Saturday, November 7, 2015

rising to a tour day of Palermo and realizing how fun it can be

Today started out with a little plan, walk to the local monuments and then take a bus to Monreale.  Indeed, the best laid plans of mice, men and travelers in Palermo.

We took off left, towards the Cathedral and the Porto Nuovo.  North, I think.  (Turns out, North is to the water, and we were walking away from the water.)  We were on hoof and stopped at the patisserie across from the Cathedral. Cattedrale.  An espresso and a cappuccino, three pastries later and we were good to go.  The cathedral is surrounded by a garden and sort of it's own piazza.  We saunter across the gardens and into the church.  An incredibly large and combination byzantine and Norman architecture, it rises above and towers over every other thing in the city.    We entered into the Catthedrale, thinking it would be a long chute, just like every other church.  Instead, it is an overwhelming entrance into the "Walter of the Mill" church.  Walter commissioned the Cathedral to be his power base.  Unfortunately, it took centuries to complete.  And Walter lost to the the glories of William the second in Monreale.  Poor Walter, I don't even think he lived long enough to know he was out done.
I think this is all for the Madonna

the saints are depicted on the columns of the church.  My mother was confirmed after Saint Olivia

 Strolling the the cathedral, I don't take photos very lightly.  First, I am catholic, and feel like I should be genuflecting at every turn, second because I can't find the holy water.  There are turns every 30 feet for a new alter and a new dead leader of the church.  The latest is still in the very new tomb for show.  Ted's translation is that the cardinal was killed by the mafia and now is up for sainthood.  In spite of one's beliefs, the church, the Catholic Church, if you were raised in it, still holds an unbelievable power and mystery.

There is another tour, one for money, that lets you into the crypts and the roof.  Corbett wanted to be on the roof, but Ted could not do it.  I said I would.  I cannot tell you which one made me more weak, but I am so glad that Corbett was with me.  First, we paid our seven euros, then descended down to the treasury and the vaults and the crypts.  The treasuries were much like those of France.  Each pope, cardinal and bishop commissions a ring, a pen, a pin, a vesture ornament, a hat - all filled with jewels.  The wealth of the Cathedralle is amazing.  Elizabeth Taylor has nothing on these guys.  The interesting thing is  the rings all look like they are for very fat fingers, but the bodies outlined on the crypts are small and thin.  When we descended down to the crypt, I cannot lie, I had to do the sign of the cross twice.  Once for me and once for Corbett.  Ted stayed above ground.  I started getting creeped out, then we got to the pope that had his image on top of the crypt.  He had a leg cocked up, showing all his wares, his head on his elbow, a book in his hand, his sword and helmet beside him.  He could not have looked more comfortable.  I, on the other hand, started realizing how far beneath the street I was and needed to escape quickly.  While waiting for Corbett to come up the stairs, I took photos of the ceiling, which I am guessing was a good 75 feet above me.
looking up from the crypt entrance.

The last of the tour is the trip to the roof.  And they mean the roof.  You climb 110 steps in a very tiny spiral staircase to the roof. Once there, a person directs you to the walkway.  The alternative is a step on the tiled roof and then the ground 150 feet below.   Management  changed the pitch of the roof to a flat walkway 3 feet wide with flexible iron handled rails across the top.  The walk on the roof was fine, mostly as I was winded from the climb.  When we got to the dome, 75 feet along, my blood was back and so was my imbalance.  I clung to a corner which you see between the corners of this dome picture.  I encouraged Corbett to take photos, not realizing he would actually do it.  He went off and my back was plastered against the dome, slightly above the little minuet spires.  Corbett finally came back and we started again across the roof.  This time I held his shirt as if my life depended on it.  That is because it did!. He was mostly kind, but did stop to take another panoramic (really!!!) while were on the way back to the tiny spiral staircase.

Luckily on the way down there were two little boys talking behind me.  I don't speak Italian, but when they started counting: ono, due, tre, sounded so familiar!  So they counted in Italian, and I counted in French.  It was all fine till they got to novanta, and I had to switch to quatre vingt dix.   I realized they keep counting in tens and I had to switch to four twenties and a ten.  No matter, mil a onse and we are down!  I am no longer hostage to the depths or heights of the cathedral!  

It is truly beautiful and the treasury of the church is filled with riches beyond  belief.  It is amazing the jewels summoned by the reigning catholic official.  I don't know that I would recommend you come to Palermo for this, but if you do come to Palermo, please see this.  I leave the roof trip up to you, especially if you don't bring your own Corbett.

Tis the largest church we have been in since Rome

We left the church and went through the Porto Nuova which is an arch welcoming one to the city.

 We decided to try and go to Monreale Mountain, but it was closed by the clouds.  Then we walked to the piazza Indipendenza.     There we caught a tourist bus around the city.  It was a fun open top, we never do this tour.  We learned where the opera's were and the history of the city piazzas.  We saw places we might not have walked to like Teatro Politeama.  We jumped off at the Fountain of Shame.  Which in my opinion, the only shame is the painting and graffiti on the sides of the monuments.

Fountain of  shame

If I haven't lost you by now, the next adventure is to the  Teatro Massimo.  We eat at a local cafe and then look at the theater which is the third largest in Europe.  The stairs have a nun mystery to them that involves the second step.  But to learn about it cost euros and we decide we have learned quite enough from nuns already.  there is a place that reminds me of my husband near the front door.

Lastly, I want to go to the Carrefour, which for anyone who hasn't been to Publix, is the Europe equivalent.  So I am sure that I know where it is, as google is in my hand and two men are following me.  We get to a juncture and one of my party says left, and I say google says right and we make a giant circle to the place where we were before.  And then I must acquiesce the google to the map and we arrive before google says we will.

Wine, cheese and  Limoncello gifts later, we are walking back to our splendid apartment.  How nice to have three bathrooms!  Until tomorrow, Ciao!