aside PREPLANNING FOR 2016 TRIP TO PALERMO IN SICILY, PART IV

LA MARTORANO, (CHIESA DI SANTA MARIA DELL'AMMIRAGLIO
LA MARTORANO, (CHIESA DI SANTA MARIA DELL’AMMIRAGLIO

Just south of the Fontana Pretoria near the Quattro Canti intersection, on the La Kalsa side is the Piazza Bellini. There are two churches in the Piazza Bellini , that Lonely Planet recommends seeing and the following is what they write:

“La Martorano, on the southern side of Piazza Bellini, is the luminously beautiful, recently restored 12th century church which was endowed by King Roger’s Syrian emir, George of Antioch, and was originally planned as a mosque. Delicate Fatimid pillars support a domed cupola that depicts Christ enthroned among his archangels. The interior is best appreciated in the morning, when sunlight illuminates magnificent Byzantine mosaics.”

“Chiesa Capitolare di San Cataldo, the 12th century church in Arab- Norman style is one of Palermo’s most striking buildings. With its dusky- pink bijoux domes, solid square, blind arcading and delicate tracery, it illustrates perfectly the synthesis of Arab and Norman architectural styles. The interior, while more austere, is still beautiful, with its inlaid floor and lovely stone- and- brickwork in the arches and domes.”

La Chiesa Capitolare di San Cataldo
La Chiesa Capitolare di San Cataldo

Lonely Planet in their book, “Southern Italy.” recommend as “must sees” two places outside but near Palermo, easily reached by bur or train. This is what they write:

“Eight kilometers southwest of Palermo, Cattedrale di Monreale, is considered the finest example of Norman architecture in Sicily, incorporating Norman, Arab, Byzantine and classical elements. Inspired by a vision of the Virgin, it was built by William II in an effort to outdo his grandfather Roger II, who was responsible for the cathedral in Cefalu and for the Cappella Palatina in Palermo. The interior, completed in 1184 and executed in shimmering mosaics, depicts 42 Old Testament stories. Outside the cathedral, the cloister is a tranquil courtyard with a tangible oriental feel. Surrounding the perimeter, elegant Romanesque arches are supported by an exquisite array of slender columns alternately decorated with mosaics. To reach Monreale take AMAT bus 389 from Piazza Indipendenza in Palermo or AST’s Monreale bus from in front of Palermo Centrale train station.”

MONREALE CATHEDRAL CLOISTER
MONREALE CATHEDRAL CLOISTER

I have already verified that there is a train, trentatalia to take us back and forth between Palermo to Cefalù for a total cost of less then $20.00 which has schedules starting early in the morning and returning late in the evening.

This is what the lonely Planet writes about Cefalù :

“This popular holiday resort wedged between a dramatic mountain peak and a sweeping stretch of sand has the lot: a great beach; a truly lovely historic center with a grandiose cathedral: and winding medieval streets lined with restaurants and boutiques.”

Cefalù
Cefalù

“Cefalù’s cathedral, Duomo di Cefalù is one of the jewels in Sicily’s Arab- Norman crown, only equaled in magnificence by the Cattedrale di Monreale and Palermo’s Cappella Palatina. Filling the central apse, a towering figure of Christ. All Powerful is the focal point of the elaborate Byzantine mosaics – Sicily’s oldest preserved, predating those of Monreale by 20 or 30 years.”

“Looming over the town, La Rocca, an imposing craggy mass is the site where the Arabs built their citadel, occupying it until the Norman conquest forced them down to the port below. An enormous staircase, the Salita Saraceno, winds up through three tiers of city walls, a 49 minute climb. There are stunning views from the ruined 4th century Tempio di Diana up top.”

Cefalu
Cefalu

Lonely Planet in their “Southern Italy” book has other suggestions of where to go which are outside of Palermo’s city limits which are as follows:

“Mondello’s long sandy beach became fashionable in the 19th century, when people came to the seaside in their carriages, prompting the construction of the huge art nouveau pier that still graces the waterfront. most of the beaches near the pier are private (two sun lounges and a umbrella cost 10 to 20 euros); however, there’s a wide swath of public beach opposite the center of town with all the prerequisite pedaloes and jet skis for hire. To get here, take the bus 806 (1.30 euros, 30 minutes) from Piazza Sturzo in Palermo.”

Mondello Gulf
Mondello Gulf

 The 8.7 sq.- km island of Ustica was declared Italy’s first marine reserve in 1986. The surrounding waters are a playground of fish and coral, ideal for snorkeling, diving and underwater photography. To enjoy Ustica’s wild coastline and dazzling grottoes without the crowds try visiting in June or September. There are numerous dive centers, hotels and restaurants on the island, as well as some hiking. To get here from Palermo, take the once daily car ferry (18.35 euros, 21/2 hours) operated by Siremar; or the faster hydrofoils (23.55 euros, 1and 1/2 hours operated by both Siremar and Ustica Lines.

Parco delle Madonie
Parco delle Madonie

“Due south of  Cefalù, the 40,000- hectare Parco Naturale Regionale delle Madonie incorporates some of Sicily’s highest peaks, including the imposing Pizzo Carbonara. that have survived since the last ice age (1979m). The park’s wild wooded slopes are home to wolves, wildcats, eagles and the near-extinct Nebrodi fir trees that have survived since the last ice age. Ideal for hiking, cycling and horse trekking, the park is also home to several handsome mountain towns, including  Castlebuono, Petralia Soprana and Petralia Sottana…The region’s distinctive rural cuisine includes roasted lamb and goat, cheeses, grilled mushrooms and aromatic pasta with sugo (meat sauce). A great place to sample these specialties is Nangalarruni in Castlebuono. Bus service to the park’s main towns is limited: to fully appreciate the Madonie, you’re better off hiring a car for a couple of days.”

After collaborating with my friend and armed with the information garnered and detailed on this blog as well as on the previous five blogs, there is enough research to begin to form definitive plans regarding travel in the western part of Sicily, using Palermo as our home base.

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3 comments

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