Grae celebrated his birthday with family the day before we flew to Sicily, we had a roaring fire and warmed mulled wine as it was cold and wet, almost felt like Christmas in June for us.
Our Ryanair flight out of Manchester took three hours and we arrived in Palermo just after 9.00pm due to a half hour delay before departure. We picked up our Fiat 500 hire car at the airport and drove the 15 kms to Terrasini where we are booked into the Palazzo Graziano (a 400 year old mansion) for two nights. The palazzo is in the main square and our room which has a balcony overlooks the lovely square. There are loads of restaurants, bars, and gelatarias so we are spolit for choice. There is also live music so hopefully it won't go on all night!
On Saturday after a breakfast of cornetto (filled with custard for me and jam for Grae) and great caffe we headed up to Monreale to visit the Catherdral (Duomo) begun back in 1174 by William II and completed four years later. It is dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. This place is 'Over the Top' fancy and considered to be the greatest example of Norman architecture still standing. The upper part of the cathedral's interior is completely covered in gleaming gold mosaics; more than 6,000 square metres of mosaic. The combination of Norman, Byzantine and Islamic art and architecture here is a spectacular demonstration of the influences which created Sicily's most glorious era. In the apse, above the altar, the greatest image is of Christ Pantocrator, draped in a blue robe, his hand raised in blessing.
The church is a national monument of Italy and one of the most important attractions of Sicily. There is a an old proverb which states "Whoever goes to Palermo and doesn't see Monreale goes there a jackass and returns a fool". Sounds amazing in Sicilian dialect!