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After an overnight berth, we awoke to find ourselves, reassuringly, still in Palermno harbour.

Our plan for the day was very simple – have a relaxing breakfast, then go climb a mountain. We’d identified Mount Pellegrino – a notable promontary adjacent to the port – upon our arrival yesterday, and after a few checks online and a study of Maps.Me, we could see that there are several good footpaths and tracks upon its slopes.

After loading up with extra water and a plastic box full of fruit from the cabin, we headed ashore, turning right along the edge of the large port, towards a spot we’d highlighted at the foot of the hill.

It was very hot, and the walk to the hill took us through what can only be described as a less attractive side of Palermo. Not that it wasn’t interesting; we passed what looked like an old prison (or, at least, we assumed it was old), and marvelled at the impatience of drivers on the busy road to our left, and their chaotic approach to roadside parking.

Eventually, we arrived at our starting point, roughly a mile or so from the ship, and was happy to leave the busy traffic and dusty roads behind us. The cobbled track that rose gently before us in a very long straight line, is known as Scala Vecchia (meaning old stairway). It soon turned back on itself, through a series of sharp switchbacks, over arched embankments, getting gradually steeper at every turn. We paused often, to take photographs and admire the views over the city (but also to take advantage of any shade we could get).

The path was originally constructed in order to lead pilgrims to the Sanctuary of Saint Rosalia, and is punctuated by a few shrines along the way. Apparently, every 4th of September, faithful followers walk the path, many barefoot, and a few on hands and knees. In places, it was tough enough in a pair of trainers, and occasionally I wished I’d got my Altbergs with me, so I can’t even begin to imagine how tough it would be to crawl up.

Our plan was never to try and reach the summit, but we did manage to get higher than we’d expected to. The pathway intersects a winding road in a few places; a road that provides access to the collection of masts located on the very top, and to a hotel that sits out on a rocky limb and appears to be in a state of major repair. At our highest point, where we stopped to eat our lunch, the hotel was below us, and the masts, at the summit of 1725ft, seemed close enought reach at only a short stretch (although, the heat would have made that prospect impossible for us on this occasion… maybe another time).

We saw a few small lizards here and there and lots of large cacti. We also saw the occasional large hornet-type creature buzzing around that would have freaked us out if it had landed on one of us. Needless to say, we kept well away from those!

The journey back down the hill was, naturally, much quicker, and we were back at the bottom, and walking along the busy road back towards the ship before we knew it. We’d exhausted our water supply, so the first opportunity we had, we purchased cold bottles of water, to get us through that last stretch. We were back on the ship at just gone 3pm, hot, tired and ready for a cold shower.

The evening, notable by me managing to knock over my four scoops of ice cream at dinner, was rounded off by the Crew Show, in the Playhouse Theatre… always guaranteed a good evening’s entertainment.

Peter Woolley

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