We started our day by picking up stamps at the main post office. (How fortunate that there was an English-Italian dictionary for sale inside so that we could look up the words for "postage" and "postcard"!) Supposedly
Stalin Mussolini (I am an ignoramus) wanted the post office in Palermo to make an impression. I'd say his design was a success!
Our first real stop for the day was at the Museo Archeologico Regionale, where the visitor is immediately welcomed by a beautiful interior courtyard and fountain surrounded by apparently the world's most extensive collection of ancient anchors. (Who knew anchor design could be so interesting? Honestly!) Still, we took plenty of photos of the courtyard and fountain, but none of the anchors.
Another interior courtyard and fountain, and another beautiful public place where Aldus got his diaper changed on a park bench!
I should state for the record that I am never inclined to change Aldus's diaper in public or otherwise subject strangers to the sight of his tushy (cute as it might be). But seriously, the ONLY changing table we saw in the entirety of Sicily was at the airport in Trapani. So we did what we had to do. But I digress...
After the archaeological museum, we met up again with Giuseppe and Fabrizio, a friend of his from high school. Were we in for a treat! Although they basically led us along the same route we took on our own the previous day, they led us with authentic Sicilian food in mind! We returned to the market in Vucciria (where we saw some guy lose a whole lot of his illegal fireworks when the police showed up) and wound our way back to the Piazza di San Francesco.
On the piazza we went into Antica Focacceria di San Francesco and, in spite of thronging masses, managed to find a table where we could sit and tuck into four panino con la milza - sandwiches with veal spleen cooked in lard, topped with a dollop of ricotta cheese and grated hard cheese. I didn't think I would like it, but I was willing to try. I figured it would taste a lot like liver (yuck!), but it wasn't too bad. I managed to finish the whole thing!
(And yes, Merrill and Amanda. The whole time I was there I kept thinking, "I'm The Shpleen!")
Apparently the Focacceria announced a few months ago that they were no longer going to pay money to the mafia. And so there were armed caribinieri (below to the left of Fabrizio, Giuseppe, Aldus and Charles) posted in the piazza just outside the restaurant:
After lunch, Giuseppe and Fabrizio continued our personal tour of Palermo. They told us how Giuseppe Garibaldi, as part of his unification of Italy, invaded Sicily in 1860, and all the "standard" measurements were changed to new standards. This plaque, about 6 feet wide, was on a wall in the La Kalsa neighborhood showing the equations between the old and new measurements.
We followed the same route as the day before, winding back to La Martorana and San Cataldo.
We also passed the Fountain of Shame again. Here next to the fountain is the Chiesa Santa Catarina, the dome of which you can also see from my photos from Day 8. It's such an impressive looking church from the outside. The inside is supposed to be amazing, but the church is held in trust by a small group of nuns and is closed to the public 364 days a year. We were, unfortunately, not in Palermo for the one day of the year that it is open.
We passed the Quattro Canti and meandered around the neighborhood southwest of there where Giuseppe and Fabrizio showed us their old high school. They chuckled, noting how a window had been repaired after some damage (ahem) caused several years ago (ahem ahem) under suspect (ahem ahem ahem) circumstances.
Then we went to see Palermo's cathedral. Wow! Agreed, the inside isn't as impressive as many of the brilliantly mosaiced cathedrals and chapels elsewhere in the city. But the exterior is still stunning, particularly on a sunny day.
After the cathedral, we got some brioches and beers at Bar Santoro at the Piazza Indipendenza, where Giuseppe and Fabrizio used to hang out in college. They gave us some advice on what else we should see in Palermo, then we split up for the rest of the afternoon. Charles, Aldus and I headed west out Corso Calatafimi to La Cuba, a pleasure pavilion built by William II in the 12th century, later used as army barracks and a lepers' colony. There isn't much left of it now except the shell of exterior walls, but the way it was lit up as dusk approached was really lovely.
We left La Cuba and walked back to the hotel, passing Massimo on the way. It was lit up beautifully for the Christmas holiday. (Unfortunately, my nighttime camera work leaves a little to be desired.)
We met up with Giuseppe and Fabrizio again that evening for dinner at a place near the hotel specializing in couscous.