Our tour was to start at 3 PM that afternoon. At breakfast we met another couple who had arrived early, Barbara and Bob from California. We discovered that Bob is of Arberesh ancestry, as is Nick. Although NIck’s father was from Calabria, there is a large Arberesh community in Sicily, where Bob’s ancestors originated. We have never met another Arberesh in our travels before.
Nick and I decided to try to walk to the Archives to try to find someone who could help me with research. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the address we had. Instead, we decided to see one of the highlighted sites of Palermo, the Cathedral, which was about half a mile away. We found that it has suffered from being built and rebuilt several times. We discovered that the Capella Palatina, also a recommended site, was nearby, although in reality, it was not as near as we thought it would be. It was truly beautiful. Every inch is inlaid with precious stones. The mosaics were the work of highly skilled Greek artisans brought to Palermo by Roger II in 1140. The building also has a gorgeous painted wooden ceiling. This was well worth a visit!
Unfortunately, by this time my back was talking to me. Nick decided to hire a vehicle to take us back to our hotel. The vehicle resembled a horse drawn carriage, except the it had a motor. The driver discovered that the direct route to our hotel was closed. He proceeded to enter into winding alleys up hills. Did I mention that the vehicle had no springs? We went over the worst bumps making hairpin turns. I shouted, “Just kill me now!” Then I screamed, “STOP!” Silently I prayed to St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, who rescued me several years ago while we were traveling and I was experiencing severe back pain. I know you are probably skeptical, so I’ll share the story. At that time, we were on a tube (subway) in London, and I prayed to St. Christopher for help. When we exited the tube, there was a plaque of St. Christopher in the sidewalk, and behind it was an Italian restaurant. We went right inside. Nick asked the waiter to bring risotto quickly. When I finished eating, my back pain was gone.
Back to Palermo. Nick and the driver lifted me from the vehicle to the ground. What a relief! I took a slow, tentative step. Then another. I took two quicker steps. I was completely free of pain! Thank you again, Saint Christopher!
At 3 PM, our tour began. We met our tour guide, Susanna, and the other 23 members of our tour group, who were from all over the US, with two couples from Canada. Together we walked to the Oratorio di San Lorenzo. We had no problem with seeing the oratorio again, because we knew from past experience that we would discover different things at the second viewing. We learned that the statues of cherubs we had seen previously and assumed were marble, were actually stucco. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed.
Our next visit was to Palazzo Conte Federico. Federico was a direct descendent of Emperor Frederick II, who ruled Palermo in the 13th century. The Contessa Federico, herself, guided us through their magnificent home. She didn’t merely show us around. In each room she shared personal stories about herself, the history of the palazzo and the Federico family. This experience was one of the highlights of the Rick Steves tour. Obviously, it took a fortune to maintain such a dwelling, which is why the count and countess open their home for tours. As a climax to our visit, she sang an Italian aria to us while we sipped Prosecco.
Our group had dinner together at a restaurant called Carlos V. We all enjoyed pasta, grilled veggies, salad, cassata, and a digestif.
This day, we walked 14,399 steps!