That day I was happy, very happy: the next day I would start my internship at an important newspaper in the city.
Apart from me, there was only Lucia, Signora Rosetta’s London niece. I called to the girl:
– Do you want to go out with me?
– Yes, gladly, where do we go?
– To the Capo.
– Great, I haven’t been there yet.
The ancient Capo Market is located in the upper part of the Arab quarter of the Schiavoni, called Seralcadio when under the rule of the Normans, and it is less than a hundred metres from home.
The market is located at the intersection of via Sant’Agostino, via Beati Paoli and Porta Carini. The main attraction is the street food, consumed by people of Palermo and highly appreciated by tourists.
We left the house immediately, and, with the usual fast pace, we walked down via Carini, crossed via Voltuno and found ourselves in front of the fourteenth-century Porta Carini. Lucia stopped and stood looking at it for a few minutes.
– Come on, let’s go inside.
After a few minutes she grabbed my elbow:
– I feel like I’m in a castle.
I liked to go to the Capo market and every time I discovered something new and interesting. Behind the stalls there were marvelous portals of historic buildings and the front of Baroque churches, a sign of the opulence and power of the past.
The very narrow streets, in some places, become alleys and forcing visitors to walk one after the other.
Lucia was more and more amazed, she began to ask many questions and stopped in front of all the stalls. We arrived in via Beati Paoli she began:
– I remember my grandmother Caterina telling me the story of the Beati Paoli, fantastic, I’m here now.
– Yes, the sect of the Beati Paoli operated in these places between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The ancient structures, the narrow alleys and the few wide spaces are reminiscent of an oriental souk and, due to this characteristic, the many “Putie” (shops) are hidden by the stalls.
I saw Lucia standing delighted in front of a stall full of aromas, dried fruit and sweets. Ahead another stall had pyramids of black and green olives, consate, acciurate, large, small and in brine.
Still another contained dried, salted and smoked fish, sardines and anchovies in oil.
As we browsed through the various wares, a smell of roast reached us. We turned into an alley that led us to a clearing where men in front of some grills were roasting something.
Intrigued Lucia lengthened her pace and I didn’t have time to stop her, she was talking to a boy who roasted stigghiola, another typical dish of Palermo cuisine based on lamb intestines prepared, cooked and eaten on the street.
Lucia immediately wanted to eat a stigghiola. She found it to her taste and wanted to eat more, to distract her I suggested that she go and eat an arancina. We went to a fry shop I knew well. When we entered Lucia went straight to the counter where there was a lot of rotisserie, then she turned to me.
– This is foodie heaven, I could eat everything.
Paolino, the owner’s son, took an arancina with meat and handed it to her.
– Signurì cuminciassi cu who knows ca la porta mpararisu (Miss eat this, afterwards you will feel like you are in heaven).
Lucia finished the arancina in a few minutes, continued with some sardines a beccafico (small Sicilian bird) and was throwing herself on a timbale of anelletti al ragù (ring shaped pasta with meat sauce), I just had time to stop her.
– Do you want to go to the hospital?
She burst out laughing:
– I’ll stop, but, I want to eat dessert.
We left the cook-out and continued our walk. A cacaphony of vuci dei banniatura (screams of the sellers) animated all the alleys and invited housewives and visitors to buy the goods that they said were extraordinary.
The colours, the screams, the smells and the crowd are part of this place that seems to have stopped in time.
We had just left the market and Lucia stopped in front of Porta Carini:
– Thank you, for this beautiful walk. When I return to London I will take the memory of this afternoon and of my family roots.
I saw happiness in her eyes and smiled.