Night Location: Palermo
A Muse of the Day: After a lengthy Pizzeria lunch (we managed to order pizza at lunch!) we decided to visit the Palermo Cathedral. On entering the Cathedral we were informed that to climb to the roof we had to leave in five minutes. After two minutes we were told to proceed up the 108 steps. The steps were double depth and wound around in a tight circle so by the top we were all feeling slightly ill because the cheese pizza had barely settled in our stomachs.
This hotel has the best beds and shower so far on the trip. This meant that getting up this morning was a struggle and Amber arrived at the breakfast table still half asleep. However, knowing that there was a lot to see today, we arranged for a taxi to drive us up to Monreale.
Monreale Cathedral was built in 1174 by William II of Sicily. Gemma and Amber have both decided that this is their favourite cathedral that they have ever been into. Inside, the walls are decorated in elaborate mosaics that clearly detail significant Bible stories, particularly from Genesis. There is also an interesting mosaic of Jesus crowning William II, to signify God's approval of him as the ruler of Sicily and his separation from the Pope. The cathedral is the embodiment of the combination of cultures and religions and stands as a symbol of the unification of Sicily.
We decided to climb through the Norman tunnels up to the rooftop where we could see all the way to the sea across Palermo. The stairs were narrow and the tunnel was most certainly one-way.
Outside, the Cloister filled us with a sense of peace as the tranquil sound of water falling from a fountain filled the air. The columns were each decorated in a unique mosaic pattern that caught the sunlight and glittered. The arches of the Cloister display fabulous Moorish architecture, again signifying the merge between the Arab and Norman cultures.
Heading back down the hill we decided to visit Cappella Palatina during the lunch period so as to avoid the crowds. Once again on entering, your eyes were met with an array of gold, intricate mosaics. The Norman style in Sicily is quite stunning and spectacular and so different to anything that we have seen previously.
As it is the weekend we were also able to visit the Royal apartments that are currently used for the Sicilian parliament. Adjoining this was the Hall of the Winds, a square room with four columns, Moorish arches and mosaics of flora and fauna around the central dome with an eight pointed star. Next to this was Roger's room, a private room covered floor to ceiling in fabulous mosaics where the King would rest.
After a Pizzeria lunch where Gareth managed to order a pizza with no cheese, we explored the Palermo Cathedral and climbed the double depth steps to the panorama at the top. In comparison to Monreale and the Cappella Palatina, it was hard to be impressed by this Cathedral that on any other day would have been magnificent.
We walked back to our hotel through the old town, past the Quattro Canti and Teatro Massimo, and purchased gelato to conclude our explorations of Palermo.