With the sightseeing bus you can get to the suburb of Monreale, which is located approx. 10 km from the center. Here you will find the most beautiful church, Santa Maria la Nuova.
From the outside, it is not so remarkable – apart from an apse with some beautiful Gothic arches. But inside, the church houses the world’s largest continuous mosaic, 6,000 m2 of fantastic Bible motifs, which, as in the Cappella Palatina, are kept in gold, blue and white. Only the Sofia Church in Istanbul was supposed to surpass this.
Legend has it that the buildings were erected by the Norman king William II, who fell asleep on a hunting trip under a carob tree. In dreams, the Virgin Mary asked him to build a church, a monastery and a castle on the site.
The adjoining Benedictine monastery has a beautiful monastery garden surrounded by archways supported by 228 double columns, all different.
And just a warning to young people in love: in 1997, the mayor of Monreale thought there had been too much kissing in the city parks, so he banned it!
Palermo’s promontory stands steeply with its 606 m above sea level. A serpentine road and a pilgrimage path lead up the mountain. From here you have a clear panorama of the city and the valley. Near the top is the cave where Palermo’s patron saint lived. Today it has been converted into a pilgrimage church and built together with an orphanage. The interior of the church is filled with votive gifts donated by the citizens of the city.
On the northeast side of Monte Pellegrino there is also the famous Addaura Cave with cave paintings.
Farthest north in Mondello you will find an old fishing village, but otherwise the town consists mostly of stately villas, owned by rich Palermitans, who in the summer move out to their summer residence here in Mondello. Here is a beautiful sandy beach and many restaurants, mostly for people with a large wallet.
Palermo seems to be a city one either hates or loves. It is a noisy, chaotic city, where you as a tourist are greeted by countless, confusing impressions. As in other Italian cities, there is an infernal noise from the city’s inhabitants and their vehicles, where the horn is used diligently. At the same time, Sicily’s location close to the African coast means that the island, and especially Palermo, is home to countless illegal immigrants and it is estimated that there are over a million people living in the city, even though the official population is just 686,722. (In the metropolitan area, 1.2 million inhabitants are registered.) The many different nationalities and skin colors give the city a life and a pulse that can seem overwhelming – or charming, depending on temperament.
Palermo, which in Sicilian is called Palermu, is the capital of the region of Sicily. It is Italy’s fifth largest city, after Rome, Milan, Naples and Turin, and Europe’s 30th largest. The city’s millennial history is found in Punic walls, Arabic-Norman buildings, baroque churches and neoclassical theaters.
Palermo is located on a large plain called Conca d’Oro (Golden Valley). The plain was originally intersected by many rivers and streams and had large swampy areas. The rivers, Kemonia and Papireto, on which the city was founded, have today disappeared from the face of the earth; but they exist underground and run under some streets in the historic center. In severe storms, these streets are flooded with water flowing up from below. Outside the city walls runs the river Oreto. In addition to these three rivers, there are many streams that are seasonal and periodically create swampy areas.
The lush plain is surrounded by mountains and the winters where their peaks are covered with snow give the area a breathtaking look. Monte Pellegrino and Monte Gallo, both today nature reserves, face the coast, while the other mountains separate Palermo from the interior of the island.
Palermo has a Mediterranean climate, ie. warm, temperate climate with dry summers. Spring and autumn are the best seasons for visits with mild, pleasant temperatures. In summer, especially in June and July, the African air is felt, which can bring the temperature up to 450. The highest recorded temperature is 460. In winter, the weather is fresher and it rains a lot. On average, every seven years, snow is experienced in the city; but on the surrounding mountains it happens on average every four years. Hail can be experienced in the winter cloudburst. The lowest measured temperature is -20, but the weather is generally very mild and no palermitans will be surprised if the thermometer in January reaches 250 or in April reaches 350. In summer it is not unusual that there is high humidity towards the water.