I first found out about Catania’s San Berillo district from Marica, a Sicilian designer I met on Instagram. She founded @streetartcatania, where San Berillo is frequently geotagged. I messaged her for street art tips in Catania, and she directed me to San Berillo behind Via Coppola.
“It’s not a very nice neighborhood,” she warned me, “but more and more people are going there for the street art.”
We found the narrow handpainted banner marking the entrance to San Berillo. At first it seemed cute, colorful and cheerful. The alley we entered opened out into a small piazza with brightly painted benches and tables, and restaurants sporting murals.
Along one street was a charming little vertical garden filled with rows of succulents in makeshift planters, a perfect Urban Jungle Bloggers find.
As we ventured deeper into San Berillo, the carefully painted restaurant murals gave way to “real” street art: stencils, spray paint, paper pastings. But the alleys also began to get dirtier and seedier, soaked with the smell of urine.
I turned a corner and saw a heavyset middle-aged woman washing clothes in a doorway. Then out of the doorway tottered out a long-limbed woman with dry, strawlike blond hair, dressed in a white bra, ruffled white panties, and high heels. Something was up here.
The woman washing clothes stared at me with tired, narrowed eyes, but said nothing as I went off to follow the woman in the ruffled white panties. Along the way I caught a glimpse, through a half-open door, of a dim, shabby room where a woman lay on a small narrow bed.
I caught up with the woman in white panties, and discovered she was a he.