"My ferry from Naples arrived here in Palermo at around 6:30 am, and the voyage was calm. I had several visits lined up for later in the day, but since I had time on my hands, I decided to make the short drive to Mondello, the pretty little beachside town just outside Palermo, where most everyone from the city goes to take the sun and swim. I wanted to get an early start to beat the rush hour traffic, but on the way to Mondello I noticed a road sign indicating the Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia and I decided that a detour was in order. Santa Rosalia is the patron saint of Palermo (every Italian city, town, and village has a patron saint) and, like many sacred places, this sanctuary is located on a mountaintop overlooking the whole city. Since I spend so much time on boats, I really appreciate a good view from above now and then.
One of the nice things about traveling alone is that when you want to go do something that you hadn’t planned, you don’t have to ask anyone else. That being said, standing in front of a panorama as beautiful as this one makes you want to share it with someone specioal. (End of the Sail Hunter’s romantic digression). I got to Mondello just in time to have a breakfast of cappuccino and an almond pastry (Sicily is great for almond lovers), I contemplated going for a swim (the morning was nice and sunny), but I dipped my toe in the water and decided against it. I browsed through the shops, and then once I thought the traffic had died down, headed back towards Palermo so I could meet the boat owners at the harbor.
Ah, while on the subject of traffic: if I sound a bit traumatized it’s because I’ve made the drive from the Palermo airport to the center of town, and it was the most chaotic 45 minutes of my life. And this is from a guy who’s driven across Bali. Anyway, the marina of Palermo, called La Cala, is a little area within the main commercial harbor, and it’s really in the heart of the city. You can pretty much walk there from anywhere in the center in about 15 minutes: super convenient.
On the dock, I met Antonio, who manages a fleet of eight sailboats and a catamaran. He’s got about twenty years of experience doing this kind of work, and I have to say: it’s a joy to work with people like him. Reliable, punctual, informed – I didn’t think twice about giving Antonio and his boats the Sail Hunter Certification. The boats are in decent condition – about the average for chartered sailboats, nothing super luxurious – and are all around 40 ft.
Where to go from Palermo? Well, the Aeolian islands (Panarea, Lipari, Stromboli) are really popular and for good reason. Don’t overlook the Egadi islands (which are a natural park), and the more adventurous could head all the way to Pantelleria. I happen to think that a sailing trip from Palermo is best enjoyed by active, young-ish adults, and it’s not the first place I’d take children.
These incredible volcanic islands are rustic and dramatic – many have only recently gotten electricity and running water. It’s like taking a trip back in time, and these places have remained so pristine precisely because you can only reach them by boat. Which reminds me, I’m actually itching to get out on the water. Until next time!"