After one night in the charming seaside city of Cefalu we cycled along the coast to Palermo. We have spent the last two days exploring this diverse city. Palermo is simultaneously gritty and magnificent, and the transitions between can be shockingly quick. Some parts of the city look like Paris, but a few blocks away you could be in a medina in North Africa. It was reputedly the most important city in Europe in the 12th century, but more recent periods have been less kind.
The interiors of the cathedral in neighbouring Monreale as well as the Cappella Palatina are covered with glittering mosaics of jaw dropping beauty. The Arab influence in these Norman structures is also facinating.
Palermo is also a great destination for goths and zombie movie fans. Here they can visit the Cappucine monastery housing “mummified” human remains. From 1599 until about 1920, bodies of the deceased were processed in some manner and then propped up, fully clothed, to gaze at the curious public for the rest of eternity. The result are the remains of 8,000 individuals, lined up along corridors that you can walk along. The bodies are clothed in period dress, including military uniforms, suit jackets, and long gowns. The girls, clad in frilly dresses and bonnets, look like macabre dolls hung on the walls. At certain moments I felt like I was on the set for Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, but this was no set.
Dining has been a great pleasure in Sicily. The Arab influence is apparent in this sphere as well, with very positive results. It also helps that Sicily is sub-tropical, making a variety of fruits and vegetables available for much of the year. And yes Gayle and John we tried the Gelatto at Brioscia and told the young woman there that our English friends insisted this alone was a reason to come to Sicily. We were not disappointed.