Smarter Cities Challenge Palermo – woo hoo, it’s the weekend! (Days 6 – 7)

The weekend arrived! It’s amazing how tiring a week of listening can be, so a bit of down time was certainly welcome. Friday night started with a party at Moltivolti. An African band played to a packed audience of ‘many faces’ (as you’d expect).  So dinner, dancing and a bit of singing were in the order of the evening.

 

Saturday was a chance to expand our horizons outside of the central old city. First stop Monreale, a historical hillside town just outside of Palermo which boasts an amazing cathedral with over 6000 square meters of mosaics dating back to the 12th century. The sun shone, we had a fabulous lunch (which largely goes without saying on this challenge so far) before heading back into the city.

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Cathedral at Monreale

Second stop was a visit to La Noce (the valley). We’d heard from their director, Anna, earlier in the week and she’d invited us to the Centre to meet some of the people in her centre. The organisation does everything from running a school, to helping and housing unaccompanied minors (UAM), families who have come through the ‘Humanitarian Corridor’ and vulnerable women.

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La Noce and the Smarter Cities Challenge team – multiculture at its best

Most of the UAM are young African men, 16 or 17 years old, who have great ambitions for what their future – chefs, footballers, doctors… and with such passion and such amazing support from the team that runs La Noce you know that anything is possible.  We met Syrian and Tunisian families and heard about those that come from refugee camps in Lebanon.

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Helene, Kate and Lisa with some of the lovely ladies from La Noce

The visit was a really good reminder to us all of one of the main reasons we are here and we were all really moved by their stories and how warm and welcoming they were.  I ended Saturday happy but physically and emotional exhausted.

Sunday morning came around all to quickly and we were off on another tour, this time a little closer to home. Ballaro is an area in the heart of the city centre, right next to where we are staying, and is famous for being an area populated by migrants. It’s trying to shake off its reputation of being unsafe and somewhere not to visit at night. Certainly during the day it is vibrant place with a huge market selling everything from fish, bread and vegetables through to second hand goods where bartering is possible. One of the well known faces in the area, Massimo, took us around and introduced us to many people. With every step he knew someone and with each of these steps we seemed to have the knowing nod of ‘ah yes, the team from IBM’. The responsibility is beginning to weigh on my shoulders.

 

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Team SCC Palermo (L to R: Mike, Kate, Andrea, Helene, Lisa and Angelo) up a bell tower in Ballaro

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