Palermo & Genoa; Our First Trip To The Motherland

Palermo, Sicily

Something I always noticed is that often, when you ask an American [in America] their nationality, they will tell you their ethnicity, but if an American is in a different country. You ask them the same question; they say they’re American…Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to talk about the misunderstanding, just to highlight the melting pot of the American nationality. I have an Italian first name (my son too), so I know what people are getting at when they ask me my nationality, but it’s only American until our dual citizenship is finished. Like many, my ancestors immigrated to the US just a few generations ago, and I grew up in a mostly typical NYC Italian family. I knew when we were going to Italy for the first time it was going to be exciting to see what it was really like, especially because the NY Italian has emerged as its own subculture, but it didn’t hit until a conversation I had when someone asked if this is where my family was from. All of my roots were not from Sicily, but shortly after boarding the ship after the day in Palermo, I was speaking to someone, and they said is this where your family was from…I replied yes, they left here on a boat almost 90 years ago, and I am the first one to come back…….then it hit me as I said, “And on a boat!”(the MSC Grandiosa) I know that won’t resonate with everyone the way it did with me, but when you think about how, three generations ago, people left a place they called home for the opportunity and a better life, and here we are, my generation and the one after me heading back, on a cruise ship…I hope they know their struggle was worth it.

So if you haven’t been to Italy or maybe you have either way, do you want to know what we thought of it? It felt like we were supposed to be there! Palermo, Sicily, was our first stop in Italy, and once we walked out of the tourist area and into where the people live, it immediately felt like everything was in its right place. My kids asking about clotheslines, people sitting outside or by their windows, and the little Nonnas sweeping out front! It was all just like my childhood, but I had never been there before. It was essentially NYC with my old Sicilian grandmother (Nonna) sitting at her apartment window watching everything that went on all day; the women in the shops even wore the same aprons she used to wear. We walked for a bit and stopped for breakfast at a nice little café where we got two croissants, one with pistachio cream filling, coffee, and my son ordered a donut. I will never forget how his face lit up when he said to the lady, “My name is Biagio,” and she was so surprised and said his name, smiled, and introduced herself. 

We spent most of our time in Sicily walking the streets. Early in the day, after breakfast, we stopped to see the Cathedral of Palermo. The cathedral was filled with artistic works that were not only the typical sculptures one expects to see in an old church, but it was filled with build with the classic marble that typically adorns old churches. It also had traditional confessionals that the kids loved to see. Our daughter received her first penance this past spring, so it was a different experience for her to see what they were like. It’s always fun how interested the kids are in the art and construction that we get to see during these trips. We each lit a candle and said a prayer before leaving. We continued to walk through the local area and into the market. The market was straight out of a movie, filled with fresh fish and small areas to sit down. We took a break for lunch and had some eggplant, fish balls, and of course, fried fish; calamari is Grace’s favorite. This was a nice chance to cool off and experience the Sicilian versions of “fast food.” The eggplant (malanzane) was delicious, and the fried fish was as well. Unfortunately, the fish balls were not a fan favorite and perhaps would have been better if they were hotter. The biggest surprise during the market was the half-cut swordfish! The kids loved it, and all I could think was how good it would be to swing down to the market, grab a few fillets, and go home to make them. We ended our excursion throughout the town with some wine, cannoli, and Tiramisu. While waiting for the food, Biagio and I talk a quick walk-through shopping area, where he picked out a football (soccer) jersey. One would think that with a name like Biagio and being in Sicily, he would get an Italian one, but he insisted he wanted a Paris jersey. Tough argument, but he won and got a Paris Saint-Germain Jersey with #7 Mbappe on the back. He was so excited to wear it on the cruise with all the other kids who were playing football all the time. 

Cathedral of Palermo

Street Market Lunch

After our dessert, we headed back to the ship with a quick stop to grab some souvenirs. Some more pictures and we were saying ciao to Palermo! One souvenir we did not get was a name key chain I told my son they would have for us, but not because it wasn’t common to see there, just because the shops we stopped at didn’t have name keychains. However, after returning to the ship, my mother-in-law handed us name key chains! Obviously, he was excited, but I waited 39 years for this, so I think I was more excited than him!

Genoa, Italy

Genoa did not go as planned. Thus, it would be unfair (IMHO) to say it was good or bad. However, we did learn a few things, but first, a quick planning mishap for context…In our effort to only bring carry-on luggage, we decided we would do laundry on the cruise, we have done this before on Carnival, but MSC was a bit different. Carnival had a laundry room on board like going to any regular laundromat, and depending on your tier status (platinum or higher), you can get a certain amount of laundry done by the stewards for free. We were not yet platinum, but being able to leave with all of our clothes cleaned was a bonus. Click here to see Carnival’s tier benefits. Despite being gold tier (basically platinum level with carnival) with MSC from a tier match through our Wyndham Diamond status, the only laundry benefit was a 10% discount on laundry services (no self-service). It was VERY expensive, and pay per item! We planned to tackle laundry in Genoa, but we did not consider the important fact of being there on a Sunday. I should have known better; Sunday is not a work day; its a day to relax and eat. Since we arrived on Sunday, we could not simply drop our laundry off and pay to have it done. We had to go to a laundromat and do it ourselves, which was open for use, but no one was there to help. Walking to the laundromat was quite an athletic accomplishment due to the geography of the city. Did I mention Uber is not a thing there? Just car services. So, a long uphill (and stairs) walk to the laundromat, no Uber, and most places that were open were closing around noon. We did get to stop off at a cafe by the laundromat, but it closed early so there was not much to do while we waited, but we did get the number to a car service. After the laundry was finally done, we were picked up and taken to Boccadasse Beach. This beach area was right out of the Disney movie Luca, so the mission accomplished on that feat! We sat, had lunch, and took in the beautiful view of the Italian Riviera we were hoping to see. Unfortunately, much of the day was lost, and with mostly private beach clubs/hotels along the coast, there was not much else to do or see. Did I mention there were no Ubers? There was a regatta event going on, and by the afternoon, it was very difficult to get a car service pick up, and very hot walking towards the ship. Overall, Genoa was not a disappointment. If anything, is was a teaser. The beautiful neighborhood area by the pebble beach of Boccadasse left us disappointed in our travel mishap. I want to try the Italian Riviera again, maybe not Genoa exactly, but we must explore more…

Should we return to Genoa again for another try or somewhere else in the region? We will definitely be heading back to Palermo. Let us know what you think or where you have been. Convince us where we should buy our next four tickets to…

Looking for some great ways to explore Palermo? Check out all that Viator has to offer.

Looking for ways to make traveling with carry on’s easier? Check out some of our go-to items!

14 thoughts on “Palermo & Genoa; Our First Trip To The Motherland”

  1. Stirred a few memories with this. Spent a day in Palermo off a Cruise too, sampling the food. If back in Genoa again, I strongly recommend, Portofino. MSC Cruises eh, great choice

  2. I found the start of this post very emotional and it’s great that you felt such a connection to your family.

    The images are great. I would love to visit! A great review for anyone wanting to take a trip.

  3. Never been it Sicily, but your recollection of your time there, makes me want to take a trip. Love your pictures as always; they are very clean and sharp. Thank you for sharing a bit of the food culture with us. I wish the US could follow suit , close all businesses and have Sundays as a day of rest and family time for their residents.


Leave a Reply