Palermo’s Convivial Back Streets

Palermo’s Vucciria Market is lively in the morning — but I like it even better after hours.

It’s my first night in Europe this year, and I’m fighting jet lag by simply being out and about — instead of just sitting on my bed, thinking, “I feel so tired and disoriented.” I strolled away from the busy main drag into Palermo’s characteristic back lanes, where I caught a bohemian-chic scene by surprise. For some reason, this scene taps into the mix of old and young, edgy and hedonistic, crumpled and free…and convivial.

Under the stars, melting into a world where young and old douse the downsides of Sicilian life with a nice drink and some good conversation, I consider the gift of neighborhood togetherness. Many countries have a special word for this cozy feeling of conviviality (“hygge” in Denmark, “gemütlich” in Austria, “craic” in Ireland). Here in Italy, it’s found in the “piazza” — a place for togetherness that’s affordable, multi-generational, and a little naughty. If you found a time thread peeking up from the shiny cobbles here and pulled on it, it would take you all the way back to ancient Rome.

This is just the first of 100 nights I’ll be in Europe, and it’s been the perfect welcome. As I travel from Sicily to Iceland, I’ll be sharing daily (or nightly) updates at — I hope you come along with me.