When I awoke, I was amazed and thrilled to find that I could walk! Typically it takes days before I reach that point after a back muscle flare-up. I was able to walk to breakfast, slowly and carefully, where I ate sensibly (granola and yogurt) and passed up the cannoli.
After breakfast, I wanted to walk to an nearby neighborhood called Vucchiria. We had been there on our first day, and I remembered passing vendors who were selling photos of old Palermo. This time I was able to find a photo of Porto Vecchio (the Old Port) in 1865. A cluster of dwellings, Il Borgo, is in the background. My great-grandfather, Giovanni Nucatola, would have walked from his home in Il Borgo, through the Porto Vecchio, to the docks to work in that era.
We then decided to follow a little of the walking tour in our guide book. We came to the Piazza San Francesco d’Assisi, and it looked familiar. We realized that it was across from the B & B in which we stayed in 2005. That summer the piazza was bustling with activity, but now it was almost empty. Next to it, the Oratorio di San Lorenzo was open, so in we went. The Oratorio contained spectacular artwork, including La Natività by Caravaggio. There we chatted with an eloquent art historian from Washington, D. C. who returns to Palermo often especially to see the Caravaggio.
It was time for lunch. Nick took me to the trattoria near our hotel that he had found the day before. Risotto is my “go to” food when I’m not feeling up to par. We shared (often in Italy, we order “uno per due,” which means we share one order) risotto with mussels, clams, and shrimp. We loved it.
While we were at the trattoria, my cousin Giuseppe called, saying that he and Maria would like to have dinner with us that night. We went back to the hotel and rested for the remainder of the day so as not to tax my back. Giuseppe and Maria picked us up and said we would have a “small” dinner, just antipasti. The restaurant, Al Covo de’ i Beati Paoli, was beautiful, shaped like a cave, a frequent theme in Italian restaurants. The four of us shared toasted flat bread, octopus salad, fried sardines, shrimp in a pink sauce, caponata (an eggplant dish) prepared with fish of some kind, thin slices of tuna and salmon over salad, and mussels in sauce. Wine was plentiful during the meal, and dessert was a Sicilian cake, a specialty called cassata. Everything was followed by an almond liqueur the was not Amaretto.
In addition to the meal, I enjoyed conversing with Giuseppe and Maria. I learned that their daughter, Rafaella, was studying for an advanced degree in London. She speaks Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and English, and would like to be an interpreter. Their son, Gianfranco, was in the military. I spoke with Raffaela by phone and Gianfranco by Facebook. They told me they remembered me because the photos we took 11 years ago were in their living room! Nick was amazed at how fluent I had become. A young woman who was at the next table with her family heard Nick and me speaking English and asked where we were from. She was familiar with Connecticut… she was a student at Yale!
After dinner, across the street from the restaurant, my cousins pointed out the biggest tree in Palermo, a banyan. Near it was a tree that been dedicated to someone who was killed at that spot for writing anti-Mafia newspaper articles, a martyr to the cause of standing up to oppression in the face of great danger.
Giuseppe then drove us through the neighborhood near the sea. We saw the sea wall and the Old Gate. Insisting that we hadn’t eaten enough, he wanted to stop for gelato, but I was ready for more meds and another heat pack. After Giuseppe returned us to our hotel, I turned to Nick and asked, “Why have we waited eleven years to return to Palermo?”
We walked 5,010 steps.