May 3: Palermo

Another beautiful sunny day in Palermo. The group is meeting today for the first time with a walking tour of the city. Quite a bit of it was seen while alone yesterday on the bus and by foot, it is always interesting to get another perspective and hear more of the history. It also allows some time for the group to get to know each other a little.

Sicily, and in this case Palermo has been the home to many cultures over the ages. The first to arrive during the Bronze Age were the Sicans in the east followed in around 1200 BC the Elymians in the west. The Phoenicians sailed to Sicily around 1000 BC and ruled for over two hundred years until over run by the Greeks in 800 BC. Their influence can be seen in many aspects of the Sicilian way of life to this day. The Romans took charge next and also heavily influenced the way of life from art, architecture and food. With the fall of the Roman Empire Sicily became the home of the Arabs bringing a Muslim flavor to its way of life. At one point Palermo was one of the great centers of scholarship and art, surpassing Constantinople in the Christian world. Realizing the area as a highly valuable piece of land from both strategic location and prosperity with rich soil, the Normans made it part of their sweep of Italy. The pope at that time wanted to rid the land of the Muslims and Jews -- the Normans wanted the land -- with a promise to help the pope out they moved in, took charge and changed the landscape to suit their way of life. The nobility of the Normans became the wealthiest rulers in Europe and remained in charge for almost two hundred years. After that there were a series of changes of rulers until the mid 1800s when Garibaldi used Sicily as his base to attack Naples and pave the way for the unification of Italy. The country as a whole would continue to mature and prosper, however, Sicily seemed to slip behind. As the rulers got richer, the Sicilian got poorer. Unemployment was high and emigration to other parts of the world in search of a better life took its toll on the population. To this day, Sicily still has a more rural flavor to its way of life than the mainland of Italy.

The walking tour lead by a charming Italian woman born in the US, but now a resident of Palermo took the small army of eight marching through town. One of the first stops -- the ancient farmers' market -- still in action everyday as it has been for hundreds of years. The stalls busy with their produce out for the public to inspect. Fresh vegetables, fish, cheeses, meats, fruits, each creating a rainbow of colors to tantalize the senses. Next to an skilled craftman who like his grandfather and father restores the old festival carts. With each turn up an old street or stop at a square the group learned another piece of histroy about this magnificent city. The influence of all those who came before can be seen at every turn.

Ancient Market Still in Operation

Fresh Daily Product!

Sicilian Zucchini -- 3 Feet Long!


Fresh Olives

Kathy, Monica & Ann: What Should We Buy?

Restored Ancient Cart

Restored Festival Wagon

Jackie, Our Guide Explaining Facts About the Cathedral

Street in the Old Section of Town