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Sicily: Palermo - Bela Lugosi's Dead, Jim
October 2nd, 2011
12:13 pm
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Sicily: Palermo

We stayed in Palermo for a week. It’s a crowded and chaotic city, with high buildings lining the streets (often providing some much needed shade) and full of constantly hooting traffic. Crossing the road seems to be entirely negotiated, even to some extent at signal-controlled crossings and certainly at zebras. Scooters are ubiquitous (something which won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s ever been in Italy).

This is one of the four sides of Quattro Canti, the central crossroads of Palermo:

The cathedral, which dates back to the C12th and Norman rule:

Gregory The Great, presumably dreaming up some atrocious puns:

Saint Christopher apparently coping well with the weight:

Saint Sebastian. ”Arrows? What arrows?”

There are zodiacal symbols in the floor:

Tomb of Roger II, who unified Sicily with southern Italy in the C12th. An early advert for multiculturalism. The Kingdom’s fortunes and unity waxed and waned over the years, with its ultimate successor being destroyed in the Risorgimento.

Tomb of Frederick II, “stupor mundi”. Another enlightened southern monarch, and notable for being one of the few crusader leaders to have taken control Jerusalem, though presumably it didn’t count because he was doubly-excommunicated at the time and cheated by using diplomacy rather than force. It seems that people still leave him flowers eight centuries later.

I think this is his son Frederick Of Antioch:

A rather characterful horse:

Statue of Garibaldi in the garden named after him.

We spent an evening pottering around down at the seafront. As in Rome, a lot of people were getting married, though here we tended to see whole wedding parties rather than just the bride and groom being photographed.

Anchors with N for scale:

This bizarre object is the Nautoscopio:

Its occupants at the time we passed:

The evening appears to be exercise time in Palermo (which is unsurprising given the heat of the day). There were a lot of joggers too, including one rather strange chap following a sine wave.

Palermo is full of graffiti, most of it pretty dreadful but down by the sea it improved sharply in character.

There was also a lot of love-letter graffiti on the ground, this one meaning (I think) “Little one, never leave me”. We spotted occasional examples of this elsewhere too.

The sunset that evening was spectacular:

We spent an afternoon in Mondello, a beach town northwest of Palermo. It rained on us a bit but N still got some swimming in.

Italian mermaids have two tails:

It took us three attempts to get to Monreale, the site of another C12th cathedral. The exercise was rather impeded by the bus there having been cancelled but the bus stops not carrying any indication of this (except in Monreale itself, which wasn’t much use to us). In the end we hired some rather decrepit bikes and cycled there. N insisted that it wasn’t up a hill despite the name (“royal mountain”).

From the outside it is imposing but does not otherwise seem that special:

Inside is another story however. Christ Pantocrator:

The walls are lined with mosaics of bible stories:

Tomb of William the Bad, son of Roger II and not popular with his barons:

Tomb of William the Good, his successor. You should be able to make out “cognomento bono” on the side:

Partial remains of Saint Louis IX, King of France and sainted presumably for his crusading; by the time he died, his younger brother Charles was King of Sicily:

It's possible to get onto the roof:

Looking out over Palermo:

We visited the cloisters too, which were undergoing some repair or restoration. Given the price I’d skip them unless you’re a particular fan of cloisters.

Back in Palermo; the C16th Fontana Pretoria, once locally nicknamed Piazza della Vergogna (Piazza of shame).

These days such a high “yes” vote would probably be considered rather suspicious:

We visited the Palermo botanic gardens. Moreton Bay Fig, a kind of banyan:

There were lizards and cats:

Prickly Pear. We saw a lot of these elsewhere in Sicily:

Food and drink. We ate a substantial amount of fish of various kinds, that being a dominant theme in Sicilian cooking. We discovered Panelle, following the advice from a waiter at the Trattoria Piccolo Napoli, probably the nearest restaurant to our hotel. Good food at Ristorante Santandrea was enlived by a visit from a miming magician. We greatly enjoyed the tasting menu at the Osteria Dei Vespri, a restaurant with a wine list so voluminous it required a separate stool. Throughout our holiday we stuck to Sicilian wines, chosen either at random or more often on the advice of our waiter, and all were most drinkable.

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(7 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:October 2nd, 2011 12:39 pm (UTC)
Hmm. Urge to visit rising. (-8

You can tell the photo sets I take of the insides of churches — less of the statuary and monumental masonry, more of the stained glass and the organ.

And… is that really a BVM with a neon halo? I'd heard of some pretty tacky souvenirs at places like Lourdes, but never of someone doing that to an ancient monument!
[User Picture]
Date:October 2nd, 2011 12:45 pm (UTC)
It really is. I don’t know how ancient it is though.
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Date:October 2nd, 2011 01:31 pm (UTC)
If you do decide to visit l-) I think a car would have been very little use in Palermo; easier to use the local buses or walk (we did a mix of both). The trains and buses to other parts of the island were badly documented and unreliable; if we were going to do the same itinerary again I’d be tempted to hire a car at least for the second half of the holiday. It might make a good cycling holiday for someone with a bit more stamina than me, provided they chose the right season.
[User Picture]
Date:October 2nd, 2011 01:10 pm (UTC)
Prickly pears were served at breakfast in one of the hotels we stayed in - they are really TASTY NOM.
[User Picture]
Date:October 2nd, 2011 06:10 pm (UTC)
Looks pretty :)
[User Picture]
Date:October 2nd, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)

Yes, it was. Obviously I’ve selected nice bits but I must say that there was something nice to look at pretty much from the point we woke up somewhere on the sleeper in Northern Italy onwards.

Visiting the cathedrals reminded me of the guided tour of Coventry’s that you gave me a few years back…

Edited at 2011-10-02 06:53 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:October 3rd, 2011 06:10 pm (UTC)
Any graffiti weighted companion cubes by the sea? :-)
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