2 nights in Palermo - a mad rush

Palermo Travel Blog

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I cannot remember which day I went where. Having visited Palermo again this year, I just cannot understand how I managed to see so much in such a short time in 2001. One must age more than it feels in 9 years!

Hence I make no attempt to place my visits in order but I am arranging them to an extent by subject.

Right in the middle of Palermo, near what is called Quatro Canti (four corners) is the church of the Martorana. It is extremely ornate and has some very high quality mosaics.
Further out, at the Piazza di Independenza is the Palace of the Normans, now the seat of Sicily's Parliament. The Chapel has what are probably the best mosaics in the city itself - and yes, I do mean the same Normans who spawned William the Conqueror for England. They did get right down there.
However, for the best mosaics in the area and the best Arab/Norman mosaics in Sicily and probably in the world, it is necessary to travel (local bus) to Monreale. Here one of the Norman kings called Roger was at odds with the Archbishop of Palermo (who was English) and had a cathedral built in remarkably quick time to ocmpete with that of Palermo, which was the Archbishop's baby. If you read anything about them, you are kikely to suspect some hype. I am only going to say that you are wrong if you do - if I say more I shall simply add to the suspected hype.
Not mosaics, but while you are in Monreale, on no account miss seeing the cloisters to the right of the cathedral as you face it from the bus - through a separate entrance.

Other churches
Next to the Mortorana is the church of San Catoldo, its plain interior being in marked contrast to the Mortorana. During its long life it has been used for some un-religious purposes from time to time and in 2001 it was generally locked. I was lucky to find it open and I was entranced by its simple beauty.

San Giovanni dei Eremiti
is a deconsecrated church near the Palace of the Normans. It is largely of Moorish style and well worth a visit.

The Catacombe dei Capucini are something else  and be very sure of any companion or child you think of taking there. What you will see are scores of skeletons, dressed in their best clothes and mainly from the 19th century. I am neither religious nor superstitious but I must admit that I was not sorry to get away from these grinning skulls when I left. Just one thing really shook me and that was the mummy of Rosalia Lombardo who died in 1920, aged 2. The reason it shook me was that it was almost incredible - not what I understand as a skeleton at all - not a bone in sight but plenty of flesh and hair! You can find her on any good search engine if you really want to. I see that a Wikipedia entry says that the secret process by which she was embalmed has been rediscovered - a scientific discovery that quite uncharacteristically gives me no pleasure.

Other buildings
The Castello della Zisa was built in Arab/Norman style, started in  the 13th century. It is a graceful building and well worth seeing but any suggestion that it rivals the Moorish buildings of Andalucia is, in my view, ridiculous.

The Archaeology Museum was not purpose built - it was originally a convent  It has now been revived from its wartime flattening and contains some fine remains - particularly recommended for those who have visite or intend to visit Selinunte.

The Palazzo Mirto is a well furnished building going back to the 18th century. However I should not particularly advise those from much of Europe to go there if short of time, simply because buildings and furniture of Italian style are to be enjoyed in so many countries.

Spectacular ride.
The bus ride to the Monte Pellegrino through woods to near the summit of the mountain is really great  Unless you have some utterly incurable religious drive, don,t bother with hte shrine of Santa Rosalia but take a stroll whie waiting for the bus back. Both the flora and the views are well worth the trip.

See what I mean now. i spent under 2 whole days in Palermo and I really did visit all these places. Looking back on it I think I must have had a touch of madness!

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photo by: spocklogic