Dead people? YES we did see them, but first we eat and drink café!
After a busy first day in Sicily, and even though we were exhausted by the time we returned to our room the night before, we still stayed up until almost 2am, so when I awoke after 8am, I felt refreshed, and HUNGRY! We were very happy when we entered the breakfast room to see a spread of Amazing food all set out for us at our own table! The day before, when we checked in, I had told Rosario that I was “Celiaca” and ate “Senza Glutine”. I could see that he understood, and was MORE than accommodating, as the selection for me to eat was above and beyond my expectations! In addition to the regular pastries, meat and cheeses, he had gluten free cookies, rice cakes, 2 kinds of GF crackers, and a soy drink that also was labeled as gluten free!
On our agenda for the day were 2 important things plus a couple bonuses: Visit the Catacombe dei Cappuccini, the Cattedrale, revisit Quattro Canti, and the fountains from the night before before we pick up our bags then pick up our rental car at 4pm.
Our needs are quite simple, but I must say that we are very easily distracted by some shops we were looking forward to seeing in Italy! We did take at least 1 quick pit stop to shop, AND a stop for café and an Affogato, after which we continued to get our sight seeing done.
From the small amount we had seen so far, we didn’t feel that Sicily was much different from other places we had been in Italy, but then we came across the Cattedrale. It was different from other churches we had seen, including the lofty palm trees. The Normans started to build it in 1185, and also has Gothic, and medieval influences. It is said to be a pantheon for the Normans, and has 6 royal tombs inside the church, a museum, and crypts in the basement. We paid the full admission price to be able to also climb the stairs to the roof, so that we could experience the breathtaking 360° views.
The inside of the church was was beautiful and different from any other church we had seen in Italy before- evidence that Sicily absolutely is more of a melting pot of ethnicity than the rest of Italy.
Cattedrale: √ Now to go and see dead people!
We used our app City Maps2Go to supplement the signs that we periodically found to direct us to the Catacombes.
You may be shocked to hear that once again we were distracted! This time by Yummy food!
One of the Sicilian ‘street foods’ that I was wanting to try were Aracini balls, and as we passed by this nice looking Café with some yummy looking deserts, we went in to see if they had anything gluten free. Just my luck their Arancini balls filled with ragu were senza glutine! YUM! I was hooked! For those of you that do not know what Arancini is, they are rice balls that are filled with a variety of fillings, including cheese, ragu, meat and peas, etc, then deep fried. Another ‘food’ that is from Sicily are granitas, a semi frozen desert made from ice, water, and a variety of flavours, somewhat similar to sorbet, but better because it is Italian….. We each bought one to go, and continued on our way to find the Catacombes.
The Cappucin Catacombs, is the place where the living meet the dead! Not kidding!
The pictures shown were found on Google Images! I DID NOT take them, as they were very specific about NOT taking any pictures or video once inside. That said, I was very annoyed to see others sneaking pictures. I am a bit of a rule breaker, but when it comes to showing respect for other cultures, I try my best to observe and follow the rules. Yes, Mom, I would make you proud in this instance!
We paid the admission fee and went down the flights of stairs, and instantly you were in a place very unique and eery. There were rows, and rows, and rooms, and corridors of corpses in wooden caskets, display boxes, but mostly they were hanging! Yes, hanging! Some were all bones, and others you could still see some features! I swear that one was watching me! They were all fully clothed.
There are several corridors dedicated to specific people including for whom this all began for, the Friars. Also were corridors for priests, women, families, and professionals including lawyers, surgeons, etc and a chapel for children. The last body was that of a 2 year old girl named Rosalia Lombardo, who died in 1920. Her body is remarkably still intact as her body lays in a small casket, which is roped off and displayed on her own. So, yes we did see dead people in Palermo!
Before we left for Italy, I found very little from Rick Steves on Sicily, but the one thing I did find was of him visiting Palermo and the Cappucin Catacombes. If you want to see more, please watch his YouTube video.
On we went to see the other things on our list including Quattro Canti, officially known as Piazza Vigliena. The octagonal square is the crossing of 2 main streets in Palermo, Via Maqueda and the Corso Vittorio Emanuele.
The four corners each have a baroque building, each with almost an identical facade, but each has a fountain and a statue to represent each of the 4 seasons, the 4 Spanish Kings, and of the patronesses of Palermo. As this is not a traditional Piazza, to which is pedestrian only, if you are not paying attention to where you are, or know of any history of Palermo, you can walk or drive past this square without realizing where you are.
Our final stop before collecting our rental car was Fontana Pretoria, the large fountain that we briefly saw the night before. The magnificent Fontana Pretoria is a work of art done by the Florentine sculptor Francesco Camilliani in 1554. One of the things that I love about Italy are the fountains. It is astonishing to me how 100’s of years ago with none of the technology we have today that they were able to build such beautiful fountains, all with unique statues.
This square was once known as the “square of shame” because of the naked statues around the fountain. It is located next to Palermo’s Municipal building, which is in the heart of the historic center.
The Piazza Pretoria, which was not shameless at all, was a wonderful place to end our quick 24 hours in Palermo. I look forward to visiting Palermo again, and exploring the many beautiful sights!