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Palermo and Monreale

Arabs and Normans gave to Sicily infinite beauty, visit it with the Tour of Palermo and Monreale

Tour Info

Duration About 10 hours
Departure Time Suggested at 9:00 am

Tour Description

The Sicily tourTour of Palermo and Monreale” begins at the hotel were you will be picked up and be met by the driver who will drive you through the whole tour. Palermo walking tour begins, a drive across the vast country side which enables you to see most of Sicily’s best. We arrive at Palermo for ourPalermo city tour and see the Magione Church founded in 1191 by Cistercian monks, badly damaged by bombs then restored and partially rebuilt, who maintained one of their few non-German outposts in Palermo. A large stone cross pattée, which was the symbol of the order, still hangs on the walls of the church .The Magione was built around the same time as the Cathedral of Monreale, and like that church, contains plenty of Moorish influence. In the church we notice the three marble columns and arches. Also the tombstones in the floor of the Teutonic Knights. Among the works of art inside there are two fonts of the sixteenth century on the sides of the entrance, a Virgin and Child and a tabernacle and a Madonna painted on a blackboard. We noticed an Arabic script inscribed around the cloister’s water fountain, and the cloister itself had a lush, Arabic feel to it. Porta Nuova ( New Port),  built under Charles V, is surmounted by a graceful Renaissance style that ends with a pitched roof, which is depicted the imperial eagle. Beyond the door, opens Corso Vittorio Emanuele, a long straight which is crowded at the oppsite end from the Porta Felice. The church of San Matteo, built between 1633 and 1647 has a Baroque façade in gray marble. Above the door, a relief of Giacomo Serpotta who designed the four statues, faith, Hope, Charity and Justice. The main altar is full of gilded bronze and precious stones. The Church of Santa Caterina is attached to a large Dominican monastery, built in 1310. The church was built at the end of 500. The Church of San Cataldo was built in 1160 during the norman period and retains its original shape with the three domes, Arabian style. The interior is very impressive, its divided into three aisles by six columns. The mosaic floor is original. The church is currently is the seat of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. The Church of Martorana (S. MARIA DELL’ AMMIRAGLIO ), the most beautiful monument in the world. It was founded in 1143. The monastery founded by Eloisa Martorana. You will see magnificent Byzantine mosaics on a gold background. The Quattro Canti,  officially known as Piazza Vigliena a Baroque square. This square has four corners and on each a building. It is  from the seventeenth century, it is  a piazza and is  octagonal, it contains fountains and statues of the four seasons, the four Spanish kings of sicily and the patronesses of Palermo (Cristina, Ninfa, Olivia and Agata). On the South the building is Spring and belongs to patron of Cristina, on the West its Summer and its patron is Sant’ Ninfa, on the North it is Autumn and its Olivia of Palermo and on the East it is Winter and its of Sant’ Agata. The Cattedrale (Cathedral), built in 1184 and retains its original structure despite the changes that continued over the centuries, Palermo’s cathedral presents to the visitor a diversity and mixture of architectural styles unique in the world for a church of this strikingly vast scale:  Arab, Norman, Byzantine, Swabian, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque. It’s all here, in one grand, inspiring setting, complete with soaring medieval spires. If there were ever a building that could  claim to being the world’s most architecturally diverse, “multicultural” place of worship, it would be this one. Built during the twelfth century on the site of a Roman temple, and a Byzantine basilica converted into a mosque, the cathedral is a masterpiece of Norman-Arab architecture embracing several additional styles throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance and Baroque periods, yet transcending any single movement. The Palazzo Dei Normanni (Norman Palace), was built for the Arabs emirs in  the ninth century, on a site earlier occupied by Roman and Punic fortresses, then abandoned and the palace was fully restored by the conquering Normans. It is now the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The Palatine Chapel was then completed by King Roger II. A masterpiece hidden inside the Royal Palace. It is fusion of different architectural styles, mostly Byzantine mosaics and wooden Arabic ceiling. It has two aisles divided by tall oval arches and covered with a cupola. The amazing interior is covered in glittering 12th century mosaics. There is a huge royal throne covered in mosaics and a 12th century Paschal candelabrum carved with figures of animals and acanthus leaves. The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele of Palermo opens the doors to the public the night of the 16th of May in 1897. It is one of the largest in the world it can accommodate up to 1300 people. A structure with a triangular pediment on six columns. It was begun by Giovanni Battista Basile in 1875 and finished by his son Ernest who also planned the two kiosks in front of the theater. The Politeama Theater is located in the central square of the city, it was built between 1867 and 1874 in neoclassical style. The façade is dominated by a quadriga of bronze horses.

Then we continue to Monreale. The Cattedrale of Monreale or Church of Santa Maria la Nuova, it is the best example of the architectural Norman style  in Sicily. Monreale cathedral was begun about 1170 by William II, one of the Norman kings in northern Sicily. In 1182 the church, dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, it was a dream that one morning William II, known as the good, Rodger II’s grandson and third Norman King of Sicily, told his ministers he had dreamt of the Virgin Mary asking him to build her a church with the treasure stolen from the State by his father William I known as the bad, which was  hidden in a secret place that she would have shown him. The decoration of the cathedral was to overcome the beauty and grandeur of similar monuments such as The Palatine Chapel in Palermo. The Sovereign took colossal riches in the decoration of the interior of the cathedral and the main work was to conclude about 1186, the year which were placed the monumental bronze doors. The two towers surround the façade and a porch, said “Heaven”. The bronze doors are divided into 42 panels with the scenes from the bible. The interior is basilica with three naves, 18 granite columns of various styles in two series of nine that divide the aisles. The aisles have marble flooring in white and red, while the nave is of marble of Taormina. The most spectacular aspect of the Cathedral are the magnificent series of mosaics throughout the whole interior, which cover about 7000 sq.m, surpassing even Venice’s San Marco. The Chiostro (Cloister) one of the finest examples of architecture inspired by Islamic architecture. It is surrounded by a series of arches resting on beautiful columns, there are 228 double columns supported by Arabian style arches, they are  richly decorated with Romanesque figurative carving on the columns and capitals. A mini cloister on the southwest corner contains a beautiful fountain with lion head spouts. The real gems however are the Romanesque capitals, the subjects are inspired both medieval and classical iconography. It is possible to view the beautiful panoramic  view to the sea and the bay of Conco d’ Oro from the roof terrace of the cloister. We then make our return drive back to the hotel, admiring the views.