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This tall and impressive gate was built in the 15th century at a time when Palermo was surrounded by a city wall. The gate was called “Porta dell’Aquila” (Gate of the Eagle) but the people of Palermo called it “Porta Nuova” (“New Gate“), and that name has stuck. The gate was reconstructed in the 16th century to honor Holy Roman Emperor Charles V’s conquest of Tunis from the Ottoman Empire. The gate was destroyed by a fire caused when lightening exploded a gunpowder store in the upper levels in 1667; an exact copy was reconstructed within 2 years.
Porta Nuova is close to two of Palermo’s most popular attractions, Palazzo dei Normanni and Capella Palatina, but …
I’ve previously published a post on “The Art of the Almond“, featuring some of the beautiful marzipan creations we came across in Venice. While sorting through my photos from Sicily, I found a few more nice examples.
Marzipan is made of ground almonds (almond meal) mixed with a sweetener like sugar or honey. Marzipan is molded into the shape of fruit and vegetables and colored accordingly, producing these beautiful creations.
As with many things in life, the illusion is better than reality. In my opinion, these creations look better than they taste — too nice to eat.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge photos)
Sometimes you encounter unexpected sights while rambling around the streets of a city. While wandering Palermo in Sicily early one February afternoon, we came across this religious procession. I don’t speak the language, so it was unclear to me what was being celebrated. But the icons appear to be old and of an Orthodox nature.
After I took a few still photos, I switched to video mode and captured this amateur footage, to give you a feeling for what the experience was like.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge photos)
Sicilian carts have a long history, dating to the time of Greek occupation when they were used to haul goods inland. They were especially popular around a hundred years ago, until they were all but completely replaced by automobiles and trucks in the 1950s.
What makes these carts unique is their colorful decorations. Some carts have carvings, some have have paintings, all of which tell stories about Sicilian history and folklore.
We came across this collection of carts and related art while walking in an alley in Palermo. I thought it interesting that even three-wheeled trucks had decorations similar to the carts.
(Carretto_Siciliano. Courtesy of Filippo Piazza and Wikimedia)
I found the photo above on Wikimedia, which shows how lovely the carts and horses …
Palermo is an ancient city at least 2,700 years old, Of course it has grown and modernized over the years, but it has an old and gritty quality to it. I was charmed during our rambling to see how many narrow roads and lanes persist. It reminds me of cities that were laid out in medieval times.
Many of the lanes are quite narrow, in places narrow enough that a standard car might have trouble navigating the passage. For that reason alone its worth exploring on foot, where you’ll experience the true personality of the city. Here you’ll discover people’s homes, cafes, small restaurants, and children playing in the road. There aren’t many places like it that I’ve encountered in …
While the exterior of the church is bland and uninteresting, it’s when you step inside that you can see why San Maurizio is sometimes known as the “Sistine Chapel” of Milan. It’s filled with many beautiful, colorful, and well-preserved 16th century frescoes mostly depicting Biblical scenes and stories.
Churches have long stood at this site, and construction of the current San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore began in 1503. It was built incorporating several ancient walls that date back to Roman times, and was constructed as a Benedictine convent for nuns. Today a large part of the complex houses the Archaeological Museum of Milan (a completely separate attraction and not discussed in this blog).
There are two parts to the church. When you …
My wife and I visited Sicily during an especially cold February. Our visit began in Palermo, followed by a one week road trip around the island, ending with several days in Catania. Unbeknown to us before we arrived, our visit to Catania coincided with Carnival.
Carnival dates to the Roman Empire and, although it is not a religious celebration, occurs just before Lent. It’s most commonly celebrated in Catholic countries so it makes sense it would be popular in Italy. The most famous Carnival celebration in Italy is in Venice; however many smaller celebrations can be found throughout the country. Carnival is popular in Sicily and is celebrated in a variety of ways — special food, parades, …
It was surprisingly cold and damp when we visited Sicily a few Februaries ago. After walking about Catania for a few hours, it was always nice to stop for a cup of coffee and a pastry, to rest and warm up some.
A most pleasant finding was this fine bakery/cafe/snack bar in Catania, which we visited daily while in that city. The place exuded elegant 19th century charm, like so many in Europe. Here we met a wonderful cafe employee who was very kind to us but whose name currently eludes me. He treated us like welcome members of his family.
The place specialized in a large variety of fresh-baked pastries and snacks (like pizza and buns with meat). Everything looked great …