Mondello is the perfect combination of beach holiday and city break. The former rapidly gets tedious, the latter is potentially unhealthy. Once purely a fishing village on the northern coast of Sicily, Mondellow unites the trance of an idyllic Mediterranean bay with the buzz of Palermo.
All that separates these worlds is a narrow promenade. Sunshades, sand and a pretty harbor for yachts on one side of the street; restaurants, cafés and cocktail bars on the other. From towel to town square in 50 steps. A few meters further and subtropical hedges prevent inquisitive gazes from invading the privacy of the early-20th-century art nouveau villas, the weekend retreats of wealthy citizens from the nearby city.
Another plus is the lack of foreign tourists. Palermo comes to Mondello to bathe, making it the perfect place to study local Sicilian customs: noisy extended families with well-coiffed children, lots of testosterone on small scooters, dolce vita at 1000 gelati carts.
A word of warning: One scoop of strawberry ice cream here is the size of three ordinary ones back home – and for your average calorie-counting, cholesterol-conscious Central European, every single ingredient is on the banned substances list. But the taste is phenomenal, like eating real ice cream for the very first time, reducing anything else to a pale imitation.
Beach life, village life, nightlife – from siesta to fiesta, Mondello offers little reason to leave. There is no sign of crime. The mafia is invisible to tourists, and presumably even gangsters wear bathing trunks to the beach.
When he was only 17, Helge Timmerberg (now 63) decided to hitchhike to India and become a reporter. More than 200 countries later, he still writes travel books from places all over the world.