Yep, as the title implies I’ve now reached the end of my week in Palermo. I’m currently sat at the airport looking out onto clear blue skies and a beautiful coastline setting whilst being reminded I’m still close to England by Jamie Oliver being on the TV. Early start this morning, which wasn’t made easier by the broken, worried sleep I had last night – you know when you’re worried your alarm might not go off (despite it never ever failing) and you keep waking up convinced you’ve overslept? Yep, that was me last night.
Anyway, let’s talk about Palermo. Since my last update, as always I’ve been busy. I produced a vague itinerary before I left and amazingly I did stick to it. I visited a ‘local beach’, being Mondello. Packed to the masses, even on a Spring morning and full of pizzerias, tourist menus and English, it reminded me of a tourist beach-front and allowed me to see why Palermo would be such a great summer time destination. The sea looked beautiful, there was no rowdy English tourists and there was (if you got round the tourist offerings), some delicious food on offer. I tried some arracine and cannoli – both traditional Sicilian dishes. Please see the pictures below!
I also experienced some breath-taking views this week. Firstly, I took the bus up to Montpellegrino (no, I’m not sure if that’s where the water comes from) and hiked up a little further until it was just me, with nobody else around, admiring the views. I love those moments you get truly to yourself to enjoy or when you feel an area has been untouched and you’ve discovered it. Columbus, eat your heart out! How true this was of this particular view is left for debate, but I won’t dwell on it! Secondly, with a French guy I met at the hostel, I went to Monreal. It was a ludicrously frustrating and long journey, with waiting for buses, traffic, to the bus randomly stopped 4km away and having to get a taxi, I was beginning to wonder if it was all worth it. But oh wow, it really was.
The view beat Montpellegrino hands down – it offered a panoramic view of the city and I experienced one of those few moments when my heart thudded and it almost took my breath away. That, and the beautiful historical town and cathedral would definitely be worth doing all over again, so if you ever go to Palermo, make an effort to go Monreal. You won’t regret it. That evening, I went to a local pizzeria/trattoria with a Sicilian local who assured me that it’d be the best pizza I’ve ever tried. Quite frankly, I was excited as I haven’t been overly impressed with the pizza so far. Rather than rambling on, you can read the review here.
I spent my last day meandering through the markets and ensuring I found all the local dishes I’ve been yet to try. I ate panelle (a chickpea pancake), which I wouldn’t recommend, gato de patate (essentially a potato croquette, so nothing to write home about) and I cooked up a storm of typical Sicilian dishes. In the morning, I followed a recipe for sficione (Sicilian pizza), I do have a video but you’ll have to wait until the editing is complete! While letting the dough rise, I bought my ingredients from Mercato de Ballaro – personally my favourite of the 3 main markets. With the sharp leaf of the artichokes spiking me every time I walked, I went home with some fresh calamari, sardines, aubergine, tomatoes, pears and onions.
As I’d made way too much food, I invited people to come and eat with me. We could call it my first ‘free’ supper club in Italy?! I made caponata, polpetto di sarde (sardine meatballs), calamari, sficione and simply boiled some artichokes. I’m currently writing up the recipes, so you’ll see how each recipe turned out and what the feedback was. I was obviously the most keen on hearing the Sicilian feedback on my sficione, and amazingly they enjoyed it! Big success. I could still see room for improvement though, but that’s just me being me.
Anyway, that brings me to the end of my Palermo diary! In terms of research for MYO, although the pizza side of things hasn’t been so useful as I don’t like the dough enough, it has given me some ideas for other dishes I could serve on the menu, such as polpetto, arracine, cannoli and cassata. And also some inspiration for how I could present the restaurant.
Now, I’m about to board a plane to Roma! I’m massively excited as since visiting it 8 years ago, Rome has been my favourite European city – I just pray the pizza will be better than Sicily!