Thursday, February 08, 2007

Monreale - Palermo - The Pearls of Sicily

The Pearls of Sicily are locations that are known worldwide as places that offer a unique vacation experience. Monreale, just outside of Palermo, is one of the top vacation spots in Sicily and to hear some, in the world. Monreale is located on the slopes of Monte Caputo and dominates the valley home of the citrus groves of Palermo in the “Conca d’oro”. Since the time of Arab domain, Monreale has been an important strategic location. It controls the only passage from the Port of Palermo into the center lands of Sicily. It gained further importance during the Norman rule when Gugliemo II was in a fierce political battle with the Archbishop of Palermo Gualtiero Offamillio. The Norman built a cathedral and monastery, today known worldwide as one of the most important examples of Norman architecture, and fortified them with “fighting Monks.”

The trip from Palermo is brief. The view is extraordinary winding through the valley and up Monte Caputo. This is one occasion where renting a car can be a good idea. Personally I would ask the hotel to arrange a driver but the drive is marvelous.

The history and culture of Monreale is rich in deep. Every corner of this beautiful city provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in another time. The Cathedral of Santa Maria la Nuova is an interesting stop. The cathedral is home to the international competition of church choirs. A visit during this competition will give you goose bumps no matter what your religious tendency may be. Monreale is a tourist destination, so stay away from the cheap souvenirs.

Monreale is known for its ceramics and Mosaics. Pieces of ceramic tiles and stones are positioned together creating beautiful, elaborate works of art exploding with color. The masters of Monreale were employed in the villas of the wealthy from Morocco to Rome. Today some of youth of Monreale have taken up the antique art, learning from their fathers in long apprenticeships. It is fascinating to watch these artists work. If you are “simpatico”, that is the artist likes you, he may sell you something he is working on. Do not be offended if the artist does not sell his workmanship. It is all about passion and very personal.

The local foods and wines are the true protagonists of Monreale. Sicilian wines from the inner valleys and hills of Sicily make their way onto the tables of the restaurants indicated simply as Vino della Casa, often served in glass pitchers. Be sure to try the Panelle, Pane di Monreale, Reginelle con Sesamo, Quaresimali with Almonds and the Algerini with powdered sugar. Numerous stands and kiosk are located on the street corners selling these traditional Sicilian treats. I usually stay in Palermo but try to eat at one of my favorite places, the Taverna del Pavone close by the Cathedral. The owner/chef is Marcello. He prepares traditional Sicilian dishes where the Arab influences are easily identified. It is an experience in culinary vacationing.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It loks really beautiful there!

3:55 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Jennifer It really is. I have found that just about anywhere I would travel there are some unique and breathtaking places. Sicily has a pretty high concentration in a small area.

6:57 AM

Blogger RennyBA said...

One day I hope I can meet Mr. Marcello in person and say my friend David sent me here! A really readable post again - thanks for sharing.
Wishing you a wonderful end to your week:-)

3:22 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Renny I just hope to come and visit your Norway before too much time passes.

3:56 PM


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