Sicily: Street Food and Street Art 1

Sicily – the largest island in the Mediterranean – sits off the toe of Italy and is home to 5 million proud Sicilians.  It positively drips with history; with Greek temples, Roman aqueducts, Norman cathedrals and Arab Kasbahs dotted throughout the arid landscape. Palermo, Sicily’s capital city, is no exception – architecture buffs would be in their element, with countless churches, piazzas and TWO huge opera houses.  

Alongside its buildings, Palermo is famous for its street food. Now I can appreciate a beautiful fountain but street food was what I was really looking forward to. With my Italian being as shaky as it is, I took some time before departure to learn the names of the things I wanted to try… and the things I didn’t want to try (skewered entrails and spleen sandwich topping that list).  

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The best place for Palmeritan (i.e. from Palermo) street cuisine is in the city’s famous markets.  There are 3 large markets in the city centre – Vucciria, Ballarò and Capo – all selling a similar mix of fruit, veg, meat, fish and the sort of gaudy tat you hope your relatives won’t bring you back as a souvenir (sorry Mum) alongside multiple street food carts.  

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Most highly recommended was the ubiquitous Arancine – a delicious ball of rice stuffed with meat and vegetables and fried until golden (i.e. dripping with grease, glorious grease). One alone will fill you up whilst setting you back a purse-friendly €2.  

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If you’re anything like me, after Arancine it was time for something sweet. Palermo delivers once more with Cannoli – small wafer tubes filled before your eyes with sweet ricotta cheese, dotted with dark chocolate chips and dusted with icing sugar.  

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Sicily is hot. Not just hot, HUMID. The kind of “Walk for 10 minutes, need another shower” kind of humid. But they have the food for that too – Granita – a cup of sweet, frozen heaven made from sugar, water and various divine flavours. My favourite was limone (lemon); because you know, when in Sicily…  

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Sicilians are Sicilian first and Italian second; so there is even a Sicilian version of pizza – Sfincione – a thick, rectangular slab of focaccia slathered with tomato sauce, a token onion or two and an avalanche of grated hard cheese. Super cheap, super filling, super yum. 

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The city’s Arabic influences crop up again in Panelle – thin, spongy fritters made with chickpea flour and fried (of course). Complete with a squeeze of lemon or lime, they are served either in a sesame seed burger bun or on a plate alongside crocchè – like the croquet potato that used to grace your school dinner plate, but of course better – adorned with a hint of mint and divine with a squeeze of lime.  

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Our slow meandering following our noses through the markets of Palermo also showed us the artistic side of this melting pot city.

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From the market walls and shutters shouted colour, politics and local pride. On one wall, a stencil graffiti mural of the highest quality; across the street, a racoon with artistic licence.

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The perfect backdrop to another lemon granita, me thinks..

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