Palermo is cool

Trip Start Feb 21, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Italy  ,
Friday, March 23, 2007

So the last few days I've been doing the opposite of Naples - start w/ the city, and then check out the stuff nearby.  Although in some cases I did some last minute city things before leaving because of timing and whatever else.  Some interesting things have included the Cappuchin Catacombes, which you cant see from the road, and of course the bus driver played dumb (he hates his job) and was all like well you didn't say Cappuchin! Cappuchin! and waves his arms around (all this after reaching the end of the line of course) and so he sends me to the next bus leaving.... THAT guy was much cooler and honked to let me know which way to go when I got out and stuff.  cool.  The Catacombes though are creepy as hell.  I thought I'd do okay but seriouslyl considered leaving even before reaching the bottom of the stairs, it was that bad feeling.... aside from monks being buried here (buried is a loose term as you'll see in a min), there are sections for women, men, professionals and children.  Originally they embalmed the bodies of the monks, who are in fact what the drink is named after, as they wore brown robes and white tall hats.  In times of epidemic, the bodies were dunked in arsenic or lime and I tell you waht, they either shouldn't have bothered or done a better job altogether, as basically you're looking at clothed skeletons standing upright but leaning away fromt he walll as they're connected around the neck area I guess.... some with distorted skin on their face, or hair, or totally wacky shaped hands from how things decomposed and gravity affected it.  Good thing I went before lunch.  There is this little 6yr old there too and she looks like she's sleeping.  uh, time to go.

Back out in the sun I went to Monreale, about a 1/2 hr bus ride away from town where the driver is actually nice.  It has this giant duomo there which has the 2nd largest surface area of mosaics in the world (most of which are gold leaf), after Aya Sofia in Istanbul.  They weren't kidding either.  The place is loaded in mosaics.  I even saw a guy repairing a part of the mosaic floor, which was really interesting to watch.  They have a beautiful cloister/courtyard as well, but for some reason there's a sign to the cloisters over the door to the roof.... so while I' thinking I'm going to the outside, I keep oging up and up, and finally end up with this fantastic view of the gulf of Palermo.  Pleasant surprise.  The cloister I found int he end, which was equally wonderful, lined with doubled up columns, each pair different from the next.

Also took a bus to nearby Monte Pellegrino, where the remains of Santa Rosalia supposedly are.  She apparently saved the city from Plague and so now she is the (quite revered) patron saint of Palermo.  So this sanctuary is literally built to the side of this cliff rock wall up on the mountain, with I kid you not, randomly cut pieces of sheet metal and netting to keep the rock overhang 'roof' from falling in I suppose.  Guess you'd have to be religious or crazy to go there, eh?  Another great viewpoint as well...  and the best part was, while I was waiting a ridiculously long time for the bus, I somehow managed a conversation (mostly me listening) in Italian with these two ladies who took it upon themselves to talk to my bus driver when he came, and make sure I didn't get left up there.  basically in Italian it was something like this: now she's a tourist, she's american, and she's alllllll alone, so don't leave her up there and make sure she doesn't get lost and you'd better wait and not abandon her, we want her to see how beautiful it is and the weather isn't good and it's cold and might rain, so you better bring her back down.... AWESOME!

Back in Palermo, there is the Zisa Castle (means splendid in Arabic).  After a long wet walk in the rain, I finally found the front entrance (came at it from the back) and went in. It used to be a castle for king Ruggero II, the 1st Norman king of Sicilia, back in the 1200s.  Later it was a fortified castle, and later still the Spanish noble family Sandoval lived in it in the 17th cen. at least that's waht my guestimated Italian tells me haha....  It's a cool palce, and was able to sneak in a decent number of photos before finding out you weren't supposed to take any.  haha!

There are tons of churches of course there as well, including the first church built by the Jesuits in Sicily, and another than was once a mosque, converted church (as those Christians were wont to do).  then of course there's food!!!  I tried to get a Genovese, but ended up with this Buccerllato instead, so opted to get both to try of course!  mmmmmmm!!!!  The Genovese is either ricotta or cream filled brioche basically, and the other is like a giant bar of fig marmalade with sliced almonds and something else on top.  super good.  they likeah their suger here...
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