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Things to do in Palermo

    Cattedrale di Monreale Cathedral of Monreale Palermo, Italy
    The Cathedral of Monreale is famous for its beautiful golden mosaics and the most magnificent church in Sicily, constructed in the 12th century under orders from William II, the Norman ruler of the country at that time, who desired to outdo his grandfather, Roger II, that had the Palantine Chapel constructed. Part of a grand complex just outside of Palermo, Italy, the workmen used on the fabulous church were from Sicily and the Byzantine empire, resulting in a unique and splendid fusion of eastern and western styles that is more incredible than most of the churches constructed in the old world. With a lovely exterior, that in no way is able to showcase the beauty within, there are two towers on the western facade, with just one completed. The portico is neoclassical, but had been added in the 18th century, while the apse is elaborately decorated with interlaced arch and circle designs created by using marble and tufa, and worth the walk around the cathedral to view. There are two magnificent sets of bronze Romanesque doors, that are just a few of the remaining in Europe, and were sculpted and designed by Bonanno da Pisa in 1185, and showcase 42 reliefs of the Bible, set within decorated framing. The north doors were finished in 1179 and created by Barisano da Trani and showcase 42 portraits of saints and evangelists; and the portico over the north doors were created in the 16th century. What makes the church standout above all others is the beautiful mosaic interior that was created in the 12th and 13th centuries, made with golden mosaics that also cover the walls, apse, transept and aisles that total some 68,220 square feet of excellence. The mosaics are second only to the Hagia Sofia in size, but it is much better preserved. The Hagia is a large structure that had been both a church and mosque and is now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. Quite a few of the mosaics were created by craftsmen brought here from Venice, and the results are unimaginable. When you enter the cathedral, your eyes are just naturally drawn to the apse, with a fabulous portrait of Christ Pantocrater (Ruler of All) is gesturing in blessing and is looking very serenely off into the distance. Its Greek inscription read, "Jesus Christ, the Pantocrator", while the remainder of the apse contain standing saints and apostles. The image to the right is a picture of that apse and gives you some idea of the glorious scope of the cathedral. There is so much more to be said, but the best thing to do is to visit the church and see the incredible glory attained.

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Local Restaurants in Palermo

    Osteria Dei Vespri
    Entrees; mackerel fillet in sfincione sauce with courgettes & aubergines; dolphin fish fillets rolled in tomato curst with potatoes emulsion & aromatic herbs, served with black olives sauce & bianolilla olive oil; dome of egg with red prawns from Mazzara, sautéed asparagus & guanciale (smoked pig cheeks) in prawn bisque; suckling pig napped in fennel scented pork reduction, served with artichoke & broad strudel & liquorices beer foam; boned quail & prunes cooked in marsala wine reduction served on cannellini beans & celeriac puree; beef filet in crust of toasted bread on a pizzaioli sauce, buffalo's milk mozzarello & oregano.


Boned Quail Osteria Dei Vespri Palermo, Italy

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    Cattedrale di Palermo Cathedral of Palermo Palermo, Italy
    The Cathedral of Palermo is the massive architectural complex located in Palermo, Sicily, in the south of Italy, and showcases various styles that depict the continued additions and changes that would be completed during its history, with the final restoration happening in the 18th century. The magnificent church would be constructed in 1185 by Walter Ophamil or better known as Walter of the Mill, who was the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo and King William II's minister, built on the site of an earlier Byzantine basilica. That basilica had been founded by St. Gregory and eventually converted into a mosque by the Saracens, after they had conquered the city in the 9th century. Walter is buried in a sarcophagus in the cathedral's crypt, that had a basilica plan with three apses, that had some minor architectural elements still seen today. The upper orders of the towers had been constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries, and during the early renaissance period, the south porch would be added. Today, the neoclassical looks had been created during the years between 1781 and 1801, led by Ferdinando Fuga; and it was during this time that the fabulous retable would be created by Gagini, and decorated with reliefs, statues and friezes; but be destroyed and the sculptures taken to various parts of the basilica. Fuga had also designed and built the marvelous dome that rises up from the main body of the church, as well as the smaller domes that cover the aisles' ceilings. It would take a while and many pages to discuss and describe this fabulous church, but it is located in Palermo and would make one fantastic trip or vacation.  These churches are so very significant, both to history and the arts, since they were constructed over eight hundreds years ago and are still in fantastic condition, with some of the world's most beautiful artworks, sculptures and portraits. 

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- Via F. Crispi 250
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 Via Tiziano 29

    La ZisaThe Zisa Palermo, Italy
    The Zisa is a unique and beautiful castle located in the western region of Palermo, Sicily, with its construction starting in the 12th century by Arabian craftsmen, for King William I of Sicily, but would be finished by his son, William II, and would become a summer house for the Norman kings, with it becoming just a part of the larger hunting resort called, Genoard or in English, Paradise on Earth, and included the Cuba Sottana, the Usibene Palace and the Cuba Soprana. It is a spectacular example of Moorish architecture, and named Zisa which in Arabic means noble, magnificent or glorious. It would be inscribed on the entrance in Naskh script, that is quite the norm for habitations of the many Islamic structures of the period. During the 14th century, merlons or the tops of walls, would be added, and partially destroying the Arabic inscription that had been showcased on the upper parts of the structure. During the 17th century, more significant changes would be completed, when the castle would be bought by Giovanni di Sandoval, and implant a marble emblem with twin lions over the entry way. Numerous rooms would be modified as well, and changes made to the ceilings, new window installed and a magnificent stairway added. The castle would be used as a residence by the counts Notabartolo di Sciara from the early 19th century to the mid 20th century, and eventually purchased by the Region of Sicilia, who rejuvenated the impressive structure in the 1970s and 1980s. It is now open to visitors with many rooms filled with fabulous Islamic artworks, tools and relics from around the Mediterranean region. The most significant room in the Zisa is the central hall that contains a beautiful mosaic decoration, that included a fountain that had running water going to the outside. It is shown in the image to the right and still is a beautiful and intricate work of craftsmanship.

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 Via Mariano Stabile 6/A

    Regional Archaeological MuseumRegional Archaelogical Museum Palermo, Italy
    This fantastic museum is situated in a former monastery of the Filippini, and is the most significant archaeological museum on the island of Sicily, in Palermo, and one of the finest archaeological museums in the nation. It is overfilled with relics from the prehistoric period to the Roman period and spans numerous structures, with the oldest being built in the 13th century and includes major Sicilian discoveries from the Greek, Punic, Phoenicians, Saracen and Roman periods, along with excellent treasures from Egypt. The majority of the magnificent treasures have come from the Sicilian sites of Termini Imerese, Mozia, Tindari, Siracusa and Agrigento; and although the museum looks somewhat overwhelmed and dusty, its relics include the sarcophagi, pottery, jewelry, anchors and sculptures and are well worth going through anything to view. As visitors enter into the smaller cloisters that occupy the ground floor, it is centered around a hexagonal 16th century fountain that holds a statue of Triton, and in room 3, there is a magnificent and rare Phoenician art, that includes a pair of sarcophagi that date from the 5th century BC. The Pietra di Palermo sits in room 4, which is a black diorite slab called the Rosetta Stone of Sicily and dates back to the 27th century BC. It was found in Egypt in the 19th century and had been going to the British Museum, but because of red tape, it would end up in Palermo, and it contains many carved hieroglyphics that give detailed information about the pharaohs, that include the delivery of 40 ships of cedarwood to Snefru. The main and most fabulous artifacts are the Metopes of Selinute, that were discovered at the temples of Selinute, that had at one time been the major cities of Magna Graecia, or Greek colonies along the coastline of southern Italy and these sculptures are famous for their magnificent beauty. There are many more spectacular relics that span history and are well worth planning a visit to view and enjoy.

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 Via Mariano Stabile 6/A

    Palazzo dei Normanni & Capella PalatinaPalazzo dei Normanni & Capella Palatina Palermo, Italy
    The Royal Palace of Palermo was the seat of the Kings of Sicily and began construction in the 9th century by the Emir of Palermo, and later enlarged by the monarch Roger II and various other Norman kings. It houses the Cappella Palatina, or Palatine Chapel, that had been the royal chapel of the kings, constructed under the orders of Roger II in 1132. The chapel is the finest example of Arab-Norman-Byzantine architectural style that would become prevalent during the 12th century, filled with beautiful mosaics, a wooden roof that is elegantly painted and fretted, with a marble incrustation of the lower parts of the walls and the flooring. The palace would be reconstructed and added to in its Spanish period, although there are numerous areas of the palace that showcased the craftsmanship under Roger, specifically the hall that is dubbed Sala Normanna. During 1946, it would house the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The Palatina Chapel would be constructed above the foundation of the older chapel that had been built about 1080, and now contains the crypt. It would need eight years of construction and numerous more to finish the decorations of outstanding art and mosaics. The sanctuary was dedicated to Saint Peter, and reminds many of a domed basilica, with three apses, that is normal in Byzantine architecture and six pointed arches that sit on recycled classical columns. The mosaics of the chapel are incomparable and include elongated proportions and streaming draperies of figures. The shimmering mosaics of the transept date from 1140, and were created by Byzantine artists, showcasing scenes from the Acts of the Apostles. Other magnificent features include the Carolingian throne, which held a low stage for royal receptions and a balcony that provided the king with a view to the religious processions from above. The muqarnas ceiling is amazing, and hundreds of facets had been painted, most notably with zoomorphic and ornamental vegetal designs, along with scenes of daily life and subjects not known.

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July 19, 2011