Time to finish with my reports about my trip to Sicily and the Aeolian Islands.
Next stop was Palermo, capital of the Sicily region. Despite its mafia (Cosa Nostra) reputation it was a most pleasant experience, a beautiful city with smiling people.
As all over Italy, there is a very short distance between a church and another. Here they are often magnificent, with a mixture of Byzantine, Arabic, Norman, Gothic, Baroque… architecture. The interior decoration is often overwhelming. This is the cathedral.
The "Piazza Pretoria" with its fountain (by Francesco Camilliani, 1530-86), originally created in Tuscany, but bought by Palermo and erected here in 1584 - in history often referred to as the “fountain of shame” because of the nudities - and its neighbour "Piazza Bellini" are surrounded by the town hall and a number of churches including the Martorama and the San Cataldo with its red cupolas.
Here are some examples of the interior decorations (don’t ask me which one in which church).
Another remarkable church is the 12th century "San Giovanni degli Erimiti", with its partial Arab influences.
The "Palazzo dei Normanni" was the royal palace for the Kings of Sicily (11the and 12th century). It houses the "Capalla Palatina" with some incredible mosaics.
A central place, referred to as "Quattro Canti" is surrounded by four similarly decorated 17th century buildings.
Here are some various photos, including of the opera house…
… and from more popular quarters …
… and from some night strolling.
Up the hills, overlooking Palermo is a little town, Monreale. Palermo was conquered by Arabs and became the capital of the Emirate of Sicily for some two hundred years, 9th – 11th centuries. Although it seems to have been a very tolerant regime, the Bishop of Palermo moved his seat here and when he moved back to Palermo, the Norman kings of Sicily, who took over after the Arabs, decided to build what was to become a cathedral - ready in 1182 - and the seat of the archbishop of Sicily. The interior, all in mosaics is a splendour.
Back to the east coast with a visit to Taormina. The old village is situated some 250 m (800 ft) above sea level with some nice beaches which can be reached by cable cars. It’s today a leading tourist destination.
Once again, the present population was preceded by the Greek and the Romans. The “Teatro Greco” was modified by the Romans – the brick constructions. It’s beautifully situated with a view over Mount Etna (see also photo on top of the post).
My last destination was Catania, known for its seismic history, catastrophic earthquakes and several volcanic eruptions from Mount Etna. The present cathedral was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1693. When Sicily was under Arab rulers, the Emirate of Sicily, the town had the name of “Medinat-al-Fil” – the City of the Elephant. The elephant can be found on the Piazza Duomo. It was obviously sculpted of volcanic stone during Roman times. It later got to support a transplanted Egyptian obelisk. Whatever the history is about this elephant, it may be interesting to know that the prehistoric fauna of Sicily included dwarf elephants.
The city centre contains many beautiful buildings. There are some nice parks, churches, markets… and some other historical landmarks which I did not have time to visit.