June 17, 2014

Where to go in Sicily: Art & Culture versus Mafia

Palermo, Sicily
In the last post we were talking about Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, second biggest island in the Mediterranean sea. Today, our travel all along Italy will take you to another capital, bigger in dimensions, maybe richer of history and belonging to the biggest island of the Mediterranean, mainly renowned for its bad qualities (Mafia). You know what we are talking about, but we want to make you discover some good reasons to visit it.
Palermo, capital of Sicily, is a meltin’ pot of cultures, a destination off the beaten path, that should actually be a must see of Italy for its artistic and historical offer. And also for its gorgeous surrounding beaches and small ancient villages, like Monreale.


Capital of ancient kingdoms and cradle of past civilization, Palermo is the city symbol of the history and culture of Sicily. A city where art and modernity merge with myth and tradition. Counted among the most prosperous cities of the Mediterranean world at the time of the Arabs and Normans, today home of the Sicilian Parliament and a symbol of the unification of Italy, lost the enamel of a time but remains a fascinating city.
Heavily bombed during the Second World War, since then, unfortunately, brings the signs of neglect of its directors, but this look vaguely chaotic and messy has its own charm, and however conceals genuine jewels inherited from the days of its splendor. Located on the first floor of the austere and imposing Palace of the Normans, the Palatine Chapel wonderfully embodies the richness of Arab-Norman style, with its Byzantine mosaics and wooden ceiling stalactites. Equally splendid mosaics adorn the interior of Martorana, church of the XII century. Not far away, the Arabic domes of San Cataldo suggest more a mosque than a place of Christian worship.
Palermo, Sicily
The Church of St. John of the Hermits, five-domed red and adorned with a charming garden, raises the same impression. In Piazza Pretoria, the fountain of the sixteenth century is one of the rare examples of Renaissance art in Sicily; because of the nudity of marble statues that decorate it was once nicknamed the "fountain of shame". The Vucciria market offers, in contrast, the same show and the same hedonistic pleasure of the senses of a Middle Eastern or North African souk. Finally, the chaos disappears in the Botanical Gardens, a veritable oasis of peace. A tropical paradise with huge fig trees, towering palms and brightly colored hibiscus beside beautiful sculptures and neoclassical buildings.


Monreale, a town 8 km from Palermo, is one of the most beautiful destinations in Sicily, known for its splendid cathedral of the twelfth century, decorated with wonderful Byzantine mosaics on a gold background. In a beautiful landscape dominating the Conca d’Oro, Monte Reale was in Norman times a hunting reserve for the king. Around 1172, William II decided to build a magnificent collection that includes, in addition to the cathedral famous for its fabulous mosaics, a Benedictine Abbey and the royal palace (transformed into a seminar at the end of the sixteenth century). The set is still the vital center of Monreale, from which depart various streets full of craft shops, bars and restaurants.
Monreale, Sicily

PS. If you are planning a trip to these destinations, remember that you can fly to Palermo airport or Trapani airport!
Click here to check out flight prices!

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