All packed and ready to go. Big 2 days of air travel. We have our last breakfast and a big black people mover van arrives to take us to Palermo airport. It is a bit of a drive to the airport. Once we arrive David gets hit with an excess baggage fee even though our other 3 bags are under weight. The sun is shining and the view on takeoff from Palermo is quite beautiful.
Once we arrive in Rome we head for the BA lounge while I search to claim the VAT back on my LV bag. Great I get there without the boarding pass for our last flight from Europe but of course we can’t get it until we arrive in London. I am then told I can claim it in London.
Arrival in London we head for the BA lounge even though due to the delay from Rome we have hardly any time to spend at the first lounge. We are shuffled to the dining room for a formal dinner but the kids are not quite invited……great. We make keep the kids with us and they bring them some pies and soup.
Rainy quite heavy outside……delayed morning walk for David and a sleep in for me. We walk from church to church making sure the more significant ones are covered today. We have realized that 2 of our 4 mobile phones have no more SIM card left……we need to find the TIM store straight away or can we just wait until we head home tomorrow and put our Telstra SIMS back once we are back in Australia.
First church was La Magione where restorations have revealed the ancient structure of the 1191 Norman church. Very simple inside with gothic columns. We continue our church journey through the historic centre of Palermo dodging scooters, cars and dog poos…..oh yeah and puddles today. Next we are at Piazza Bellini to see Santa Caterina. Lucky as it was 12.50pm and it closes at 1.30pm. The whole of Sicily closes between 1pm and 4pm. We creep past 2 vagrant dogs sleeping on the church steps…..didn’t even stir. They are obviously not the church guard dogs. We pay our 2 euro each to enter. Started in 1566. The over the top decorations are 17th and 18th century. This church is a great example of Palermitan Baroque with it’s sculptures, marble inlays and ceiling frescoes. It is quite over the top ornate. It has the most gorgeous red twisted columns at the back holding up the choir area. Kate and Thomas sat and prayed while we took as many photo opportunities as possible.
We continue through the Piazza admiring Chiesa di Cataldo recognizable by the 3 Arab red domes dating back to 1100 and next door to La Martorana. Both were closed but we enjoyed their exteriors. A woman in a wheelchair was collecting entry money. On closer observation we saw there was no way to get up to the church but via a flight of steps and the church appeared closed. How did she get there for a start?
We found Chiesa del Gesu a Baroque church…..again closed.
Time to find a TIM store to sort out our phones and some lunch. We see an Anglican church along the way. First non Catholic church I have seen in Italy so far. We realized the lunch time was drawing to a close so we stopped at a place that appeared to serve pizza. Not a good move after having having pizza in Naples. At first the waitress said they did not serve Liz at lunch. Just as we were about to leave they decided to make them for us. We were served some great aubergine balls which were great. Alas the pizza did not live up to our expectations. We wait forever for it…..maybe it was frozen and they made us wait to give the illusion of firing up the wood oven! Oh well maybe some cannoli on the way back. The TIM store is closed so we head back to the hotel.
Time to relax a bit…..siesta….packing and trying to evenly distribute the weight into 4 suitcases.
The Monreale Cathedral (Duomo)
Today we headed to Monreale in a taxi to see the Duomo and the view of Palermo from the hill often referred to as the Conca d’Oro. We booked a taxi and he managed to up sell us from a 30 euro ride to Monreale to an 80 euro tour including the catacombs, Monreale and the city of Palermo. We thought this was good value. A win win!
Our first stop after our fairly unmentionable breakfast was catacombe dei cappuccini. We arrived in a parking piazza outside the catacombs with our driver Michael who directed us. We paid our 3 euro each and proceeded. I had no idea of what to expect. The display of dead people on postcards should have alerted me. There are 8000 mummified bodies down in these underground crypts, lined up on each side of the walls staring at you in certain poses and dressed. It was like something out of a horror movies. David and Thomas were fairly matter of fact about it even though I did see the more sensitive side of Thomas pause. Kate was like me and freaked. All we could do was to look down and walk quickly through to the nearest exit shuddering at how eerie it was. It was wrong and it shouldn’t be on display. Dead people should be left alone. Apparently it was built do family members could visit and even hold hands with their dead loved ones. I refused to even look at the children. Too sad even.
We found our driver, Michael, waiting outside. The next stop was up the hill to Monreale. It was a scenic drive through Palermo and up the hill.
The Piazza...meeting place on a Sunday.View from Monreale to Palermo- Conca d'Oro
At the top we parked in the Piazza with what David thought was a mafia meeting place…..I think more men waiting for their women to come out of church so they can have lunch. The Duomo was spectacular. There was a church service happening but we were allowed in to take some photos. The ceiling and wall mosaics were just spectacular with the centre Christ Pantocrator mosaic. Amazing workmanship….a labour of love, time and patience depicting the old testament. The duomo is wonderful example of Norman Sicily completed by Sicilian and Byzantine artists. The beautiful interstellar walls are made of Tufa and marble. Inside is the royal the tomb of William II. The bronze entrance door is just divine.
We took some great shots of the city of Palermo and then returned to our hotel to decide on lunch. So far Palermo has been very different to the rest of Italy. The people are friendlier and the Sicilian food is great. Traffic is a bit more organized as well.
Lunch was a mix of trying to find a Trip Advisor high rated restaurant and the closest one. We managed to find a place that had something for everyone, Baciamo le mani. Concealed windows…..a place where maybe people do not want anyone to know they are there!
Back to the hotel as we are all a bit tired. David is having a massage later while Kate and Thomas watch some TV and I have a snooze and catch up on my blog.
The hotel breakfast was nothing to write home about but I am mentioning it anyway. We decide to walk the city today and discover Palermo. We are all still a bit tired from yesterday’s train journey from Naples. Our first stop is of course a lovely church Santa along the way with gorgeous Baroque style. The architecture in Palermo shows the Arab/oriental and European influences. Behind the ornate city is a network of streets with crumbling medieval walls.
We continued our walk and saw the mannerist Fontana Pretoria in the centre of the piazza with its beautiful white marble sculptures and Santa Caterina with it’s dome. Looks like it is shut. We are now aware that the Sicilians close shops at 1pm and re open at 4pm. Restaurants are still going as this is when they stop for lunch then a rest or siesta.
Further along we stop at some funny little shops that sell all types of army and police uniforms as well as replica badges and even police identification badges….amazing.
We stop at Palermo Cathedral or the Duomo. It is very impressive with it’s wide front. It was founded in 1184. From the outside you can see Gothic style then inside the Catalan style and Norman. It is a real mix, even with Islamic influences.
Palazzo dei Normanni- Italian guided tour
The tea cosy beanie
We had great per dinner drinkers…..gin and tonic and the strongest martini. My head hurts already.
We ended up at a great restaurant called Ristorante Gadir after walking a few back lanes, where we ate great seafood and fabulously cooked fish. Desserts were the best with chocolate torte, mousse and of course cassata. We rolled home.
We pack up yet again from Palazzo Decumani.
Taxi to train
Palazzo Porta Felice
Dinner- traditional Sicilian with sardines, swordfish and cassata
After a busy day yesterday it was nice to sleep in a bit. Packing up and storing suitcasesvat the hotel.
Another cold scrambled eggs and toast that never quite toast. We decide to visit a large castle on the top point of Naples……well David decides for us. We journey through the narrow streets of Naples past the historic centre where we have been staying, to the market place where we see lots of fresh fish and crustacean creatures wriggling in their plastic homes of water. Kate is having a moody morning and has decided she was not going to eat breakfast as there were no chocolate croissants and now she was hungry but was not going to eat anything but Pringles. We tried to be understanding but it was hard. I think I asked every Italian deli owner if they had Pringles, only to get that look of confusion. Finally we compromised for Carlos chips, a generic Italian brand.
Up early ready for our 8.30am tour with a guide and a driver to the Amalfi Coast.
Grotto cave boat ride