8-12 May, 2011
Lots of nice bars and trattorias and the architecture is amazing. Sunday evening, I just hopped off the train from Siracusa (change at Messina), found my lodgings and went for a walk (about 7pm). There was a brass band outside in the street, trailing a float with a crucified Christ, with people walking with it, chanting. It stopped at every church and ended up going into the big cathedral. Not sure about the religious significance. It’s 3 weeks from Easter Sunday. I am told that Ascension Day is a big deal, and that is 6 weeks from Easter. Maybe I have been misled. I must Google it.
Staying at Hotel Regina near Quattro Canti (four corners, an intersection with 4 notable buildings around it – pics soon). For the first time I have to resort to an internet cafe – Regina has no wi-fi. On the upside, a got a private single room, way down back in a quiet nook, very near a bathroom nobody else seems to use (for 25 euros a night). I plan to stay here 5 nights. I think there is a ferry on Friday (the 13th! oh-oh) back to Salerno or Naples. I am going down to the port now to check it out.
Update: Here are some pics.
My bed at Hotel Regina. More than once, returning from an evening visit to a bar, seeing the 2 putti (cherub-like figures) on the bed-head in the gloom gave me a start. I thought someone was in my bed. (The putti are of course from the Raphael painting “Sistine Madonna”).
Palermo’s main cathedral:
(I think the figures on the top tier are 4 Saints, the middle tier are 4 Kings and the bottom tier are the 4 Seasons)
I read that the good people of Palermo were so shocked at all the nudity on display around this fountain (18th c. I think) that they dubbed it the “Fountain of Shame”. The figure at the top is the “Genius of the City”.
Norman Royal Palace and Palatine Chapel (1130-1140AD):
The mixture of Roman, Greek and Arab influences is obvious and fascinating. Particularly stunning is the fact that “every square inch of the upper walls are completely covered with superb Byzantine mosaics.” (The Middle Sea). Lord Norwich draws a deeper parallel from the architecture: “Roger’s most astonishing political achievement was to weld together the three great civilisations of the Mediterranean – Latin, Greek and Arab – so that they worked together in peace and harmony.”
Monreale (on a hill outside Palermo):
Norman Castello dell Ziza, Teatro Massimo and other things:
A thought that occurred to me when I was on my 2nd Campari & ice at Bar Cavour near Teatro Massimo, one early evening, while watching swifts darting about, against a blue sky with fluffy white clouds, doing loop-the-loops, barrel-rolls and tight turns (the birds not the clouds): Why do they do it? Answering thought: Because they can.