The two hours of lessons passed quickly that morning. Berenice and I, my Armenian colleague and roommate, immediately left the faculty.
The temperature was pleasant and the air smelled of spring. We were in Piazza Marina, in the ancient Kalsa district of Palermo. The sun warmed our faces and we looked for some shade under the branches of the giant fig trees of Villa Garibaldi.
Suddenly Berenice stopped, looked at me with a serious expression, then smiling began:
– Why don’t we go to Ballarò?
– To Ballarò? To do what?
– Let’s go buy fresh fruit and vegetables.
– We can go to the Vucciria it is on our way.
– Come on, let’s go to Ballarò, you know I love that market very much, it reminds me of my land. Let’s go.
Ballarò is the oldest of the historical markets of Palermo, all who visit it are enchanted by the many stalls with colourful roofs full of fruit and vegetables.
The goods are arranged in an artistic and attractive way. The scents and colours transport the visitor into a magical world of oriental charm.
The voices of the “vanniaturi” (auctioneers) exalt the freshness and goodness of the products on display.
The visitor rarely leaves the market without having bought something.
If you enter the alleys, little by little, you lose track of time and place and go back decades.
The charm of Ballarò is this: to transport its visitors to the territories of North Africa and make them relive the Arab tales of “A Thousand and One Nights”.
“I’m hungry, can we share a sandwich with panelle and cazzilli (croquettes)?”
Panelle are chickpea flour fritters that are placed in the middle of sandwiches (called Mafalde) and are generally eaten together with cazzilli, that is, fried potato croquettes in batter.
They can often be found as ‘street food‘ in fry shops in the centre of Palermo and especially in the colourful and fragrant markets of Palermo.
I looked at her in amazement.
– Are you hungry?
– Yes a bit’. I also have a lot of homesickness.
– Then eat this whole sandwich with panelle and cazzilli, I’ll have one with the spleen.
Berenice looked at me with wide eyes:
– You who eat a whole sandwich, I don’t believe it.
At my reply we burst out laughing.
After each ate their good sandwich, we bought peppers, courgettes and other vegetables, to then cook a vegetarian cous cous at home.
We went through the whole market and left at Piazza del Ponticello.
We walked a few metres down Via Maqueda, and here we arrived in Piazza Bellini surrounded by the beauty of the churches of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio and Santa Caterina d’Alessandria.