Elatia Harris in In Search of Taste:
On the night of March 6, 1983, I travelled by boat from Naples to Palermo. Not only had Goethe done the same 200 years earlier, but it seemed the safest way. In the beginning, airplanes did badly at Palermo. The almost new airport, then open to international carriers of every size, had short runways, which in turn lead to flawed landings. One wanted to give it a few years.
It was my second trip to Sicily, and there were things I wanted to eat.
The season would open in 10 days’ time, the weather would warm, and the Northern Europeans would come, legs covered with bright hair, uncapped camera lenses glinting. Americans did not yet come to Sicily in high numbers, but everyone else did. I hoped to get my licks in ahead of all that.
I do not know what it would have taken, remotely, to prepare me for the 2nd Mafia War, then raging in Palermo. It was apparently not much of an off-island affair. Years would go by before I, or anyone, could read its true history or know whom to call the victors. Meanwhile, at first light on March 7, my companion and I left cabin number 37 on the Nomentana, the flagship of the Tirennia Navigazioneline, debarked, and cabbed to the Grand Hotel et des Palmes in downtown Palermo. A fancier place than usual for either of us, but Wagner had written a big chunk of Parsifal there, and that was worth money – was it not?