Saturday, June 24, 2017

264. Settling-in @ Palermo ...




Just three short hours from Catania in the comfort of a high-speed Trenitalia regional train is the capital city of Sicily: Palermo - my next stop ...



Flying along through "mostly" beautiful countryside - not dissimilar to the land I grew up in in Australia. It's the beginning of summer here evident by the golden colours of the fields of wheat ready for harvesting, the new fresh green of the vineyards and the hazy grey green of the olive plantations; all drenched with the hot dry Sicilian sun from an almost cloudless sky ... very poetic I must say - Italy has that effect on the traveler ...

My Airbnb apartment is in the old quarter of the city - five minute walk to the city-hub ... surrounded by the noisy chaos of the Ballaro markets ... crowded markets by day - crowded party-central by night ... !!! ... thank goodness for double glazing and air conditioners ...



... front door then up 43 steps to home ...



From my second floor terrace overlooking the square, I have a great view of the bedlam below - so entertaining to watch listen and smell the endless activity - day and night - as young old black white Sicilians go about their lives ... mixed in with this continually changing pattern of humanity is the noisy and terrifyingly dangerous ( for the pedestrian ... ) lambrettas ridden by crazy smoking talking on their i-phones waving their hands about in the air shouting to all their friends checking out the girls ( and boys ... ) Sicilian urban cowboys ... not to mention the equally crazy car drivers with their music on full volume weaving in and out of pedestrians, stopping in the middle of the road to chat to mates ... I'm sure you get the picture - wonderfully bonkers ... 



... noisy mosquito-sounding two-wheelers ...

Palermo is over 2,700 years old and was founded in 734 BC by the Phoenicians as Ziz ( 'flower' ). Palermo then became a possession of Carthage, before becoming part of the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire and eventually part of the Byzantine Empire, for over a thousand years.

From 831 to 1072 the city was under Arab rule during the Emirate of Sicily when the city first became a capital. Following the Norman re-conquest, Palermo became the capital of the new Kingdom of Sicily ( from 1130 to 1816 ), and the capital of the Holy Roman Empire under Frederick II Holy Roman Emperor and Conrad IV of Germany, King of the Romans.

Eventually Sicily would be united with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification of 1860.

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Roman Catholicism is very important in Palermitano culture ( whose Patron Saint is Santa Rosalia ) with many grand churches dotted throughout the city - so I decide to make my first visit to the imposing 12th century Palermo Cathedral - dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.


  




The church was erected in 1185 by Walter Ophamil (or Walter of the Mill), the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo and King William II's minister, on the area of an earlier Byzantine basilica. By all accounts this earlier church was founded by Pope Gregory I and was later turned into a mosque by the Saracens after their conquest of the city in the 9th century.





The huge portico by Renaissance Italian sculptors Domenico and Antonello Gagini

 
















A side chapel contains many reliquaries containing the bones etc of various saints believed to hold healing mysteries for the faithful ...


The sarcophagi of Frederick II, Federico II, of Peter II of Aragon, Constance of Aragon and various other Norman royals and leading bishops are located in another of the side chapels …

 

Then with this saint's blessing, I pay my bit and head for the 100 narrow steps leading up to the roof for my first aerial view of Palermo ...




 
 





















Then it was back down out of the heat and into the cool of the interior ...



... as glimpsed through a window on the way down ...




and back out on the street - D. Francesco de Pavla 



The main fa├žade is connected with arcades to the Archbishops' Palace





The back of the Cathedral has definite Moorish decorations ...


And with Saint Peter's blessing I head off 
to find a gelato bar and something sweet and cold to quench my thirst ...