Our last train journey together to Palermo where we said good bye to Colleen and Peter and off they went on the next leg of their journey to Sardinia. Judi, Adrian and I had booked into Xenia BnB not far from the station and it proved to be a gem of a place.. just off the main street down a little alley. It was in a very old building but had been very well restored and modernised and we had a wonderful welcome from Guisy who plied us with juice and cannoli and sat down with the map to explain where we were and what we should see.
Not long after we were out on the streets and exploring ...there is so much to see there and one day would not do it justice but we did our best. The city is bordered by mountains and lies in a natural amphitheatre. The style of architecture ranges from Arabic , Norman, Byzantine and Baroque . What a cultural mix, which makes it an exciting place to explore. Setting off down the Main Street Via Maqueda and into Via Vittorio Emmanuele we saw fountains and piazzas, hidden courtyards, and many churches.
The Norman reign in 12 Centry saw many churches and civic buildings being built and Roger ll ( him again ) seems to be the man responsible. The Duomo or Cathedral is monumental and displays many styles from the Catalan porch to the 18 C dome. The tombs of many of Sicily's kings lie here including Roger of course. On from there we found the Palazzo die Normanni which has long been a seat of power ..firstly constructed by the Arabs then enlarged for the Norman Court it is now the home of Sicily's regional government. Guisy, our BnB lady, had said we mustn't miss the Palatino Capella so in we went . This chapel dedicated to St Paul and St Peter was astounding, built by Roger 1132 it blends Byzantine, Islamic and Norman styles .... the walls and floor are covered in mosaics and marble inlaid with gold. The atmosphere was enhanced by the silence broken by chanting ... maybe it was a recording I never saw a person but it was magical to stand there and absorb this wonderful place. There were not too many people there once a large group had gone through and it made me
think about visiting " iconic" places . Everyone has heard of and wants to go to places like the Sistine Chapel , Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain for example and now these iconic places are overcrowded and spoilt to some degree by the hordes visiting. Something is lost in these places now. So to come across a place like this Chapel ( and also remembering other places not so well know like in Bulgaria ) which I had never heard of and was only briefly mentioned in the guide books made me think about being more off the beaten track. Really I was more awed by the Palatino than the Sistine Chapel , and I saw nothing written about the artists or workmen who made these wonderful mosaics . I don't know if I am getting this across but I want to say just explore a little further and you will find other masterpieces or landscapes to wonder at. Don't just get hung up on a bucket list of iconic places .
This is the end of my Italian / Sicilian journey and it has been such a great time and I have especially enjoyed it because of these lovely
Australian friends I have travelled with.. I hope it will not be the last.
Off to Malta for the last few days.
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