234 – Thursday 10th December 2015: Nothing for it but to go for LUNCH
Having checked the weather forecast, we planned to go up to Monreale Cathedral, above Palermo, however, heavy rain hit the roof. And then did not stop. Pretty much all day. So we walked, dodging the dog faeces on the pavements (worse than Paris ever was) and caught the 101 bus into the centre and checked out a few things with the TIC. Sicily and particularly Palermo has a strong tradition of Puppetry and there are several museums. We had been directed to one of them, but it was shut. Virtually the whole street was given over to puppetry – workshops and a theatre. A show at 6.30 on Saturday sounds tempting.
I was ‘permitted’ to take one photo of a puppet being created – you can just see the workshop through the door.
Given the weather and the Italian long lunch everything was shut until 3.00, so nothing for it, but for us to have a long (and boozy) lunch too. We walked to the Trattoria we have eaten in with the Aged Ps … and were recognised. Knowing how much food is thrust at one, we opened ‘just’ for the mixed starters. Despite the wine, we were both feeling chilled and damp through, so we aborted the catacombs, which were planned for the afternoon and headed back to Chardonnay to get warm under the duvet until the heating was well cranked up.
We got all excited that the Messiah was on tonight … any spare tickets? No, we would have to come back next year … we’d spotted the 2016 programme! A lovely carpet of poinsettias up the stairs.
Attempting to dry out … clothes, not us!
The restauranteur kindly gave us ponchos in balls … James is pointing to his dangly balls!
235 – Friday 11th December: Mosaics and Tiles … and Parrots
No rain, but chilly so we were well layered up with water proof trousers packed in the ruck sack – just in case. Despite yesterday’s heavy rain having washed away the dog droppings, we had to mince our way around the fresh batch! Up and at ‘em to catch the bus from the central train station to Monreale, where the driver kindly alighted from the bus in order to direct us and a Spanish couple (we obviously all looked like tourists) to the cathedral.
Street side welding taken from the bus …note H&S: gloves, face mask etc – Not!
The cathedral is listed as one of the Palermo highlights. It was commissioned by William 11 -the Good, who wanted to compete with the cathedrals in Cefalu (and somewhere else, that I’ve forgotten!). According to the audio guide, it is a harmony of architecture and decoration influenced by Arab, Norman, Byzantine etc …. in other words a complete hodge podge. But the mosaics are truly stunning and there are some impressive inlaid marble work of a later date. I went up on the terraces (aka, roof) and got a view of the cloisters (we balked at EUR6 each, even though they are supposed to be special) whilst J headed off for a coffee.
The mosaic tiles are usually set onto a slow drying base which is marked out by the main artist … slight angles make the light catch the tiles to give the shimmering effect … or least when the sun is shining!
Many of the scenes depict biblical stories
Amazing inlaid marble curtain folds behind the figure
Commando man … should check his underwear is also camouflage!
I know we have both mentioned the driving in Italy and Sicily, but Palermo is a whole new ball game. We both dozed off on the return bus, with the sun streaming through the windows and the very sedate (mostly stopped!) pace through Palermo. There was congestion at EVERY junction, despite the traffic police attempting to direct the traffic … not sure if they made it worse. There was, of course, the odd prang for the bus to navigate around.
We had about an hour to kill before our ‘appointment’ at the tile museum, so we wandered down to the Botanical Gardens … too expensive (we are not tight fisted, but we do have to consider value and interest levels before parting with our cash). However, just beyond was a free leafy park. An American lady asked if we knew where the green parrots were. Parrots? What parrots? Caged? Whilst we chatted to this charming couple, we heard their squawk followed by them do a fly past. Just lovely. If we had not got into conversation, we would have completely missed the parrots and heard about some of the wonderful national parks in Washington State.
The Stanze al Genio is a tile museum and ranked number 2 on Trip Advisor, but you have to pre-book, as I had. It is completely invisible from the outside. We pressed the buzzer on the panel of buzzers at number 11 and were told to come up to the first floor of what is essentially old palazzos converted into apartments. An English speaking Croatian chap met us as the door and explained everything from the production process to the changes through the centuries and the styles from Campagne (Naples area) and those made in Sicily. The tiles are presented in a most usual way … they are the personal collection of one man and they are displayed in his home. They are nearly all floor tiles, but are displayed in groups on the walls, mounted on wooden boards. They make for really warm and intimate wall coverings. The mix of designs is staggering …. birds, flowers and geometric shapes that could be from the 60’s. In fact, one set of tiles is a dead ringer for some of the floors that we saw in the Palazzo Nicolaci in Noto. We were also really lucky in our timing: the owner had purchased the apartment next door, knocked through and only since Saturday, was now displaying 5 rooms of tiles, instead of 2.
Being part of a Palazzo, the original ceilings had been uncovered.
The owner’s living room
James is hoping to be invited to dine
The bus ride back to our parking was again slow: constant horns and again we saw another accident …. Palermo really is a good argument for the congestion charge and out of town parking. There is no way anyone in their right mind would cycle here – we’ve only seen a few bikes, despite the number of mopeds. Very few people bother with seatbelts, even for children. It is really NOT uncommon to see people on their phones, despite apparent legislation that it is illegal.