Day 2: Palermo & Monreale
Cathedral of Monreale
Ready for our first full day in Palermo with the group, we boarded the tour bus and drove to the town of Monreale (about a 30 minute drive). Once we arrived we climbed the stairs up to the Cathedral of Monreale. Our tour guide, Nancy, did a great job of planning for us to make sure we were able to get in the cathedral to avoid the crowds that come later in the day, as well as it being cooler earlier in the day.
Once we entered the Cathedral we were blown away by the beauty of it all. The masterful mosaics in this cathedral are truly a spectacle to see. Our guide did a fantastic job of explaining this Catholic Church and the Norman influences it has. We then went outside to see the stunning cloisters. For those of you who don't know what a cloister is, it can be describe as a courtyard or covered walk along the walls of the building.
As a note- in Italy, for women when going inside cathedrals or churches, it is required that women, cover their shoulders.
After our tour in Monreale, we headed back to Palermo where it was time to see The Church of Gesu and then hit the Ballaró street market (and had one of my favorite meals of the trip).
Church of the Gesù
When we got back in to Palermo we were dropped off by bus and went to see another stunning church called The Church of Gesù. The Baroque -style Catholic church was founded under the Jesuit order and you can see those influences throughout the church. It is a stunning church and example of the Baroque architecture.
Now, off to the market for lunch!
A Favorite Moment!
Ballaró Street Market
At the Ballaro Street Market you will be in awe of the abundant fresh seafood and produce, the spices, the colors and energy, and the pleasant, yet ever so eccentric local vendors. Your senses will be stimulated by all of the smells, sites, sounds, and tastes you will experience! I would highly encourage everyone to immerse yourself in the culture and have lunch in the market.
Our guide, Nancy, gave us a general lay of the land of the market and then set us free for the rest of the day to enjoy on our own. My husband, Jeff, and I wanted to try a little something from every vendor as all of the choices were so appealing!
We ended up sitting and having lunch at a market where the man really made our lunch entertaining as we picked out the fish that they would prepare for us. The fish we both had was absolutely outstanding and so fresh! While at the market I purchased a Sicilian tile tablecloth that has the most vibrant colors. Another fun part of the market was the Aperol Spritz stands that they had. And of course, I had to try one for good measure.
Fun RST Tour Fact:
Something that I love and find so helpful that every guide on every Rick Steves' Tour I have been on has done is provide a handwritten itinerary with important times and information for the next day. It allows for you to plan ahead and also serves as a reminder of what you have going on. Depending on the guide, they will provide fun facts (like how to say the name of the day in the week or Italian) and a way to contact them if needed.