If you plan a stay in Palermo for a length of time, you’ll probably want to head out of town to visit Monreale Cathedral and Abbey. It’s one of the most important attractions of Sicily. It’s a fairly easy day trip that takes you through a fertile valley called the “Conca d’Oro.”
The Monreale complex contains a mix of Arab, Byzantine and Norman artistic styles packaged within traditional Romanesque architecture. The church is 102 meters long and 40 meters wide. The display of mosaic art is only surpassed by Istanbul’s Basilica of Saint Sofia, covering over six thousand square meters of the church’s interior. It is indeed an impressive site; you’ll be glad you visited.
Construction of the cathedral began in 1172. It took four years to build. Work on the mosaics and cloister was completed by 1189.
How Does the Monreale Cathedral compare with Palermo Cathedral?
The Monreale cathedral and cloister represents the largest concentration of Norman, Arab and Byzantine art in one place. While Monreale is rather basic on the outside, Palermo’s Cathedral is quite a stunning view outside, but can’t come close to matching the grandeur of Monreale inside. Some tours don’t even enter Palermo Cathedral.
Pictures of Monreale Cathedral: Santa Maria la Nuova
The mosaics tell familiar biblical stories. Below you see the overturning of the
job creators money lenders table.
You can find a handy, printable key to the Monreale mosaic panels here.
How to Get to Monreale from Palermo
The recommended way to get to Monreale is to take the 389 bus departing from Piazza Indipendenza near the Norman Palace. There is an AST bus that departs from the piazza opposite the Palermo train station as well. It is the bus we took on our day trip to Monreale. Station personal don’t seen to know about it, so you’re on your own.
Much more expensive is a taxi, but be aware finding one on the way back to Palermo is likely to be difficult at peak times.
There isn’t a lot of parking available if you take your own car.
Besides the main church, you can visit the cloister, the only part of the monastery standing today. You can also go up on the roof for good views of the surrounding territory. There is also a small Treasury Museum housing some relics and other ecclesiastical items.
Where to Eat
There are plenty of bars and restaurants near the cathedral. We liked Piccolo Refugio da Vito on Piazza Vittorio Emanuele for very traditional local food served by people passionate about it.
There happen to be plenty of places to stay in and around Monreale if you plan to stay for more than a day trip: Monreale Places to Stay.