Palermo & Monreale
A cultural cocktail of splendor, drama and divine contrasts.
A NOTE ABOUT DRIVING TIMES
Trapani-Palermo, 90 min. Palermo-Monreale, 30 min. Monreale-Trapani, 90 min.
Palermo is a place where grit and grace collide, where the raw energy of its open-air markets sit alongside the decorative splendor of its Baroque landmarks.
In the ancient world Palermo occupied a strategic position and was invaded by pretty much all the significant cultural powers throughout the ages: from the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians to the Romans, Saracens, and Normans to the French, Spanish, and Bourbons. The result is a fascinating fusion of Western, Islamic and Byzantine influences that you can see not only in its architecture and monuments but also in its people and cuisine.
With such a rich past it's no surprise that Palermo is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We'll cover the most popular cultural highlights, including:
- the church of S. Cataldo, the church of the Martorana
- Quattro Canti (Four Corners), an octagonal piazza containing four nearly identical Baroque buildings and sculptures depicting the four seasons, the four Spanish kings of Sicily, and the four patronesses of Palermo
- Teatro Politeama, originally built as a multi-purpose theatre, it now houses the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana
- the Norman Palace and its Palatine Chapel from the 12th Century containing spectacular Byzantine mosaics
- Piazza Pretoria with its beautiful Renaissance fountain, commonly referred to as "The Fountain of Shame"
- Palazzo delle Aquile (Palace of the Eagles)
- Capo street market, where Palermo's Arab origins are still alive in this souk-like environment
- the Duomo (cathedral)
The main attraction in Monreale is the Norman-Byzantine cathedral from the 12th century, one of the greatest examples of Norman architecture in existence anywhere. Its mostly plain exterior belies the splendor that lies within -- the largest cycle of Byzantine mosaics in all of Italy. The shimmering glass and gold cover 6500 m2, about 70,000 square feet. You'll take a zillion photos but nothing can compare to seeing it with your own eyes.
DURATION: 9 hrs
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