Palermo, or Deep South of Italy
Having spent a week in Palermo, I have come to understand that choosing Università degli Studi di Palermo for my Erasmus+ destination was indeed a great choice. There are several reasons for thinking so.
First of all, the town of 700,000 inhabitants or so, though relatively dirty when compared to general European standards, is absolutely a wonderful example of a very specific mix of various influences in both gastronomy and architecture. Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, and Norman cultures have all come together to give birth to a town nestled under Monte Pellegrino, where spending a week turned out to be, above all else, quite a culinary experience. From iconic pasta alla Norma to caponata to gato di patate to arancini to sweet cassatas and much more, the food is superb, particularly when accompanied by excellent local red wine.
Furthermore, Palermo is a real architectural gem: numerous churches, beautiful squares, the third biggest opera house in Europe and Italy’s biggest, narrow streets with numerous cafes, local fish markets bustling with life, all of this is Palermo’s irresistible charm by day and by night. The streets may not be as clean as one would want them to be, but locals seem not to care and the food is so damn fine that tourists/visitors seem to forget this really quickly. Additionally, locals are, despite speaking little English, friendly and helpful, which makes one’s stay definitely pleasant in that slow southern style.
Furthermore, Università degli Studi di Palermo, not to forget academic information in this “semi-academic” blog, offers several courses in English at different faculties, which is an opportunity not to be missed by students of those universities having exchange agreements. Local students enjoy practicing their English with you and you always end up learning much from them as well. In addition, as their knowledge of Central Europe seems to be scarce at best, going for an Erasmus stay is bound to make one, be that a teacher or a student, popular with the local student/teacher body.
Last but not least, being in Palermo, particularly for a longer period of time, will undoubtedly allow you get to know how Deep South of Italy really looks, smells, and lives, and why it bears absolutely little resemblance, with indeed a special charm of its own, to the rest of the country. With a sort of a chill out atmosphere by day and particularly by night, long lunches, frequent café visits, amiable and helpful people, and finally a stress-free atmosphere, Palermo is certainly a place to taste, feel, study in, and hence enjoy to the fullest!