A route which narrates in a significantly way Sicily as an island, is the one linked to the figure of the Arab geographer al-Idrisi, one of the greatest geographers in the history and editor of the book of Roger, a detailed account of Sicily in the Arab-Norman period and reference for a today’s trip to discover places of excellence. An appropriate itinerary that can be covered overland but that also can be transformed into a network of boat routes along the coasts of Sicily. The Idrisi route connects with the Arab-Norman heritage, recently recognized by UNESCO in the World Heritage list.
The capital city of Sicily, Palermo, is situated around a bay at the western edge of the Conca d’Oro and at the foot of Mount Pellegrino. The most important monuments date back to Norman times and create a set of exceptional artistic value for the peculiar fusion of Byzantine, Arab and Latin elements. To the era of Roger II belongs the Royal Palace, in whose centre stands the Palatine Chapel covered with marble slabs and beautiful Byzantine mosaics. But the atmosphere of this capital, among different cultures, where South meets North, is alive in the places of the ancient city, among monuments, lifestyles, markets and landscapes. Idrisi fell in love with it and considered it one of the most beautiful cities of the time.
The Royal Palace and the Palatine Chapel
UNESCO site Arab-Norman Palermo and the cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale
High on the Conca d’Oro, the Cathedral of Monreale is the apex of Arab-Norman art. Founded in 1174 by William II was later joined by a Benedictine monastery. Enclosed by two massive towers, the building is worldwide famous for its sumptuous interior, with golden mosaics representing episodes from the Old Testament.
Cathedral of Monreale
Built on a promontory dominated by an overhanging cliff, halfway between Palermo and Capo d’Orlando, the city retains its antique aspect around the Norman Cathedral built by Roger II of Sicily. Particularly fascinating is the fishing village, with ancient houses overlooking the sea, and the long sandy beach, one of the most beautiful of the whole northern coast.
In one of the stretches where the coastal landscape is more charming, just past the Rocky mass of Calavà Cape, here rises Patti, halfway up overlooking the sea. Feud of Ruggero d’Altavilla, the city retains a Cathedral of the eighteenth-century built on the foundations of a Norman Church. Inside, there is the sarcophagus of Queen Adelaide, wife of Roger, who died in Patti in 1118.
The Normans chose the colony founded by the people of Messina as fortress cornerstone of the coast, in fact Frederick II of Swabia in person planned its creation. The visit can start from the ancient fortress and the castle of Frederick II, surrounded by walls. Inside it is worth a stop at the Hall of Parliament.
6) ACI CASTELLO
The name of this ancient fishing village comes from the Norman castle which stands on the top of a basalt rock jutting out into the sea. Some rooms host the town museum with archaeological and natural collections of the Etna area. The cliff has also a small botanical garden.
The city, UNESCO World Heritage, expands around the main axis formed by the modern viale Marconi, which becomes corso Vittorio Emanuele at the monumental Porta Reale or Ferdinandea ( The Royal Gate). The triumph of the Baroque, in the city , is unique and a visit to the main monuments is a source of constant surprises. The city told by Idrisi can not be see anymore , since it was the ancient Noto, but the landscapes remain still unique.
8) MAZARA DEL VALLO
Overlooking the sea, at the mouth of the Mazaro River, the city was conquered by Roger in 1073. In Piazza Mokarta there are the remains of a Moorish Castle and behind it there stands the medieval cathedral. The ancient city centre is represented by the Kasbah, a urban structure characterized by a multitude of narrow, winding streets to better defend against Sun, wind and enemy attacks, blind alleys flanked by typical Arabic style courtyards. Inside the Museum of the Satyr there is displayed a bronze statue representing a Dancing Satyr fished out in 1998 by a fishing boat . Mazara is now a multiethnic and Mediterranean city par excellence. The landscapes of Idrisi in the contemporary Sicily.
The regular city plan respects the design of the Roman city, while the irregular roads come from the Arabs that conquered it in 830. The city centre is Piazza della Repubblica (Republic Square) which is delimited by the Senatorial Palace and the Cathedral dedicated to Saint Thomas of Canterbury. Its name comes from Marsa Allah, the port of Allah. Its covered market brings us back to lost atmospheres and to a Mediterranean of trading and exchanges that from the Phoenicians to the Arabs and to the British of the eighteenth century have seen Marsala as a protagonist. Without forgetting the wine, renowned all over the world, and the wineries of ancient traditions.
Placed between a beautiful blue sea and mount Erice, there rises Trapani, the city of the two seas, so named because it lays on a promontory and is wetted at all three sides by the sea. ‘Drepanon’, this is its ancient name, was initially a Sican village and then it became a small fortified town, where for centuries have lived fishermen, traders, artisans of different populations. With the Arabs, who called it Itràbinis, it became an important city and among its children the famous Arab poet Abd ar-Rahman al-Itrabanishi, also he was at the Court of King Roger II. Essence of the place is its cultural connection with the Maghreb, it is not a coincidence that the cous cous is here a typical local dish. (www.turismotrapani.com)