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Palermo’s Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico)

01a Orto Botanico

While Sicily itself is green and lovely after the rains, Palermo doesn’t have many spacious parks or gardens.  This is in part why exploring Orto Botanico di Palermo (Palermo Botanical Garden) was a treat for my wife and I.  It covers about 30 acres and has a large and interesting variety of plants that are pleasant to stroll through.  Orto Botanico also conducts research for the Department of Botany, University of Palermo. 

The garden dates to 1779 when the University created a chair of “botany and medicinal properties” and dedicated a plot of land for a botanical garden.  The goal was to grow and study plants that useful had medicinal properties.  The garden was moved to the present site in 1786 when …

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A Day of Mosaics: Visiting Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily

24 Villa Romana del Casale (189)

I like to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites when travel allows because they are uniformly interesting.  Villa del Casale is no exception as it has some of the best preserved and most extensive Roman mosaics anywhere.  The place is situated off the main tourist path in the central hills of Sicily and was a little hard to find, but the lovely well-preserved floor mosaics make it worth a little effort to get to.  It’s about 3 km from the town of Piazza Armerina.

Villa Romana del Casale was built in late Roman Empire, around the middle of the 4th Century AD, as a hunting lodge for a wealthy Roman (whose name is unknown).  The overall architecture is similar to many villas …

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Palermo’s Palazzo dei Normanni

02 Exterior of Palermo Palazzo del Normanni (2)

Palazzo dei Normanni (Palace of the Normans) is the old Royal Palace in Palermo, Sicily.  It was built in the 9th century by the Arab/Islamic rulers for the harems of their emirs.  It was expanded and renovated by the Normans who subsequently conquered Sicily in 1072.  The Norman kings transformed the building into a multi-functional complex that served as an administrative center and a royal residence.  During the period of Norman rule, Sicily thrived and prospered.

The Palazzo sits on the highest spot in Palermo and is the oldest royal residence in Europe.  After the Normans left, Palazzo dei Normanni was not used for several centuries.  But the palace returned to an administrative role in the second half of the sixteenth century, when the Spanish governors chose …

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“Pic of the Week”, July 7, 2017. A Wedding in Palermo

04 Wedding in Palermo Palazzo del Normanni (16)

One of the pleasures of traveling is stumbling on memorable scenes of everyday life.  So it was as we waited to gain admittance to the Capella Palatina

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Karl on | Comments Off on “Pic of the Week”, July 7, 2017. A Wedding in Palermo
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Exploring Historic Segesta, Sicily

02 Segesta

When we visited Sicily a few aspects of our time there surprised me.  1)  The food was even more delicious than I expected.  2)  The landscape was far more hilly and mountainous than I thought it would be.  3) The large assortment and general good state of preservation of the country’s archaeologic sites.

Segesta (also known as Egesta) is close to the island’s most populous city, Palermo, and is even closer to its airport.  It is easily accessible by car, the Autostrada only minutes away, so a car rental is the easiest way to get there (bus connections are said to be slow and difficult).  Unlike Agrigento in southern Sicily, there is no modern city nearby — just beautiful hills, farms …

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Catania’s Fabulous Market

13-Catania-Fish-Market

 

Besides the sight of Mt. Etna looming not far away, perhaps the most famous landmark in Catania is its lively fish market, La Pescheria.  There’s more to the market than seafood, but I’ve never encountered a more diverse selection of fresh seafood anywhere.  And the operative word is fresh as much of the merchandise was still flopping and flipping about.  The fish mongers are a lively bunch, trying to entice everyone passing by to purchase their fish, which are said to be the best and/or cheapest in the market.

Given that it’s situated on the Gulf of Catania, it’s not surprising to find that seafood is so popular with the locals and a key ingredient in local cuisine.  You’ll find massive …

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Palermo’s Vucciria Market

01%20Vuccirie%20Market

The most famous of Palermo’s four main markets is the Vucciria market.  The market’s name is derived from the Sicilian language, wherein Vucciria means “voices”.  Interesting…a market named for the sound of those bartering and dealing.  You’ll find this market, which winds through the curving graffiti-covered streets around Piazza San Domenico, in the heart of Palermo’s historic district.

The Vucciria market is open every day except Sunday, from dawn until about 2 pm.  You’ll find all kinds of fresh produce, seafood, meats and grocery items.  Souvenirs, household goods and handcrafts are also for sale.  A market has been held on these streets for at least 700 years.

My wife and I had looked forward to strolling through the Vucciria market because of …

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“Pic of the Week”, March 11, 2016: A small Sicilian Hill town

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Sicily is known for it’s hilly landscapes, but we were surprised at just how steep and mountainous the island’s terrain is.  It’s very common to see small towns draped over hills that seem impossibly steep.

We were driving our car rental from the beautiful seaside city of Agrigento to Villa Roma del Casale, which has some of the best preserved Roman mosaics in the world.  Our GPS routed us through a small town that I believe was Canicatti.  We were directed over the hills through farm country, down roads that became progressively worse and worse and which dead-ended on a muddy flat.  Never trust only a GPS.

We doubled back and navigated the old-fashioned way, with maps, having wasted about a half …

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Karl on | Comments Off on “Pic of the Week”, March 11, 2016: A small Sicilian Hill town