Monreale

Monreale is a historic hill-town just outside Palermo. It's a picturesque place most famous for the fine mosaics in the town's great Norman cathedral. Although it only takes a couple of hours to visit and see the city, there are places on good prices to eat and drink, good views and a pleasant atmosphere, that makes you want to settle down in the city.

Monreale lies on the slope of Monte Caputo, overlooking a very fertile valley called "La Conca d'oro" (the Golden Shell), famed for its orange, olive and almond trees and there are belvederes in the town with excellent views over Palermo and the sea. The little town has a population of approximately 30,000 people, and its only about 15 kilometers south of Palermo - that makes it a very good base if you want to explore northern Sicily on a discount.

The famous cathedral at Monreale is frequently cited as the island's greatest Norman building. It dates back to the 12th century, when the Norman ruler William II, known as William the Good, wanted to compete with the great cathedral being built down the road in Palermo. Monreale's cathedral was finished first and in an extravagant way; the upper part of the cathedral's interior is completely covered in gleaming gold mosaics; more than 6,000 square meters of it. The combination of Norman, Byzantine and Islamic art and architecture here is a spectacular demonstration of the influences which created Sicily's most glorious era. Though Monreale is a major tourist destination and can get very busy, you'll feel a warm hospitality among the locals every day, just outside of the capital, Palermo.

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