Monday, June 23, 2014

Welcome to Palermo (Sicily log 4)

After breakfast, we packed our bags (in fact, we never unpacked them) and walked the short distance from our hotel in Catania to the intercity bus station. After a short wait, we alighted the coach to Palermo and arrived after just under 3 hours of traveling. Once there, a taxi took us to our hotel. I am fairly sure that our taxi driver gouged us by charging the exorbitant fare of 20 euros for what transpired to be a fairly short journey. Let us not forget that Palermo is the stronghold of the Mafia (a news item broadcast on this morning's news said that 95 people had been arrested in a police operation against the Mafia in Palermo) so I wasn't about to argue (too much). Fortunately, we won't have to take a taxi to the airport - there is a shuttle bus.

We have a huge suite in our hotel/bed and breakfast, Residenza d'Aragona: a large bedroom (the same size as in Catania), an even larger sitting room (complete with chairs, sofa and even an extra bed) and separate bathroom. The hotel is situated only a few metres away from Via Roma and within easy walking distance of many of the main tourist sites in Palermo, so we have already forgotten the experience of Catania.

There is a trattoria situated right across the road, so we went there for lunch: a delightful grilled sea bream. An unpleasant surprise awaited us after the meal: the menu quoted 12 euro for the fish but we were charged 15. We won't be returning there to eat - and there's no need as there are plenty of other restaurants within walking distance.

From there, we walked to the Massimo Theatre, which is an imposing and impressive building (the picture at Wikipedia was taken from the wrong side, if you ask me). We had been told that there was a laundromat "at the back of the theatre"; after wandering around, I found the sign for the laundromat, but not the laundromat itself. After looking on the Internet, I found an address of a laundromat (somewhere else), but we can manage without the visit.

From there, we walked to what seems to be the centre of Palermo, Piazza Castelnuovo, found the information booth (which didn't really help us) then got on one of the two open air buses riding around the city (these are double decker buses, so we sat downstairs; again, it was very hot and we wanted to avoid the sun). As opposed to Catania, a ticket cost 20 euro but it's good for 24 hours, so tomorrow we will make good use of the ticket. It turns out that there are two lines and by accident we took the lesser line. Tomorrow we will have time - and also it won't be hot in the morning - so we'll get the correct bus. We have a few destinations in mind to spend time.

Walking back to our hotel, we passed the Bon Toast coffee shop, where we had the traditional 5pm cup of tea. This was quite possibly the best cup of tea that we have had in Italy! The mug was of a decent size (normally we get served in cups which we consider to be half size), the water was boiling and the milk was cold. We were even served little wafer biscuits to go along with the tea.  After finishing, we had a short chat with the staff, who were amused to note that it was time for afternoon tea (5pm). Once again, a minor problem with the bill: the menu stated 2 euro for a cup of tea, so our bill should have been only 4 euro; we were charged 4.50 euro. I wouldn't make an issue of this as the tea was definitely value for money (in Capri, we had a worse cup of tea in a cup half the size at twice the price), but I do feel that the price paid should reflect the price in the menu. We will probably return there for afternoon tea each day, and next time I will ask about the price difference.

We're now cooling off in our apartment before hitting the streets again to soak up the evening of Palermo.

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