Emily - Four days in Palermo was probably too much, as it seems like this town is mostly known for its Mafia reputation. However, I have to admit the city surprised me, it was actually a pretty city with lots of great food and the people were quite friendly.
Jeremy - The Mafia seemed to have influence right down to the pavement. We had heard that they had a knack off getting the local municipal contracts, but as we walked around the town we noticed areas that had crumbling pavement. In other areas of Italy they have nice thick stones or pavers but here they had a thin layer of concrete with a stencilled out line of paving. No doubt another dodgy contract...
Emily didn't mention the ride on the train to get to Sicily which took about 11 or 12 hours and involved the train carriages being loaded onto a ferry. It was quite an experience, especially sitting with everybody's favorite TV celebrity Raymond; from Everybody Loves Raymond. His twin was on the train when we boarded in Rome and once we told him our destination he let out a massive sigh as this would mean we'd be in his company for the next 10 hours, after that we ignored him, but couldn't help thinking it would be funny to get a photo of him.
Emily - We did the obligatory tour of landmarks that were used in the Godfather movies, in particular the Opera House Teatro Massimo. This was where the the Corleone Family sit and watch Anthony sing while a dozen murders take place during the end scene of Godfather Part III. We also visited a catacomb where Italian monks have kept the embalmed bodies of locals from the 1800s onwards for tourists to gawk at (sorry no photos were allowed).
Jeremy- While the catacomb was freaky (particularly the room of deceased virgins and the one with babies) the Italian notion of a beach is almost as disturbing. We spent one day at the local beach, Mordello, which was a nice 2 or 3 km stretch of sand and bright blue water about 30mins bus ride from town. We arrived and found we could not access the beach! It was blocked by a fence and covered with wooden beach sheds that went to within 5 meters of the water. We walked along until we found a gate but were refused entry unless we paid, (14 euros each) so we kept walking in the hope of finding a free part. After walking half the length of the beach we found a way of sneaking down to the free 5 meters in front of the beach metropolis and enough room to spread out for the afternoon. It ended up a very relaxing afternoon of reading, swimming and Italian watching. There was also a group of talented Brazilian musicians (including a woman with an awesome voice) sitting near by entertaining us with beachy tunes on their guitar. We also witnessed an intriguing little twist relating to our hostel's staff which I'll come to later.
Emily - In Sicily, they take their siesta seriously so most shops were closed from 2-4pm which suited us as we got to enjoy the saga that was our hostel. Our hostel or should I say it was an apartment converted into a hostel was run by two couples one Italian the other Canadian, and it seems all the Canadian couple did was fight.
Jeremy - It was painful to watch and we started to feel like we had stumbled on to an Italian big brother! For starters the two Canadians were backpackers that had stayed on as workers and they slept in a storage room, with a Japanese guy who was also working there, just off the common room. The owners lived in a apartment next door, so right away we felt like we were in someones home because they were always hanging around. Now this was actually quite nice and very sociable but when the staff act as though it's their "house" rather than "workplace" it wears a little thin.
The first night the staff were putting on a dinner for 10 Euros, a reasonable price with four courses promised and to top it off the Canadian bloke was a "Chef", got to be great, right? Well I could have put on a better BBQ and no one would have been still hungry at the end of my four courses (we only got three anyway)! To make it worse the hostel had a policy of no outside alcohol allowed as they had previous problems (this didn't stop them selling us as much as we wanted at twice the supermarket price!) But back to the wacky staff. It was all hands on deck to cook this "feast" and tempers flared as the Chef had a few Ramsey moments and our first course was served with an accompaniment of tears from his girlfriend at the other end of the table. This went unnoticed by most of us who had got a bit tippsy waiting the hour for our first course. After the saga was over and despite of the obvious lack in quantity and quality of our meal the "Chef" was quick to hunt down his payments, counting his money as he walked around the hostel and even waking one person up to get the final amount owing. Needless to say we went out to get something more to eat with a few more beers (quite a few that night in a back alley with the locals, but that's another story, involving a a strange man in leather offering us cocaine...)!
So the stage was set from the next few days of arguments, strange arrangements and the girls day out on the same beach we happened to visit. Without going into too much detail (which i think I may already have done) while we were at the beach we saw the girl who owned the hostel with the Canadian girl frolicking around on a small paddle boat with a couple of local Italian boys, who were in the cliche white speedos with tanned bodies. At first it seemed like they were all mates and then it started to get hot and heavy with passionate kisses flowing freely. Emily and I took a double take as we were watching the next layer of intrigue in the Italian big brother house unfold before our eyes. I was keen to get some photos to secretly send through to the husband and boy friend but Emily convinced me not to, in hindsight it was a good move as it would have only added to the young and the restless atmosphere in the hostel.
During the rest of our stay were where waiting for the next big argument but it was all subdued and the girls rather sheepish. Needless to say we were glad to move on to the next city, forever tarnished and wondering if we may be to old for hostels.