A Special Visit to Monreale

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May 31st 2017
Published: June 4th 2017
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The front entrance to the Cathedral
We haven’t mentioned the weather a great deal on this trip. It can be a little bit tedious being told how wonderful it is with the sun shining brightly and the need to seek out shady places. Today is another of those days. We will have to remember where the raincoats are just in case a rare shower should appear. We have driven over river beds that are dried up. Our current hosts tell us it rains in the winter and is going to get even hotter in the summer. Being the last day of Spring we’d better enjoy the cool 27 degrees because tomorrow it will get hotter.

Our planned adventure today is to the hill town of Monreale. We want to get there fairly quickly so we ask Jane to programme the shortest route. The Time/Distance route takes us through Palermo, not on our list to visit. Jane takes our request literally, not quite straight up the hill but very close to it. Some of the streets are so narrow and steep we wonder where we will end up. The steepness and narrowness of some streets is such that we nearly do three point turns to get around

The Cathedral across the piazza
corners. Pedestrians take evasive action, washing is at risk of a dusty smear, and as for wing mirrors – “Whew, that was close!” is a constant comment from the co-pilot.

We emerge onto a fairly wide road which we could have been on from the bottom of this little town all along. Oh well, it is fun seeing how the locals live. We continue to climb through the hills on a winding road. Sometimes we are astounded at how much rubbish can accumulate in tiny pockets on the side of a road. Who puts it there, why, and will it eventually get cleaned up? Not a good look as we approach a town visited by thousands of tourists each year. Perhaps the rubbish collection fees are prohibitively expensive and it is cheaper to drive 10 km out of town to dump the rubbish illegally.

Arriving in Monreale we choose a parking space. Almost immediately we are approached by the parking attendant who produces a slip of paper from his portable machine. That all done we head for the steps that will lead us to the centre of town. We work our way through returning bus loads of tourists,

Inside the Cathedral with the golden mosaics
wave aside the hawkers and admire the clean narrow streets. Do they know what it is like on the road leading into town?

With many of the bus tours gone, entry into the cathedral is easy. Inside the scene is incredible. We can admire the interior in peace as there are not the numbers to spoil the experience. Large biblical scenes made from gold mosaics surround the upper walls. This cathedral has been through several eras, including Byzantine, Muslim and Norman. Our trip here has been well worth the effort.

We explore the area around the cathedral and from a vantage point look down on Palermo. We are stopped by two elderly women who have had a bus ride up from the city. They were dropped off further down the hill and looked exhausted after their walk. “How much further?” they ask. Fortunately only about another two minutes. How far they had walked we do not know. At least they can sit in the tranquility of the church and soak in their surroundings. For us it is time for a snack before heading back to our accommodation.

Back at the carpark we front up to the ticket

A view of the outer wall of the Cathedral
office and pay our dues, 2 euros. Just a small price for such a wonderful experience. The hawkers on the other hand had no joy from the experience of seeing us walk by, unless it was to admire our will power of yet to succumb to such temptations. You can have too many scarves, shawls, bracelets, beads and other trinkets. Others will beg to differ.

We decide to take our life in our hands and let Jane guide us home through Palermo. At least we can say we have been there, all be it from the inside of a car. The experience was not that noteworthy and soon we are on the autostrada zooming along towards Cinisi. The only down side to this reliance on Jane is her need to take us on direct routes and not the most convenient route. If she knew the state of some of the roads she took us she might reconsider her options. Workman are busy repaving the footpaths with new tiles. It is looking quite smart. Perhaps the repaving of the roads will be next. They must be getting ready for the new tourist season.

The area in which we are

A view from Monreale
staying is just calling out for new development. It is semi rural with lots of opportunities for the investors to move in and develop large swathes of rental apartments for the rich and famous. The paved footpaths appear to be the start. If any development occurs we hope it replicates the type of apartment we have rented. Multistorey would spoil the area. Our fellow guests tonight are staying one night before flying home. Parking is tricky and much guidance from Mumma, in Italian, and us with our English we get their small Audi rental into their space. Pity they won’t be there long enough to enjoy Mumma’s hospitality.

We will be sad to leave tomorrow but all great stays must come to an end.

Additional photos below
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The fish market

Hawker alley, one is not tempted.

A view near our apartment

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