Street Food Tour in Palermo

The historic markets and Street Food                                                                                                                                                                          
In Palermo’s historic markets, Vucciria, Capo, Ballarò, you breathe in the deep essence of the city, made up of contrasts and oddities, Arab roots, a Catholic spirit mixed with a certain popular paganism, dirt and spices, Baroque style and poverty.  The “putie” outside are shaded by drapings faded and inside are decorated with golden chandeliers and fake crystals, to imitate those found in palaces. On the walls are photos showing saints and madonnas, similar to those found normally today, such as singers and Palermo’s famous footballers. Remaining are the market stalls full of fruits and vegetables lovingly arranged, from the benches with olives with their scent to stimulate the appetite, spices of all kinds that recall the charm of Arab souks, bags full of saffron, raisins and pine nuts, cinnamon and bunches of oregano that ooze their characteristic aroma.

On the way through the stalls you find disturbing benches topped with large meat hooks that hang from the carcasses of sheep and cattle, unhygienic but with many ancestral symbols. You are likely to slip in front of the fascinating fish stalls, covered with sheets of ice and algae, and covered in blue fish, violet squid and swordfish, that the fishmongers annaffiano, continually creating soil paved over with a layer of slime. But the risk is well compensated by the vision of condiments, swordfish rolls, seafood salads, pasta with sardines, fish caponata and Sardinian warbler. Delis and bakeries display their traditional delicacies, in bars and kiosks you can still enjoy “l’aqcua cu zammù” and “driver”, a digestive drink which is handy after tasting some of the cuisine! But, above all, you can recognise Palermo’s typical street foods by this: It is the seller of frittola with his mysterious basket, covered by a squared cloth, who extracts a handful of pork fat cooked in lard that he will then put on a sheet of wax paper. There is the bread seller “ca meusa” with his big cauldron crackling “Saimi” and his eternal question: “voir or married?”. There is the seller of “sfincionello” that “abbannia” his merchandise with chants that describe him as “scarso r’ uogghiu e chino i pruvulazzo”. There is the “fritter” continuously frying away, there is the “u purparu” (boiled octopus) that he extracts from his pot, and if it is Autumn, you will be welcomed by white clouds and a fragrance that flows from the pot.

In the markets you can feel the Palermo of the past and the Palermo of today, you can hear an almost incomprehensible dialect, it is the people going shopping and trying to save money. Sellers are often welcoming and eager to display their wares, but can not bear their fruit being continually probed by the hands of customers. You may be struck by the confusion and chaos that reigns in the markets, but you must visit them, and discovering them is an experience not to be missed out on if you really want to get in contact with the real spirit of the city.

written by Evelin Costa, translated by Lydia Bonin

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