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Palermo. Arab-Norman wonders (U.N.E.S.C.O. heritage) Palermo – Monreale – Cefalù

A striking blend of colours, smells and emotions welcomes you at your very first sight of Palermo; situated at the foot of the magnificent Mount Pellegrino and surrounded by cliffs, beaches, vegetation and a very blue sea, this town has one of the most fascinating Mediterranean landscapes. It is the most monumental city in Sicily and you feel like plunged into history walking along the streets where Frederick of Swabia spent his youth, after the Arab dominion ended and succeeded by the Normans, and where later the Angevins, the Aragonians and the Bourbons left their mark contributing to the Italian Unification. Palermo is an artistic and cultural cradle; it boasts great and important treasures such as: the Cappella Palatina (Norman Palatine Chapel) and the Cathedral, the Orleans Palace, the Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti and also the Santa Maria dello Spasimo (recently saved from decay and turned into a cultural center) which seems to be hanging between heaven and earth. It is also recommended a visit to Monreale with its great Cathedral, one of the finest monuments in Sicily with its splendid cloister. It is hard to list all Palermo’s monuments and its enchanting palaces, or to establish the inestimable worth of museums, libraries, picture-galleries and gardens. It is a town full of life, with hundreds of cuttings and contradictions and characterized by its folklore and hospitality: a morning visit to the “Vucciria” market and a walk on a starry evening through the monuments of the city centre will give you a glimpse of what’s written above. Besides the mentioned sites and monuments, don’t miss: the Botanic Garden, the beaches of the enchanting village called Mondello with its Liberty villas, of the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve, and of the small town of fishers named Sferracavallo. In the neighbourhood of Palermo you can also visit the archaeological site of Solunto, the old villas of Bagheria and the Bosco della Ficuzza (a nice wood – nature reserve) and the Castle of Caccamo. Another recommended destination is Cefalù, a beautiful town overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea which has a splendid cathedral; this can be considered the starting point to dwell among the “Parco delle Madonie”, where time seems to be still to let you enjoy ancient pleasures. The main Religious traditional events in Palermo area are the colourful celebrations of the Patron Saint, Santa Rosalia (u Fistino) in July, and Easter ceremonies in Piana degli Albanesi, a world unique event. Typical and unforgettable dishes to taste are: the “pasta con le sarde”, the “sbobba” (with sweet peppers) and the famous “panelle” (fried street food); even here rotisserie is very good (“arancini” and “sfincioni”) while desserts are excellent: “cannoli”, ice creams and the traditional, extraordinary  “Cassata Siciliana”.