In search of Odysseus and more… 3/24/18

As we are leaving Taormina and the lovely Villa Ducale, Paolo says to me, “we see you next year, yes?” And I wonder if I will see these places again. Then Sarah says to me, “you said that last year, too, Mom.”  So too much drama and gloom and doom. I will get my knee fixed and I will back in fighting form next year. That is a promise to myself.

Before heading down the hill and towards Messina we take a ride up to Castelmola, high above already high Taormina. I have been wanting to go up there for years. Unfortunately a    police officer comes after us tweeting her whistle as we stop to take a picture. “NO PARKING!” she yells at us. Since we tend to get at least one ticket every trip, we scoot away and take some pictures as we descend the hill.

Looking down on Taormina from the heights of Castelmola

Usually I have quite a few shots of Mt. Etna but the volcano has been hiding in the clouds the whole time we have been here. There is a little clearing as we descend the mountain and I get a partial picture.

Mt. Etna with snow and probably some steam

Okay, wish one granted. Now on to Odysseus.

”Then seizing two strong spears I took my stand on the ship’s bow, for it was there I expected first to see the monster of the rock…Then we entered the Straits in great fear of mind for on the one hand was Scylla and on the other dread Charybdis.“

As you approach the embarkation point for the ferry across the Strait of Messina there is an exit for Scylla. We have never taken it and I wish we had. I figure that on Sicily there should be a spot for Charybdis. So we drive all the way out to the point, Torre Faro, in search of Charybdis but there is no mention of her. You can, however, see the giant rock which is Scylla. This point is between the spit of Sicilian land and the great rock of Scylla is the narrowest point of the strait and no doubt the most turbulent and dangerous for ships.

The distant large rock in the water on the right is Scylla, and Charybdis is a whirlpool on the Sicily side

We have been trying to time ourselves so that when we get to Cefalu, our next stop, the cathedral will be open. It seems that almost all the churches take the most holy of institutions, the three to three and a half hour lunch break. We decide to take our lunch break too and stop at a rather grotty Autogrill for a salami sandwich.

Haute cuisine

By the time we reach Cefalu, park the car, and take the pleasant walk to the cathedral it is 3:30 PM and time for the church attendants to go back to work.

Pretty seaside town of Cefalu

The Cefalu Cathedral is in a UNESCO World Heritage Site which encompasses Arab-Norman Palermo and The Cathedral Churches of Cefalu and Monreale. These nine sites are examples of the meeting of Western, Islamic, and Byzantine cultures on Sicily which gave rise to new concepts of architecture and showed how people of different origins had a fruitful coexistence (at least for a time.)

The Cefalu Cathedral was begun in 1131 and the mosaics inside were begun in 1145. In the picture below imagine the cathedral without the two spires on top of the towers and lacking the porch facade, both of which were added later, and the church is very much a fortress.

The facade of the Norman Cefalu Cathedral

Inside only the apse is decorated in mosaic. I read somewhere that they ran out of money. They had brought in masters in mosaics from Constantinople and the mosaic artists and the materials were probably pretty pricy.

Looking toward the apse

The mosaic features Christ giving a blessing with one hand and holding the Gospel of John in the other. His face is a little less Byzantine then many others we have seen. Below him are Mary and four angels and then the Apostles.

Fabulous mosaic
Mosaic of Christ Pantokrator on a golden field

After a lengthy look at this beautiful cathedral we head back to the car for the rest of our journey to Palermo.

Sun reflecting on the Tyrrhenian Sea

We check into our hotel, the Best Western Ai Cavalieri in Palermo. It is kind of a big let down after Villa Ducale. We go down to the Graal Bar which we have been to before. Last time when we ordered glasses of wine we got a giant free spread of appetizers. In the last three years they have wised up. We have to pay for the appetizers now and they are not nearly as good but are definitely plentiful!

Un-free appetizers at Graal Bar but still a cheap dinner


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