit in 2009, the structure was closed for renovations.  It has now re-opened to the public and is worthy of a visit since you could explore the park at the same time which is located nearby.

The architecture is a blend of neoclassicism and "cineserie", which was in fashion at the time that the structure was built.  The curious mixture of styles give the structure, in my opinion, an air of fantasy, as if stepping into a story book with its bright colors, Chinese prints and silks, and the "oriental" bells that adorn the railings.  Check out the video below with offers a wonderful video "tour" of the structure.

Reaching the Palazzina Cinese
(this section is under construction while I do some research on transportation options...!
If you have a car, it's probably best to drive.  Failing that, you could take a taxi. From the Giardino inglese, it is a 3.5 km walk north, probably more difficult during the hot summer months.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Luoghi comuni and clichés

At the end of December, an American wrote a thought-provoking letter to the editors of the Giornale di Sicilia.  In the editorial, the author writes about the reactions he experiences when he talks about Palermo to stranieri.  I laughed aloud when he reported that many people believe Palermo to be dangerous.  He even remarks about how he told a Palestinian he had come from Palermo, and the Palestinian remarked that he was such a brave man.

I am dismayed. Palermo has come so far -- yet our understanding this remarkable city has not progressed beyond the stereotypes of films and books.  Palermo seems to be a prisoner of its past.  Even important literary works which seek to expose the mafia, while important in exposing the realities of organized crime, still, passively, taint our understanding of the city.

I admit that many years ago my own opinion of Palermo was clouded.  I remember the first time I planned to visit the city to meet a friend of mine, telling him how I was a little nervous.  He quipped, "Don't worry, I don't think that there will be any shootouts on the street corners while you are here."  He helped me to see how foolish I was being: judging a city that I had never visited and basing my opinions on movies, books and dated news reports.  I discovered that Palermo was a wonderful jewel in the Mediterranean with a rich history that I had only begun to discover.

Roberto Alajmo's book, Palermo è una cipolla, is a wonderful work that describes the city best.  No guidebook does what this book does.  Recently translated into English, this book is a must for anyone visiting the city.  Alajmo paints a realistic portrait of the city, being careful not to gloss over the city's ills while at the same time promoting its beauty and charm.  He has a way of understanding your feelings and fears of the city as if reading your mind: "Here comes the difficulty, however.  Everything mentioned in the previous chapter, added to everything you have heard over the years, the months, the weeks and days of your life have left you feeling a shade apprehensive." (Alajmo, Roberto. Palermo. London: Haus, 2009. Translator: Guido Waldman. Print. pp. 31)

Yes, Palermo can be gritty and overwhelming at first.  My own first day in Palermo was so overwhelming, but I survived to tell the tale.  My friend drove me all around the city, showing me how it was no different than any other city in Italy.  We also walked all over the city and explored all the quarters of the city.  Soon I began to see the marvels and wonders of Palermo.  Over the coming days, I began to appreciate the city more and more.  More importantly, I wanted to make sure that others could appreciate the city as I do, and I promote the city every chance I get.

I have traveled the world several times over, lived most of my life in the United States, spent several years traveling and living in Australia, as well as stints in Rome and exploring Europe, parts of Asia...and yet, Palermo is still one of my favorite places in all the world!