Italy Travel

Italy Day 12 – Palermo

July 7, 2015

Highlight of the Day: Creepy Capuchin ‘catacombs’
Steps: 17,521
Miles: 7.4

Day 12 began the last leg of our journey off the normal tourist path into Sicily. After looking at all our options, I booked the 4 of us to head down from Rome to Palermo for $31 bucks a pop on Ryanair. The flights were cheaper than ferries and trains and faster, so it was really a no brainer. We were already packed light for international carry on travel, so no baggage fees either :)

ryanair flight

The flight in was gorgeous, the water off all of the coasts is this stunning turquoise blue and there were mountains and lush countrysides. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I think we were all pleasantly surprised.

For Sicily, since we were moving around so often, I booked everything on booking.com instead of airbnb. It was kind of sad not having a home base anymore, but the B & B that I found in Palermo was one of the nicest stays with the friendliest reception. I know the whole family would absolutely recommend them to anyone (and at $70 a night it was also quite a steal). Thank you Chiara from C’era Una Volta B & B

c'era una volta b & b

Marco, one of the owners that picked us up from the airport, also invited us to come taste some “authentic” Sicilian sandwiches at his wine and cheese shop. I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow we got into a discussion about the anchovy and flower pizza my parent’s tried in Rome, and he took that to mean we were interested in trying the traditional sardine sandwich. Once we realized the mistake, everyone asked for a sandwich sans fish, so we all ended up eating a plain tomato and cheese sandwich – ha! He also just kept bringing us pickled items and wine to test. Super nice guy, it was hard to say we had other plans we needed to attend to.

palermo wine and cheese

palermo sandwich shop

Since we walked out of our way to visit his shop, I reloaded google maps back on my phone to head up to the Capuchin catacombs. I guess google decided to give us a more ‘unique’ tour of the backstreets of Palermo, because we ended up in some sketchy areas, maybe not so much scared for the people, but for the auto traffic (and our bodies interfering with it). I’m still glad we went on this route though because we saw some interesting, what I like to think of as authentic, sites.

Here’s a shop where everything was covered in drying garlic. There is a town not to far out of town that is famous for it’s red garlic.
palermo garlic

An antique store find, just a nice chair waiting for it’s time to shine again.
palermo chair

Very neat vintage Louis Vouitton luggage with some character.
palermo vintage

 

So Sicilian – garlic, lemons, basil, onions and potatoesstreets of palermo

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*WARNING – some graphic (skeletons) content below. Scroll at your own risk*

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The Capuchin Catacombs weren’t really the type of catacombs you would see in other parts of europe. This underground labyrinth we walked into contained 8,000 remains of monks, noble men and women, children and people of prominence interred from the 1590s to the late 1800s. It all began when the monastery ran out of room in their cemetery. Instead of burial, they used a sort of dehydration method along with vinegar to preserve the bodies and hung them in niches along the walls. At first this was only meant to be used for the clergy, but after locals saw how they could ‘live on’ in this crypt, they started paying large sums to be buried there.

Families would continue to care for their relatives after burial by visiting regularly, bringing food so the family could dine together and even holding hands for prayer.

palermo catacombe

If families didn’t continue to pay the fees for their loved ones, they would take the bodies off of display and tuck them away until payment was made.

palermo catacombs

I’m not sure if they knew this place would be a glorified tourist attraction a few hundreds years later that they would have signed up for the stay. I was worried the entire time walking through that a skull would fall off in front of me… lots of the bodies were dangling precariously.
palermo capuchin catacomb

Most of the burials ended by 1890, except for one of the most famous residents, a 2 year old impeccably preserved little girl named Rosalia placed to rest in 1920. She still looked like she was sleeping almost 100 years later. (No pictures were allowed – but here’s what I’ve found around the iwebz)

After thouroughly walking the floors, we were sufficiently creeped out for the day and decided to head back towards the B & B while catching some of the older attractions. We got a peep at the Palermo Cathedral right before closing time.

palermo cathedral

I must say, I think the inside needs a bit of a facelift.
palermo cathedral ceiling

I’m not a fan of the electronic offer candles. Just doesn’t feel right…
palermo offering

We also passed by the Quattro Canti, or Piazza Vigliena, and marks the intersection of the 2 major roads in old Palermo. There are 4 displays like this and each side looks pretty much identical.
palermo quattro canti

A horse carriage in front of Teatro Massimo. It seems that all the horses in Palermo wear hats.
palermo horse

Final attraction before we headed to dinner, the slightly run down Teatro Politeama Garibaldi.
Teatro Politeama Garibaldi

And that was it for the day, quite a bit of walking around and exploring, more with our eyes and less so with my camera. At the end of the day we stepped into our large (yes this was HUGE compared to the rest of the country) shower with color changing LED lights and wiped the grime of the day away. Felt like a party in the bathroom
c'era una volta

On to Day 13

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1 Comment

  • Reply Vincent December 10, 2015 at 3:18 am

    I’ve always weantd to go to the Capuchin Crypts but for some reason never have. I’ll have to make a go for the catacombs too next time I’m in that area. So VERY interesting. Were you able to see St Peter’s tomb under the basilica in Rome? You need to book a reservation a couple months ahead of time but its very cool. Lots of history on top of history.

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