Video: Visiting a Countess in Palermo

Palermo, Sicily’s capital city, can seem a bit ramshackle. But behind its gritty walls hide exquisite noble mansions reminding visitors of the rich heritage of this island. I’ve just landed this afternoon and joined the Rick Steves’ Europe Best of Sicily in 11 Days Tour. It’s our first evening, and we’re already digging deep into this culture.

Our guide, Alfio di Mauro, has brought our group into the home of the gracious Contessa (countess) and Conte (count) Federico. After a tour of their mansion, the Contessa’s friends came over and are putting their little ballroom (where Richard Wagner played for an earlier generation of Federicos) to action with some music. Later, after some of the family’s fine wine, Signore Federico will show off his 1935 racecar. (After he flipped it in a Sicilian road race, the Contessa said, “no more racing.”) Most of our group is just off the plane and pretty jet-laggy. But with the experiences Alfio is dishing out…we’re wide awake.

This is Day 2 of my A Hundred Days in Europe series. As I lead tours, research my guidebooks, and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences in Sicily, Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Portugal, Paris, Ireland, the heart of England, Scotland, Germany’s Black Forest, Alsace, the great cities of Switzerland, and more. I never know exactly what’s next…but it’s always fascinating and inspiring. Thanks for joining me here on my blog and via Facebook.