"Monreale: A Hill Town & World-Class Cathedral" Monreale by hquittner
Monreale Travel Guide: 63 reviews and 164 photos
Our arrival in Monreale (pop.30K) from Segesta(by S113 & 186)(a winding road) was at dusk and with relief. We almost reached the town square where a one way street would lead us directly to our hotel (reservation confirmed) BUT it was the Festival of X (we never found out who) and the square around the Cathedral was barricaded and all streets(except the one we were on) led away from the square. We were W and needed E! We asked? Answer "impossibile".Undaunted we tried to circumnavigate the town and returned to the same spot! A police station was next to us and we pulled into one of their vacant spots (a violation?), quickly jumped out and collared the first protesting officer. NOBODY spoke English. A few teen-agers who knew a little English( with bikes) were hanging out on the station steps. With the help of the officer we tried to negotiate a euro fee to lead us to the hotel. No takers! It was too much trouble and responsibility. Suddenly I saw a phone booth. I called the hotel. He spoke no English but we conversed in low level French (Thank the Lord!).Where are you? In front of the Polizia. Which one there are 3(state, local and federal) I found my glasses and read the sign. OK. I will drive by; they will not let me stop; I drive a red Fiat; you flag me; I stall; you back out as I go by and follow me. The maneuver worked. By out of town roads we would never have found (impossibile) we were quickly lodged! He apologized for not remembering that the Festival would cause such a difficulty. That can only happen out of season. Since the hotel restaurant was closed, he recommended the best one in town for dinner.
Monreale offers only its ambience, a few medieval narrow back streetsand 2 large squares in front of and flanking its large Cathedral. The few restaurants, pizzerias and shops do not rely on tourist trade because most day-trippers are hurried along by their guides who have more sites on their programs.Off-season the Cloister closes at 1PM, not to reopen (in season it re- opens from 1-4), so you MUST see it first. If coming from Palermo (bus 389 from Piazza Independenza, 20 min, 8 km, every 1/2 hr) you must plan carefully and get there early or not see it all which would be a shame. That is why we stayed here 2 nights and relaxed. It will take a minimum of 1/2 day.
This is the last Norman church built on Sicily and the last Romanesque Cathedral(1183).Although the Gothic style had started in N. France (St. Denis & Paris-1145 and onward) the Normans in England probably did not call Wm on their cell phones.Since he was the richest man around he became the producer of the greatest color picture show on the Old and New Testament. His writer had a detailed religious program centered around Jesus Pancreator.He brought mosaicists from Byzantium and Venice and probably trained a generation of them on site. He ordered bronze doors from Pisa and Trani. He imported monks of the Cluniac Benedictine group who got him sculptors from S. France (Moissac?) for their cloister. They all interacted to produce a unique show. I believe the Cosmatic technic began here and not Rome where it was a small scale tentative thing. Here there are hundreds of works!
- Pros:A real hilltown; Sicilian-style
- Cons:The Festival Nightmare
- In a nutshell:We hit the bulls-eye
If you look at the stone bases upon which columns are mounted you find carved round bases in the Ionic and most... more travel advice
The Moorish influence is most visible here. The stylized zig-zag mosaics and bulbous fountain head ("palm-tree") and the... more travel advice
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