Sicily: Palermo and Monreale


San Cataldo Church

0ne of the things on my ‘bucket’ list was to walk the Via de Compostela in northern Spain. For those of you who don’t know what a bucket list is, it’s a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket or in short, before you die. I won’t go into why dying is associated with kicking the bucket. Anyway, a couple of years ago, my sister agreed to join me on this walk which was planned for the spring of this year. With moving to Rome in the spring, the plan went awry and then my sister proposed walking somewhere in Italy in the autumn instead. Fidz decided he would join us though not to walk but to meet us for dinner in the evenings. My brother-in-law figured that this was a great plan and decided to join in. Before we knew it, the plan had morphed into a trip to Sicily to sample the food and maybe do a bit of walking. Our week in Sicily was to focus on the northwest part of the island following the coast around Palermo, Cefalu, and Trapani.

Lillia and Totucci’s Buffet Table

We arrived in Palermo late on Sunday evening and after renting a car and negotiating the unbelievably chaotic traffic to get to our hotel from the airport, it was soon time to head out for dinner. Having carefully researched restaurants, we walked to our chosen restaurant to find that it was closed on Sunday so we wandered around in the vicinity of Teatro Massimo where we had been told there were many restaurants. Indeed there were lots of lively establishments serving Moroccan and Middle Eastern food but of course we were looking forward to trying Sicilian food. Then we came upon Lillia and Totucci where there was a home cooked buffet dinner laid out on a trestle table on the street. A feast for both the eye and the palate, we were able to taste a large number of Sicilian specialties including timballi or baked pasta pies, involtini which are rolls of meat, eggplant or sardines stuffed with breadcrumbs, pine nuts and raisins, as well as various kinds of fish and meat dishes. The array was staggering and new dishes continued to be brought to the table as we ate. All this for the princely sum of 10 EUR per person. We were so stuffed that we had to find a bar where we could wash all the food down with some digestivos!

Capella Palatina Mosaics

Palermo, a mixture of Arab, Norman and Baroque architecture reflecting its history, was once a grand and opulent city but is sadly now in a somewhat crumbling and decaying condition though restoration is being carried out. We knew that some of the churches such as the Capella Palatina in the Palazzo dei Normanii had incredibly beautiful 12th century mosaics but they were even more breathtaking than I expected.

Mosaic Detail in Monreale Cathedral

The mosaics in the cathedral in the adjacent village of Monreale were stunning with scenes from both the old and the new testament depicted on the walls of the entire cathedral.

The coastline around Palermo is very beautiful with mountains in the background and some beautiful beaches like the one in Mondello just outside Palermo. Unfortunately there was no opportunity to swim as the weather was surprisingly, colder than in Rome and it was cloudy and wet some days. We stopped moaning about the weather when we heard about the freak storm in the U.S. and saw pictures of floods in New York!

By chance on October 31st, we happened to visit the Capuchin crypts. What a gory sight! Rows and rows of bodies fully preserved and still dressed in the clothes they had been buried in. It sent shivers down my spine but was perhaps a fittting sight for Halloween. Too many sights in Palermo to describe in detail but more on our travels in my next post.

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One Response to Sicily: Palermo and Monreale

  1. Geoff and Leueen says:

    Sounds awesome Joyce. Hope to get to Sicily one day and stay for a while.

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