October 6-9, 2019
The history of the Palermo area is stunning. There is evidence of human settlements going back to 8,000 BC. The area that is now called Palermo was founded in 734 BC by the Phoenicians. More history can be found here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palermo
In a nutshell, many different cultures invaded and influenced the food, architecture, and religious practices in Palermo, and Sicilia in general. Seeing the results of Norman and Arab culture merging under the 12th century King Roger II was facinating. You can read about him in the link below. His story would make an excellent Netflix series.
For clarity, the Normans (north men) were descendents of vikings who invaded and settled in France. They were large fierce fighters on large horses. They negotiated peace with the French by becoming Christians.
The Normans proved their loyalty to the Pope by participating in the crusades. For northern Europe, Sicily was a logical stepping stone before invading the middle east. Eventually there were too many young knights and not enough land in Normandy. The Normans liked Sicily because it was centrally located for trading with the east and northern Europe so they invaded and took control away from the Arabs. Remarkably, the Normans realized how skillful the Arabs were at setting up a government and so kept them on as citizens as long as they obeyed and paid their taxes to the Norman royalty.
Palermo was cleaner and safer than Napoli. At no time did I feel unsafe in this city. I did not go out after dark with a camera around my neck, but I was not interested in testing limits.
Here is a Google map link:
The Palatine Chapel is entered on the second level of this courtyard.
To see the mosaics below I’d recommend you view the images on the actual website and not through your email software. Zooming in is amazing. Here is a link:
Another important landmark in Palermo is the Cattedrale di Palermo. It also mixes Arabic domes with Norman towers. Exterior decorations are also carried over from Arabic styles. The tombs of Roger II and his family are in this cathedral.
Here are examples of digs that show the layering of history:
The first night in Palermo I still had my sea legs. I had to brace myself in the shower when I closed my eyes. In bed I still felt the rythms of the ferry. The next day I was fine.