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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 …
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…
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 …
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 …
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 …
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 …
Situated a few miles from the coastal city of Palermo is a beautiful mosaic-filled cathedral in the Sicilian hill town of Monreal. This church and the other Arab-Norman cathedrals of Palermo recently received recognition as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Monreal cathedral and its adjoining abbey are often cited as Sicily’s best examples of its unique Arab-Norman architecture. The cathedral dates to the 12th century when Norman ruler William II (William the Good) founded a monastery here and then added the Duomo (cathedral). William wanted this to be an important royal church and he is buried here (although none of his successors are).
Outside the Duomo is a relatively plain church, with the exception of the beautifully designed apses. As you …
I’ve visited dozens of wonderful churches in my life, some vaste and grand like St. Peter’s in Rome, or Westminister Abbey in London, others smaller and with a more intimate feel. As a rule, I’m partially to smaller chapels and churches, and there are two at the top of my list of favorites. The most beautiful church I’ve ever been in, and because of the nature of it also the most beautiful painting of the Renaissance, is the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. Seeing the Sistine Chapel for the first time actually made me gasp in awe — a travel first for me! But another smaller church that caught my eye and amazed me with its beauty is the Palatine …