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From Agrigento, we continued on to Palermo. The city was founded by the Phoenicians in 734 BC. It was later conquered by the Romans, followed by the Byzantines, Arabs, Normans and Swabians. Their influence is seen in the architecture and art throughout the city.Royal Palace Our city tour took us to the Palazzo dei Normanni, aka the Royal Palace. It was built in the ninth century during the Arab period but later became the seat of Norman and Swabian kings. The main objective of our visit was to see the magnificent Palatine Chapel within the Royal Palace.Palatine Chapel Begun in 1130, it contains some of the finest examples of Norman Art and Byzantine mosaics. When we walked through the doors, all I could say was "Wow!" Every inch of the walls and ceiling are covered with mosaics.

Palermo CathedralFrom the Royal Palace, we went to the Palermo Cathedral. It was begun in 1184 by order of Bishop Walter but is the product of remodels, additions and modifications throughout the years. The bell towers were added during the 14th century. The inside of the Cathedral was not as impressive as the Palatine Chapel but does contain many important treasures.St. Rosalia Chapel A small chapel is dedicated to St. Rosalia, the patron saint of Palermo and her bones are preserved there. St. Rosalia is said to have miraculously ended the plague in 1625.Sun Dial One of the most interesting things in the Cathedral was the sun dial on the floor. When the sun comes through a small hole in the dome, at noon it crosses the sun dial at the correct zodiac sign indicating the month of the year.







Monreale CathedralFrom Palermo we took two optional tours. One was to Monreale, a picturesque town just inland from Palermo. We visited the Cathedral which is also noted for its 12th century mosaics. Christ the Pantocrator MosaicThe figure of Christ the Pantocrator was created by Arab and Byzantine craftsmen.Christ's face is 9ft long and his gaze seems to follow you throughout the church.




Adam and Eve MosaicStories from the old and new testaments done in detail in mosaics line the walls of the cathedral.This one depicts Eve being introduced to Adam. After our visit to the Cathedral, we wandered through the town and stopped at various vendors selling merchandise to tempt the tourists. Being a tourist, we did succumb to the temptations!Monreale vendor



Vucciria Open Air MarketThe second optional tour was to visit the Vucciria open air market in Old Town Palermo. We fought our way through the crowds, down narrow alleys full of vendors selling fresh produce, flowers, cheeses, meat and fish. It was quite an experience watching and listening to the haggling between the vendors and shoppers.Tuna at market We ended up buying some bananas and some tiny strawberries. Would have bought more had we some place to store them as everything looked so fresh.

After the market we visited the Capuchin Catacombs. This was one of the most unique attractions on our whole trip.Catacombs Eight thousand corpses, some partially mummified, some embalmed and dressed in their 18th century finery - are perfectly preserved and on display in a labyrinth of corridors in a crypt under the Monastery of the Capuchin monks. The practice started with the monks but soon the members of the rich bourgeoisie of Palermo asked to be included. The corpses are grouped according to class or profession. There's even a hallway of brides. We weren't allowed to take photos but this is a copy of a postcard showing the display. While somewhat macabre, it was also very interesting to see the styles of dress during that period.

To view more photos from Palermo, please go to Palermo Photo Gallery. To read about the next location visited, go to Cefalu.


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