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UniversitÓ degli Studi di Palermo - Summer School



In 2008 I was delighted to accept an invitation from Prof. Caterina Grillo, Head of Flight Mechanics Division, UniversitÓ degli Studi di Palermo, Sicily, Italy, to give some lectures to their joint Italian/Russian advanced postgraduate summer school on Ekranoplan Technology. This was a joint course between Palermo university and St Petersburg university, with students and lecturers fro both universities.  I gave sessions; 'Introduction to Ekranoplans', 'Commercial Dynamics of WIG' (like aerodynamics but with money), the HoverWing Project, and Practical R+D with Radio Controlled Models, finishing on a group-work exercise.

This turned out to be an fantastic adventure, not only due to the hospitality and enthusiasm of both organisers and students, but also because it gave me the chance to catch up with two of my old friends from St Petersburg University; Professor Doctor Kirill Rozhdestvensky and Professor Doctor Gregory Fridman.   

    Names and faces: unfortunately I don't recall all the names to the people at this event -  but I would like to. If you are in a photo, or know someone in a photo please drop me an email so I can include that information in the credits.


Approaching Palermo, Sicily over the beautiful blue Mediterranean Sea



Looking across the street from my Hotel room balcony. My hotel was just across the road from the university, but a little way from Palermo centre.  The Russian contingent had a hotel on the other side of town which was great for the night-life but an hours' walk to class.       


From the hotel roof it was possible to see across town to the docks in the distance


Ah, here we are at the gates of the university.  It is like a small town inside.

And now at the centre where it all happens.

Here safe and sound, where I met up with some of the other tutors before the course.


The Russian tutors invited I me to test a bottle of vodka back at their hotel, which meant a long walk across town, and through this notable arch.

 After the testing.  The vodka turned out to be just fine.


We continued to test the vodka in case our first impressions were wrong.  We were perhaps the worse for wear; it had been a long day, and a very long walk.

Next day, the class gets ready for lectures.

A classroom scene.

And another, with an interesting mix of engineering students: Italian - mostly male, and Russian mostly female.  

Students working on my group-work exercise.

Students prepare there thoughts for the group-work

 presentation, with yours truly.

Students presenting results of group work.

Another group work presentation.



Kirill and I - two men passionate about WIG 

Some of the interesting Italian food available from the on-site cafe.


Some more interesting looking food.





Going out and about; I was surprised to see that Palermo, like much Sicily still showed extensive damage from the Second world War.  One would have expected much improvement in the intervening 50 years. Indeed, While other Mediterranean locations have capitalised on their idyllic location Palermo was behind even Soviet Russia & East Germany.

The reason explained to me was the Mafia control, which has prevented redevelopment until very recently.

Since that time, only in the last five years has Palermo had the chance to re-develop.  Which leaves the place a mixture - part rejuvenated and part derelict. 

Some interesting streets

Typical Palermo buildings

Fruit anyone?

Some of the architecture is quite stunning

At mid-day it was best to stay in the shade

Angels in the architecture

Narrow winding streets typical of many a Mediterranean town.

And another one.

A little sun terrace on the roof of a four story building.

Surprisingly the most derelict part of Palermo is the 1km x 1km land from the harbour waterside to the town centre.  In any other Mediterranean location this would be a prime tourist attraction.

The harbour, very functional, but a little enchanting. But the view looking behind the camera was of charmless run down buildings that cried out for redevelopment.   

I snapped this family function a civic building.   It was clear that important people were arriving.  An old man was helped out of the back seat of the car.
I got the feeling that in this case 'family' meant The Family. 
The old man was perhaps somebody's Godfather. 

Didn't hang around to be made an offer I could not refuse.


Another family function at a different location. 
This time with no overtones.

Strange what you find when wandering about. 

In the road just behind my hotel was this shrine.

Quite a special thing, and in an odd location - in the middle of the road.

One evening all the course members were taken to one of the best seafood restaurants on the island.

It does not look much, bat this seafood pasta was delicious.

University dignitaries I'd not met seemed the focal point of the meal.  Kirill makes another of his famous toasts to them for arranging the course (I've previous experience of these toasts - usually ending in a hangover).  A fine course indeed & good of them to pay the bill.   

Gregory Fridman and his son who had come along for the adventure.  


A very social event

It was truly a fine evening event with students - Russian and Italian, and teachers alike.


On Ekranoplans and the meaning of life.

At this point we have given up on the meaning of life, but simply challenge each other to say 'ekranoplan'.

Gregory and I.

Out on the town - One of the most enjoyable features of the whole trip was the way that everyone went out together.

Evening atmosphere

This unusual eatery was still open at 2am.

After the course I took a trip to the nearby town of Mondello.

More boats.


Very scenic.

The town featured an incredible bronze statue.


Lots of little fish in the shallows

No kidding, these international lecture tours are hard work.