A golden time
If you've read all the tips I've written here, you'll have gathered that there are many remarkable things about Palermo. For me, nothing is more remarkable, or speaks more eloquently of the most extraordinary period of the city's past, than this small stone that sits in a glass case in the little museum on the upper floors of the palace of La Zisa.
It's a tombstone that was carved in memory of a Norman-Sicilian noblewoman who died in 1148, when Palermo's greatness was at its height, when Western and Eastern Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together in a climate of acceptance that was unique. It wasn't Utopia, it was the Middle Ages, life was short, brutal and hard, The King was all-powerful and his will was law. For a few short years however, the island was blessed by being ruled by a King, Roger ll, whose grace, wisdom and sophisticated ability to adopt and use the best of all his subjects' abilities and cultures saw the flowering of a society that had no parallel then and, even today, stands out as a beacon of harmony, learning and tolerance.
We only know her as "Anna, mother of the priest Grisanto, priest to the sovereign Ruggero" (Roger). It tells us she was buried in the Great Jami (the mosque that was to become Palermo Cathedral) and from there taken by her son to the Church of San Michele Arcangelo and the chapel known as Sant’Anna, built by Grisanto in 1149. The telling thing about this stone is that Anna's story is recorded in four different languages - the languages of the four different faiths practised by the the people of Palermo - Latin ( Western Catholicism), Greek (Byzantine Orthodoxy), Arabic (Islam) and Hebrew (Judaism). The date of Anna's death is recorded in each section according to the the calendars of each of the faiths -1148 Latin, 6658 Greek, 4904 Hebrew, and 543 Arabic.
It's almost impossible to imagine that the climate this small stone speaks of, a climate that allowed the acceptance of the validity and integrity of a man's right to believe and worship God in his own way, existed on this small island in the middle of the Mediterranean 900 years ago. That it was also a time that saw the creation of magnificent art and architecture, glorious gardens planted and learning flourishing and honoured is just as amazing.
It was not to last - within 50 years of Anna's death Sicily had come under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor and Roger's golden world was swept away in bigotry, almost constant warfare and exile. Nothing quite like it has been seen since. Maybe Camelot was really in Sicily.
International Museum of Marionettes
We were not able to find a puppet show to attend and so this became the next best thing. This is a remarkable exhibit of a preserved "popular tradition". There are hundreds of marionettes & hand puppets of Italian and other venues both recent and ancient one as well as colorful backdrops, stages, etc. There are puppets of other continents such as Oriental stick puppets and shadow puppets. All are tastefully displayed. There is a nice puppet theater but we did not find when they performed. Perhaps their web-site will give this information, but not when I have looked. (Maybe an email or a tourist office inquiry)If you are into this subject, do not miss a visit.The Museo is at the beginning of via Butera just off the Piazza S. Spirito (where the Porta Felice is).If you are less intersted visit their website , read and look at the pictures.
The markets of Palermo definitely have the air of North Africa about them. The 2 main ones are La Vucciria and Mercato di Capo. La Vucciria centred around Piazza San Domenico spreads into the side streets in all directions. Fresh fish, meat, and recently harvested produce like wild fennel, artichokes and blood oranges are in abundance.
Mercato do Capo spreads out from Chiesa Sant.Agostino with clothing stalls, leather goods and, of course, the ever present fish,meat, fruit and vegetables.
It's great to just meandre the streets chomping away on panelle or calzoni.
The Palazzo dei Normanni
Sembrerebbe l’ atrio interno di palazzo dei Normanni, antica residenza dei Re Norvegesi Vichingi oggi sede del governo regionale (It seems to me the Inner Patio of Norman’s Palace, ancient Norvegian king’s residence, nowaday occupied by local Sicilian government)
I decided make only one page for Sicily, as not every city is available.
I spent two weeks in this region of Italy. A few days on my own, and the rest with my family.
I started in Palermo, where i spent 3 days, including Monreale, a little town not far away. Moving by train I reached Agrigento in the south with its famous valley of temples.
Met my parents and stayed for 4 days in Montgiove near Patti, somewhere in the north. A small village with 2 bars (wow) and a beach nearly for your own.
Not far away is Milazzo. The only reason coming here is taking a ferry or a boat for leaving Sicily, e.g. for visting the Islands. I visted Lipari and I wouldn?t say that it was the most interesting stuff I saw, next time perhaps I would prefer Stromboli and Vulcano.
The next week we stayed in Giardini Naxos, very touristic center on the east coast.
A good point for start your visiting tour: Syracusa, Etna, Taormina, Gole d?Alcantara.
So have a good time and enjoy the virtual trip !