Thursday, March 30, 2017


On my last day in Sicily, I decided to make the trek out to the town of Cefalù, about an hour by train. According to the internet, Cefalù was a cute town, with a nice beach and, of course, the last of the great Arab-Norman edifices in the region. Unfortunately, the weather was grey with occasional showers, so that ruled out the beach, and the Cefalù cathedral is definitely the least impressive of the buildings I saw. It looked pretty bare online, but I thought it might have hidden treasures. But, yeah, most of it is plain, with really just the apse covered in mosaics. After the splendours of Monreale and the Palatine Chapel, it was a bit of a let down. The outside is pretty, though. 

The famous Christ Pantocrator
 I didn't stay inside too long, there just wasn't that much to see. So I headed next door for more cloisters. Again, these were slightly disappointing after the beautiful Monreale cloisters. What there was to see in the cloisters was nice enough, but only half of the pillars survive. Even worse, the other half were destroyed during World War II. That sort of thing particularly gets my goat. It's one thing if something fell into ruins back in the 15th century or something, and another thing entirely when you think it survived some 800 years only to be destroyed so recently. As frustrating as this is, on the bright side, there has been a lot of restoration work carried out in recent years, and as part of this project, you can look online to see detailed photos and explanations of all the capitals. Since I couldn't remember what all the carvings meant, this is what I did for the photos below.

"Capital with acrobats"

"Capital with fabulous creatures and birds of prey'

"Capital with griffin, lizard and lion". I assume this toothy fellow is the lizard, enjoying a bite of lion bum
Since the weather wasn't nice enough to go to the beach or sit outside, and I was getting a bit too tired to wander around the city or look in the many small shops, I caught the train back to Palermo and pretty much just sat around (thankfully, it wasn't raining there) until it was time to get the bus to the airport. The last day of any trip is often a bit tricky - either you have to get to the airport at a time that doesn't really allow for sightseeing, or you end up hanging about uselessly with no hotel room to retreat to. I had left my suitcase at the train station for convenience, so at least I didn't have that worry, but it was a bit of a flat end to what was an overall lovely trip.

Outside the Martorana

Some extra photos of the "fountain of shame" I didn't have space for before

So voilà, that was Sicily! I really enjoyed it! It's a big island, so this definitely made me think I'd like to come back and see more of it, from the ancient temples and Roman villas, to Mt Etna to the Aeolian islands. It wasn't nearly as daunting as I'd been led to believe, and although you'll meet more non-English speakers than in, say, Rome, I didn't have any particular communication problems and got around to all the sights on foot, by bus and by train with no issues. A good reminder that there is still a "brave" solo traveller hiding inside!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sicilian scenery

So, with all the wedding excitement and a lot of redundancy stress at work (I start a new job next week!), I never finished my Sicily posts. I know, you've been waiting on bated breath this whole time.

Monreale, as you may remember, was another amazeballs Arab Norman cathedral. Like the Palermo cathedral, you are also able to go up on to the roof for some nice views down into the cathedral and also a panoramic view of the surrounding landscapes.

It's always a special feeling getting a sneak peek from a different point of view

After navigating through the inside of the cathedral, you emerge to a view over the cloisters

Up close and personal with the roof architecture

Standing in the roof guttering

I had the roof mostly to myself, but a passing American couple were kind enough to take my photo on the stairs

View of Palermo on the way up to the cathedral from the bus stop
After the cathedral, I had lunch in the sun, which started out quite pleasant and quickly turned terrible as the guy next door whipped out an angle grinder. The restaurant owners must have paid him to take a lunch break just as the tourists started trickling in.