If you are on vacation in Palermo then it’s worth dedicating one day to visit Monreale.
Monreale is a little picturesque hill town about 15 km outside of Palermo, Sicily. What attracts tourists to Monreale is the Monreale Cathedral, famed for its glorious golden mosaics.
In 2015, the cathedral of Monreale was granted status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Externally, most of Monreale Cathedral is not particularly striking.
Monreale Cathedral was erected by King William II (1167-1189) and is perhaps the finest Norman building in Sicily. Dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, the golden mosaics completely cover the walls of the nave, aisles, transept and apse – amounting to 68,220 square feet in total.
Outside the Cathedral, adjoining its south side, are the cloisters. These marble columns, decorated with unique mosaic patterns (no two are the same), topped by a floral capital were built in perfect symmetry in 1200 as part of the Cathedral abbey. The time I visited Monreale that part of the Cathedral was under restoration but I had the opportunity to relax in the garden terrace or “belvedere” and enjoy the panoramic view of Palermo.
In the garden are some monastery galleries that sometimes host interesting exhibits.
Monreale is popular for it’s craft and artisan shops, especially for Ceramic art and Mosaics. If you are interested in Mosaic galleries two of the best are found on via Arciscovado. If you just want to shop some nice ceramics, many artisan shops are found in Via Ritiro (behind the Cathedral), and the nearby streets.
Monreale is a very small town, you can have a walk and find many interesting shops. Close to the tower building, I found a small shop for handmade souvenirs where you can even watch how they make them. Impressive!
- By Bus: Monreale is about 10 km from Palermo, and the cheapest way to arrive is by bus No 389, which departs hourly from Piazza Indipendenza in Palermo. I takes about 30 minutes to get to Monreale by bas, depending on traffic. The terminus is in the square next to the cathedral.
- By Taxi: Costs about 30 euros from the centre of Palermo but it may not be easy to find a taxi to take you back to Palermo.
- By Road: From central Palermo, follow Corso Calatafimi and SS 186, following signs to Monreale. Driving to Monreale is not advised because you’re not likely to find a parking space in the town