Palermo’s Ballarò market is a place that awakens all of the senses.
Hearing is incited by the ‘abbanniate’, which is the Sicilian word for the stentorian yelling of the sellers. It is their way of getting passers-by’s attention, showing them their goods so that taste and sight can also feast on the stands crowded with fresh fish, meat, vegetables, and traditional foods like flour and chickpea fritters. The eyes almost need to shield themselves from the light and colors, so bright they seem tangible.
Ballarò is the “oldest food market in Palermo”, according to a 10th-century Arab author’s travel log. It is held in Albergheria, one of the five Norman quarters of Sicily’s capital city, where it is said that Giuseppe Balsamo – alchemist, occultist and necromancer who went under the alias of Count Alessandro di Cagliostro – was born.
Nobody can know for sure if that’s true. But how could one wish to evoke elusive entities and supernatural spirits amid all this fullness of life, all this sensory gratification?