Another sunny, scorching day in Sicily!
This time, we were docked on the other tip of the Sicilian triangle. After Messina, I had a really great impression of Sicily in general, and I was looking forward to what we would get to see. One of the main things I’ve noticed? The climate is insanely humid and dry. After just half an hour or so of walking and standing underneath the beating sun, I can feel the sweat start to form. That’s when I really wonder to myself how people manage to live and thrive in this climate year-round.
For today’s port, we were booked on a tour that would take us around Palermo AND Monreale, which was another historic hill-town in the Metropolitan City of Palermo. It overlooks a very fertile valley, and was most known for its stunning cathedral which we were going to be paying a visit to. The name ‘Monreale’ translates to Royal Mountain, which I found to be very suiting for the town.
The bus pulled us along to a stop just outside the main square where the cathedral was located. We walked the rest of the way up some stairs, past some vendors selling very traditional Sicilian souvenirs (soaps, scarves, and the like), and found ourselves in the bustling square. As always, I loved analyzing the architecture of the houses and apartments. The window style, the balconies, and even the plants chosen to adorn the side of the buildings were always interesting to look at, and I loved noticing how they varied from port to port.
Our guide took us into the cathedral (Reminder that if your shoulders and knees aren’t covered, you have to cover up with a shawl or they typically give you something you can use while visiting the cathedral out of respect), and while we snapped photos, she gave us more background behind the building we were standing in.
Construction for the Monreale Cathedral began in 1174 and was completed just four years later. It is considered to be a national monument of Italy and one of the most important attractions of Sicily.
The cathedral was stunning. I am always in awe each time I look up and see the ornate drawings and patterns on the ceilings, on each pillar, on the floors, and on the walls. I can only imagine the amount of sweat, time, and passion that goes into the construction of each cathedral that has withstood the test of time and has attracted millions of visitors from around the world.
Afterward, we were given some time to wander on our own, as always. We picked up some souvenirs and I checked out a few fresh fruit booths they had set up in the area. Definitely a lot better than the Farmer’s markets we have back home.
Next stop was Palermo (more of the actual city center in Palermo). Palermo was different from Monreale in that it wasn’t as serene and was certainly a lot busier. We were no longer in the hill-town, after all. People pushed past you in the streets, each destination was crowded with hundreds of tourists, and it all just felt a little more overwhelming.
Our tour guide took us to the Palermo Cathedral, which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. What is interesting about this one is that from an architectural standpoint, the cathedral is characterized by the presence of many different styles due to its long history of additions, alterations, and restorations. This sets it apart from the Monreale Cathedral we had seen just prior to this one, which was completed in four short years.
The inside was just as stunning as the exterior.
The arches pictured below are where the Cathedral is connected to the Archbishop’s palace.
Before we had to head back to the boat, the tour guide allowed us to walk around for a bit and experience a bit more of what it meant to live in Palermo. We walked up and down the main street, where both sides of the street were packed with souvenir stores, clothing stores, gelato shops, and restaurants of all sorts. I couldn’t get over how hectic and messy it all was in that one street. We kept hearing police or ambulance sirens in the distance and at one point, a police car came racing down the main street we were on. The sirens were deafening – it felt like you could scream at the top of your lungs and it would all just get drowned out by the surrounding noise.
We headed back to the boat after a long day, and waited for the next adventure. We were visiting Naples next, and although we had already been there a few years back, this time would be different. Last time, we did the mandatory visit to Sorrento and Pompeii to see the ruins. This time, we’d be doing a cruise along the Amalfi Coast, have some time in the town of Amalfi, and get some time at Sorrento for some shopping and lunch. The Amalfi Coast has been on my list for ages, and I was excited to finally knock that one off!