Palermo Palermo : Trip Outside The City, Italy
If you are planning a stay in Palermo try to stay a few days longer in the hotel in Palermo that you have chosen, and visit some of the places just outside the city. Nozio suggests three trips outside the city that really cannot be missed: the first a historical, art and culture tour and the other two filled with sights of unspoilt nature.
Monreale Cathedral (Duomo)
One of the most charming expressions of this mix of styles and cultures that is characteristic of the whole of Sicily. Building on the Duomo in Monreale, located on the top of a hill about 10 km from Palermo, began in 1174 according to the wishes of the Norman king William II who, so the story goes, had been visited in a dream by the Virgin Mary. The result of this mystic night-time vision was a majestic complex that, in addition to the cathedral, also included the abbey, the royal palace and the bishop’s palace.
As proof of the royal homage paid to the Virgin Mary, the “Capitello della Donazione” in the cloisters was created: a sculpture that depicts William II offering the Church to the Holy Virgin.
The amazing, harmonious mix of architectural styles, Byzantine, Arabic and Romanesque, that are combined in the Monreale Cathedral is one of the greatest works from the Sicilian Middle Ages.
The interior is dazzling: wherever you look, golden, sparkling mosaics spread out beyond your view, covering the entire central nave, for a total of 6000 square meters. These works of art, that are the work of famous Byzantine and Venetian mosaic artists, tell the stories of the Old and New Testaments through wonderful images. Not to be missed:
- The square cloisters surrounded by multi-colored columns, the only part that is still intact of the old convent that enchanted the French writer Guy de Maupassant.
- The readings by pictures (unless you know Greek and Latin) of the Old and New Testaments, splendidly depicted in the mosaics in the central vave.
This is commonly known as the Palermo people’s beach, famous for its elegant Liberty-style villas, its white sand and its crystal-clear water.
However, Mondello, about 10 km from Palermo, has not always looked like this: once upon a time, this basin, enclosed between Monte Gallo and Monte Pellegrino, was an unhealthy swamp with a small fishermen’s village nearby, that was built around the old tuna fishing nets site. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, after the land was reclaimed, elegant Liberty-style bathing establishments were built that immediately attracted the elitist European holidaymakers.
Today the beach at Mondello attracts lots of visitors, especially windsurfing enthusiasts who find just what they are looking for, and wind to swell their sails in this stretch of sea. Not to be missed:
- A walk through the picturesque village of Mondello
- A look at the remains of the tower of the old tuna-fishing site
- A fish-based gluttonous meal in one of the local restaurants
- An afternoon of sunbathing to top up your tan
- a swim in the crystal-clear water to refresh your spirit
- Snorkeling or scuba diving among the luxuriant sea bed vegetation.
Monte Pellegrino Nature Reserve
The particular geological conformation of Monte Pellegrino, not far from Palermo, with sheer rock walls that surround the area, has allowed the local vegetations and fauna to be preserved perfectly, protected from man’s interference and environmental changes as if they were inside a fortress.
Set up in 1996 to protect the rich biodiversity of the area, the Monte Pellegrino Nature Reserve stands on about 1000 hectares and is home to about a thousand species of plants, including 25 splendid types of orchids, and half the species of mammals that live in Sicily, together with reptiles and birds. The Reserve is also extremely important from a paleontological point of view: there are various fossils and ancient cave drawings inside the Reserve, as signs of ancient life. Not to be missed:
- The marine caves, which were the site of ancient human settlements, as shown by the amazing cave drawings there.
- The splendid garden at the Favorita Royal Estate, a part of the Reserve that was built by Ferdinando II of Bourbon, to look like his estate near Naples.
- The Grotta dell’Addura, where it is said that Santa Rosalia retreated to be a hermit and where you can see the Church built on top of the cave.
- A look at the amazing view that you can enjoy from the top of the Mountain: the long white beach, the Caribbean-like sea, and the rock cliffs.