With a loud bang which made me jump, they set off a flare in the cathedral grounds as night set in. I was somewhat alarmed on day one, when I left my hostel to a chorus of what sounded like gunfire. But it turned out they have an inordinate love for fireworks in Siciliy - I often heard them going off in broad daylight, and nobody blinked an eye. Must be a way to tell the locals from the tourists, like the midday cannon in Nice.
Because of my early start to see the Palatine Chapel, it was still only mid-morning by the time I left the Norman Palace and headed to the cathedral on day three of my trip. Entrance to the cathedral is free (and it was consequently flooded with cruise ship groups by the time I departed), but to see something beyond the rather plain interior and flee to the bits of the cathedral the guided tours might not visit, you can pay for the deluxe experience. This involves seeing the royal Norman tombs (not many and not superlatively interesting), a small treasury/museum type bit, the crypt, which is Romanesque and atmospheric and full of tombs dating from the Roman, Byzantine and Norman eras, and going up on to the roof. I think the 6 euro fee for all that is certainly worth it, but if you're pushed for time and not keen on old tombs, definitely just go up on the roof.
|The cathedral entrance|
|Pretty, but not quite up to Palatine chapel standards of interior decoration|
|The crown of Constance of Sicily (1179-1222), found in her tomb in 1491, or in the 18th century, depending on what source you read. She was an Aragonese infanta, then Queen of Hungary, before becoming , as the wife of Frederick II, Queen of Germany and Sicily and Holy Roman Empress. She had to flee Hungary after the death of her husband and married King Freddy when she was 30 and he was only 14. Quite the life!|
|Tomb of Queen Constance, another repurposed Roman one|
|Detail of Constance's tomb|
|Tomb of Roger II, first Norman King of Sicily|
|Detail of Roger's tomb|
|Behold the milling tour groups|