Day 1: Palermo
We have arrived in Palermo! After checking into the hotel, which was located in the heart of Palermo's city center, my husband, Jeff, and I went up to the hotel's rooftop bar to have a refreshment before our welcome meeting with the group. Can you see how big Jeff's smile is to be in Sicily and have a cold drink in hand?
The tour meeting began promptly at 3 PM where we met our guide, Nancy, and she explained some guidelines of the tour and asked what we were hoping to get out of the trip. At this time, everyone in the group introduced themselves (Name, where you are from, sometimes a fun fact, how many Rick Steves' tours you have been on, etc.).
For those who have not been on a Rick Steves' tour, on every tour, you will have a "buddy". The buddy can not be somebody you know going into the tour and is meant to look out for you when you reconvene as a group after being out on an excursion. Buddy system might sound a little nerve-wrecking to some, however, it is a great way to form a new relationship with people on your tour. As a little fun fact- on my first Rick Steves' tour in 2016, my Dad paired with a woman named Jann, who is from Oklahoma. She was traveling with her husband Terry. Our family bonded with Jann and Terry because of our similar love for travel and having fun doing so. We have stayed in contact with them since then and... they were on this tour with us! The memories AND the friendships you find on a Rick Steves' tour are truly special.
After introductions were done, we headed out for an orientation walk of Palermo and to meet the Contessa, as she welcomed us into her family's home, the Palazzo Federico.
Orientation Walk & Meeting the Contessa
During the orientation walk our guide, Nancy, shared with us valuable history moments about Palermo, as well as sharing what it is like to live in Palermo currently. During the walk we were able to see first hand the different architectural influences, whether it was Greek, Arab, or Norman. Every street you turn down has something unique about it whether it is street art, a food vendor, or the people you watch pass by. Reflecting back on the tour, Palermo is the biggest, most-bustling city that we experienced over the many stops we visited on our tour of Sicily. This makes sense since Palermo is the capital of the island Sicily.
One of the best parts of the city walk was seeing "Quattro Canti", which translates to the Four Corners. It is the heart of the town and each corner features a fountain with statues. Each corner represents one of the Four Seasons, summer, fall, winter, and spring.
After our orientation walk where we were able to get our bearings of Palermo we headed-off to see the Contessa.
As a note- when you arrive at a new city along your Rick Steves' journey, you will go on an orientation walk, so you have a understanding of where to go and your guide will be able to highlight must see spots (whether it is a museum, restaurant, coffee shop, etc.), as well as good areas to grab water.
Meeting the Contessa
The charming and gracious, Contessa, welcomed our group into her home, which is not like most homes... The Palazzo Federico is one of the most historic spots in Palermo and to this day preserves and cherishes the palace as it was centuries ago. The Contessa is personable and shares how she met her husband, the Count, and personal antidotes about her children.
We were able to see beautiful halls that have gorgeous high painted ceilings that date back to the 17th century. The Contessa explains how the palace was used in the past and how they use it in present day, from the kitchen to bedrooms, she really makes you feel like a acquaintance that she is welcoming into her own home.
If you ever wonder how experiences like this are selected for the tour, it is because Rick himself, and his trusted group of local specialists cultivate these rich experiences by experiencing them first-hand. Here is a video of when Rick visited the Palazzo Federico.
After we finished our tour with the Contessa, our group headed to out first group dinner in Palermo. We had several dishes that all featured local ingredients and specialties of Palermo.
Scroll down to see more pictures from Palazzo Federico and the lively streets of Palermo.
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