An Utterly Macabre Afternoon at the Catacombe dei Cappuccini

Date: May 16, 2013

Days in Sicily: 4

Number of Times we have Gotten into Cars with Strange Men: 3

Palermo is a big city, and I’m just a small town girl. I don’t care for it. I miss the charm of Agrigento, but here we are and Alex says she has a wonderful surprise for me. When I press her for more information, my suspicions are confirmed: Alex is a really, really great friend. She is taking me to the catacomb – something she definitely does not want to do. And something I definitely, definitely want to see!

We take a bus to the outskirts of town and step outside onto the dusty lot. There are some large tour buses out front, and lots of tourists bustling about. Alex admits she is surprised that this place is actually crowded and suspects the tourists have somehow been tricked into coming. I tell her it’s proof that there are lots of morbid people like me in the world.

Alex and I step inside to the reception area and are greeted by a friendly clerk. Seated behind him is a scowling monk, which is weird. The clerk hands us a pamphlet with a picture of a little boy who is… sleeping.

We descend down the stairs into a long, cavernous white room, and there are skeletons and mummies as far as the eye can see! They are strung up on the walls, lying in coffins, and stretched out on shelves. I feel so happy! It’s like the house of 1000 corpses down here (actually, 1,800 according to the pamphlet).

Alex, who is probably trying very hard not to judge me for wanting to come here, seems a tad uncomfortable. To help break the ice I ask her to translate some of the signs. “They say photography is prohibited and would be disrespectful to the dead,” she explains. “But I kinda think everything about this place is disrespectful,”

Case and point: One of the skeletons has a ‘no smoking’ sign around its neck. Pretty much the coolest no smoking sign imaginable, but still. So, I take out my oversized DSLR Nikon and take lots of pictures.