Posts Tagged 'Historical Sights'

Side-Trips While Studying Abroad: Monreale, Sicily.

Greetings GulliverGo readers! My name is Mollie and I’m one of the writers for the website.  I plan to post stories about traveling, studying abroad, and all the tidbits that come with the experience.  This particular post is about my trip to Sicily after studying abroad at the University of Paris IV – La Sorbonne last year.

As anyone will discover, Sicilians take proverbs like these very seriously.  If you ever read them… you’re bound to find one that states, “Chi visita Palermo e non Monreale, arriva asino e torna maiale.”  My cugino (cousin) Pino lived by this notion.  Last year, after spending a semester in Paris, I hopped on a train and stayed with my cousin and his family in the beach town of Trapetto, just outside Palermo, in Sicily.  After grilling the proverb into my head, Pino took me to the small, ancient town of Monreale.

We drove through tight, windy, one-way streets to Monreale, a town further inland, and en-route to Corleone.  That’s right, the very Corleone made famous by the movie, “The Godfather.”  Why did I have to see this town?  My cousin Pino, a cute man in his 70s, held it close to his heart. His daughter Rosanna, who accompanied us, rolled her eyes when Pino praised the town. Listening to them bicker was almost as entertaining as touring Sicily.

The Ancient Towers of Catedral Monreale

The Ancient Towers of Catedral Monreale

After numerous wrong turns, we finally came to a dead end road and parked. We followed the signs to “Catedral Monreale.” All morning Pino could not stop praising Monreale’s centuries old cathedral…but right now, all he could foster was “Rosanna!!   Dov’e la catedral???” Commence more bickering.  Satisfaction set in when we walked into a large piazza and from out of nowhere, the Cathedral stood directly in front of us.

From the outside, the Cathedral of Monreale looks like any ancient church. It was erected in 1174; like most things in Europe, it’s really old.  This Cathedral is considered one of the greatest representations of Norman Architecture in the world.  According to a recent Times UK article the Cathedral is a highlight of any trip to Sicily.

An Insider's ViewMosaics Light up the Cathedral

As you walk inside, golden mosaics depicting the Old Testament line the walls. As the story goes, the Norman king William II had the Cathedral built after being visited in a dream by the Virgin Mary. A grand organ, high arches, tombs (of the founder and his father), high altars (fit for kings), and a statue dedicated to the Virgin Mary decorate the rest of this Arab-Norman Cathedral.

The interior is impressive, but the courtyard outside offers one of the most amazing sights.  The courtyard sits on the edge of a cliff, overlooking Sicily, and the capital city of Palermo. Apparently you cannot really appreciate Palermo, until you “see” it from Monreale.  On a clear day, the view is a gem- reaching well beyond Palermo and into the sea. Unlike most of Europe, this attraction is free.  It’s just a matter of getting to the city.

Traveling Abroad: A View of Palermo from Sicily

Traveling Abroad: A View of Palermo from Monreale

Before you leave Monreale, you’re required to visit one of the many cafes or corner pastry stores. My cousin never asked if I was hungry, he just bought me food. He introduced me to an ‘Arancia’ – similar to a pork bun, filled with meat, or peas and rice. The size of a baseball, it’s tasty, but goes down fast.  We also indulged in a few small Sicilian cannoli. As I learned from my time with Pino, no event or experience is complete without food…especially cannoli, even if it spoils your next meal.

After visiting Monreale, according to my cousin, I could leave Sicily a “good, wholesome person.”  In the end, my last minute trip to Sicily enhanced my study abroad experience by introducing me to family, incredible sights, and delicious food.  If you have the chance to travel while studying abroad…don’t debate, just go!

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