Published: March 28th 2012March 23rd 2012
New York to Palermo –Thursday and Friday
Alitalia provided a great flight, really! We left on time, the plain was new, and the wine and food were fine and the flight smooth. Even got a few hours sleep. We had a long layover in Rome for our flight to Palermo but only ½ hour late in leaving. Was able to get a ½ hours nap. My first glimpse of Sicily was surprising. High jagged cliffs meeting the Tyrranean Sea resembled the Na Pali coast but were grey instead of green. The volcanic foundation of the island is apparent. We boarded our bus and planned to do a quick panoramic tour and then check in at our hotel. On the Autobahn from the airport we passed two obelisks that memorialized the murder of a judge who was prosecuting the Mafia. On the hill above is a small white house is a sign “No more Mafia”.
Our plan to take a short tour o the city was expanded due to a demonstration. Roads were closed and our bus had to negotiate many side streets. There is no doubt that Palermo is a poor city and yet it has great
Now playing at the Opera House
charm. Its building and monuments are in good repair, having undergone lengthy restorations. We past by the Opera House of Godfather III renown, the Theater Massimo originally a building designed for a circus, in the round and with all the doors and window open to the air. We passed by the Fountain of Shame. This elaborate fountain and statuary was brought from Florence and is in the Renaissance style, anatomically correct. Unfortunately it was positioned between the Bishop’s house and a convent, hence the name. Perhaps the ugliest building we passed was the post office built during the time of Mussolini. Eventually we arrived at the hotel, checked in and headed for the bar, met up with group and enjoyed wonderfully relaxing evening. WE dined on bar bits and when many folks went out to dinner, Pam and I headed to sleep. It was a long but very enjoyable day.
A note about Pam; she and I have much in common, our love of travel (she has been to most of the places I have been twice and maybe more times) she is an only child and is independent and easy to get along with. She enjoys food and
Church around the corner
gelato and vine but not too an excess. Best of all she has a great sense of humor and attitude.
Palermo - Saturday
After ten hours rest we were bright eyed if not bushy tailed and ready to explore the city. Our bus and guide met us at 7:45 and we headed for our first stop, Monreale and the Cathedral of Maria Nuevo. This Duomo is a magnificent combination of Norman, Byzantine and Muslim elements.
The façade is 12th
century Norman while inside the frescos around the walls tell the wonderful tales from the Old and New Testament in mosaics of cut glass and gold. In fact over a ton of gold was used in the décor. There is a panel showing Eve being created from the rib of Adam and one of Noah loading the animals onto the arc and then the inevitable debarkation process. These panels were made to instruct the illiterate in the Bible. Muslim residents who could not represent anything alive in their art made the lower mosaics. What they did were beautiful geometric stripes in glass pieces and gold paste. The main symbol is an outside star representing the heavens. A circle fits into the start representing the earth. Within the circle is a square, representing a. The mosaics have a definite Byzantine aspect and above the altar is a representation of Christ blessing his congregation rather that the Crucifix we commonly see in our churches.
From the cathedral we headed to the Royal Palace for a look at the Royal Church. Though smaller than the Cathedral it is as elaborately decorated and similar in style. With glass mosaic and gold. The panels are not quite so explicit as this was the royal chapel and all who worshipped here read and wrote Latin and Greek. Here, master artists from Constantinople painted the frescoed panels but the ceiling and lower walls were decorated and the ceiling carved by the local Muslim population.
Our final stop was the Metropolitan Cathedral. The interior here was plain compared to the others but the oldest part of the architecture was more interesting. This ended the guided tour and we returned to the hotel just in time to hear the bells of the corner church ring out the noon hour with a lovely and lengthy carillon. We washed up and headed out for lunch, meeting Frank and Zeke on the way. The four of us ate at a restaurant recommended by the hotel and I was really good. I had a risotto with baby shrimp that was garnished with a small creature that looked like a miniature one clawed lobster. The tail meat was tasty but I didn’t try the claw, it was much too small.
We headed back to the Theatre Massimo for a closer look, then headed to the Opera house in hope of getting a guided tour but were to late. On the way we ran into Mike and Steve, Jane and Michelle having lunch. It is strange to see people you know out in a strange city. We headed for Spinnato for gelato while Frank and Zeke walked to the marina to look for fishing boats.
Pam and I headed out in the evening to a local restaurant. We are very vigilant here as Palermo has a well-deserved reputation for muggings. The roads were very quiet but we didn’t encounter any scary people and had a lovely meal. About ten of our group was already there and we made sure they were on their good behavior.
A quick note about the service here; waiters, housekeepers and bartenders are paid a living wage including benefits. Tipping is not necessary or expected. I did miss the welcoming smile we get a home no matter how false and the service is slower but, on the other hand, we never feel rushed and if someone does go beyond the expected we can always show our thanks.