23 June, Sicily – ‘All Over The Place – Europe’
Sicilians love food, so much so that they choose not to export much of their food and wine as they prefer to consume it all themselves. To reflect this we spent the morning experiencing Palermo street food. Palermo has a great deal of weird and wonderful (and usually deep fried) food on offer, so Victoria and I were led around by a local resident called Marco who coaxed us into eating various bits of lung, spleen, cartilage and other stuff I wouldn’t normally touch with a barge pole. It was slightly easier for Victoria as she has a life long condition where she can’t taste or smell, which no one realised when they wrote the script! But she finds texture important when she’s eating, so she still wasn’t over the moon about getting her lips round a spleen sandwich.
Marco took us to his favourite market and I felt like I was in some sort of Jamie Oliver programme as scooters squeezed their way between us and the food stalls, which groaned in fresh produce and items I’d never seen before – who knew the Italians eat snails?
Didn’t need any lunch after that little lot, so after I’d sat and watched the crew eat theirs it was off to the International Puppet Museum. Marianne has a huge collection of puppets from all around the world that she and her husband spent decades rescuing. Their biggest passion was traditional Sicilian puppet theatre and we were very privileged to see a full blown performance in the elaborate custom built theatre, complete with an excited Italian child turning the handle of an organ grinder between scenes while the puppeteers swapped round their large clanking puppets between scenes. There was something incredibly captivating about it, and I was amazed at how skilful and nimble the puppeteers could be, pulling off such feats as pulling a sword from a puppet’s scabbard and replacing it afterwards.
To round off another long and hot day we sought out a traditional restaurant recommended by Marco and reflected on just how much we’ve covered over the last 2 and a half weeks. The rest of this series’ locations are going to be hard pushed to beat Croatia and Italy. We’ve fought gladiators, paddled gondolas, watched storks nesting, bears eating and volcanos erupting, amongst many other things I never thought I’d get to experience. Think I’m going to give spleen sandwiches a miss from now on though.