Within the staff of XTERRA Italy, but more generally within all sports organizations there are people who understand sports, people who understand each other and who practice it, people who are passionate who do not practice it and see it with different eyes. Those eyes, they have a more critical and broader vision of a sportsman who creates and cares for his creature. Sometimes you risk being too compliant with her and not looking beyond a path or a location for its own sake.
From Piana degli Albanesi, half of the first XTERRA Italian Long Distance stands Palermo. That's right, that Palermo is a wonderful city, to be discovered, with helpful and friendly people that are worth visiting taking advantage of a sporting holiday.
Matilde tells us what Palermo was for her.
"I had already been to Palermo as a tourist, but today it is different, we are here to meet Mauro and Cinzia, the organizers of the new, first Long Distance XTERRA Italy, to try the route, to see the location. Others will tell you about the race course; I'm not a sportswoman, but a curious traveler, I will guide you through the streets to discover this wonderful city.
Palermo is a seaside city, with an ancient history, capital of a beautiful and lush island, full of life and color, a crossroads of trade and culture, emblem of a land that has known great splendor but also invasions, wars, pestilence, earthquakes, poverty and pain. You walk down the street and "feel" it is alive, deep, ancient, of a proud beauty, at times wounded, violated, which asks only to be discovered, to be brought to light.
Sumptuous noble palaces throng on the noisy streets, on the colorful markets of all kinds of merchandise, on the almost forgotten dark alleys. I am struck by the streets of the historic center, paved with light-colored flagstones, the balconies of the houses covered by curtains that protect the rooms from the summer heat and the sun, the ornamental plants in the pots.
The markets (the Capo, Ballarò, the Vucciria) are beautiful, fruit and vegetable stalls, fish, spices and food, lots of street food. Scents that follow you everywhere, the smell of fried food, fish, oregano and mint, orange blossoms; the scent of orange blossoms, sweet and intense, how wonderful.
And people, people of all colors and cultures, some with guidance in hand and nose in the air, some with the cart, some behind the shop counter, those walking absorbed in their own thoughts, all kind.
The ostentatious wealth of the noble and the dignity of the people, the color of the market and the darkness of the alley next to it, the sea and the mountain that plunges into it, the Church and the Mosque, the light and the shadow, the restored building and the one next to reduced to rubble, this is a city of strong contrasts that cannot leave you indifferent.
In the 2018 it was the capital of Italian culture and container of Manifesta 12, one of the main biennials of contemporary art on a global scale. An important showcase, at national and international level, an opportunity to spread the value of culture as a tool for social cohesion, integration and development. The itinerary was aimed at discovering a vital city, where one breathes a climate of renewed confidence that drives both private individuals and the public administration to renovate the historic buildings owned and to invest resources and energy in new social and cultural spaces. A contemporary and unexpected Palermo in which many great architects have confronted themselves with its territory, leaving important signs of their passage.
If you can stop only one day in Palermo I suggest you: a walk between Via Maqueda and Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the ancient city directors, between an arancina and a panella visit S. Maria dell'Ammiraglio (la Martorana) and San Cataldo, true wonders of the Arab-Norman Palermo.
Still in Piazza Bellini, how not to taste the almond sweets of the nuns of St. Catherine? the Church dedicated to the Saint is also worth a visit. Going down towards the sea along Via Vittorio Emanuele, a stop in Piazza Marina, a trip to Palazzo Chiaramonte and a walk along the sea. Returning to the Quattro Canti (ie the intersection Via Maqueda - Corso Vittorio Emanuele), a highly recommended dinner at Buatta.
If instead there are two days: departure from the Teatro Massimo, passing by the Capo market, visit to the Cathedral, lunch break (the arancino is very good); then Palazzo dei Normanni (be careful! the royal apartments are open only from Friday to Sunday) and in San Giovanni degli Eremiti, very close together and of a beauty that you do not expect. From San Giovanni degli Eremiti, descending towards the sea along the Via di Porta di Castro, you come across the market district of Ballarò; the Chiesa del Gesù is worth a visit.
At this point you will be a little tired ... but come on here for XTERRA LD, don't be afraid of other 2 steps, especially if it comes to eating well! For a Sicilian dinner I recommend the Osteria di Ballarò (via Calascibetta 25 - www.osteriaballaro.it) restaurant and / or street food.
But if the days are three: today the Kalsa district, founded in the Arab era, home of the Emir and his court. Starting from the seafront, walk along Via Alloro, visit Palazzo Abatellis (Regional Gallery of Sicily) and all the artisan shops along the road, arriving in Piazza Croce dei Vespri where Palazzo Gangi-Valguarnera is located, where the famous scene of the dance of the film the Leopard by Luchino Visconti (visitable by appointment); then take via Paternostro and lunch break at the Antica Focacceria San Francesco. The afternoon begins at the GAM Modern Art Gallery, even just to see the inner courtyard and then to the Botanical Garden and the Garden of Villa Giulia.
At the exit of the Botanical Garden an arancina at the Touring Bar in the Piazza di Porta Reale. Another few steps to Santa Maria dello Spasimo, Piazza della Magione and the Chiesa della SS. Trinity. Dinner at Carizzi d'Amuri, always in the area.
This is just a taste, there would be lots of other things to do, see, eat, but then again this doesn't want to be a tour guide. The intent was to intrigue the adventurous soul of the cross triathlon athlete in you. So…. see you in Palermo for the first time Long Distance XTERRA Sicily.