In the morning we set off on our day trip, first stop Monreale whose name comes from monte-reale, “royal mountain”. Located just 8km from Palermo on the slope of Monte Caputo, Monreale feels a world a way from the hustle bustle of Sicilies capital city. It is overlooking the very fertile valley called “La Conca d’oro” (the Golden Shell), famed for its orange, olive and almond trees, the produce of which is exported in large quantities.
When we entered it my first remark was that it was “like the Palatine Chapel on steroids!” And this is exactly the effect King William II wanted when he began building the church in 1174 to outdo his grandfather Roger II who built the Palatine Chapel decades earlier. Whilst it mimics the Palatine, it is the opposite of the Cathedal of Palermo as while the outside of Palermo’s Cathedral it ornate and intricate and the inside austere, Monreales Cathedral has an austere façade and a mindblowing glass mosaic interior.
Next stop was Calatafimi-Segesta were we stopped for a lunch of toasted panini and a refreshingly icy granita. We then continued through the town, brightly colored with nationalistic displays of the Italian flag
until we got onto the autostrada.
Finally we made it to our destination of Segesta, seemingly in the middle of niwhere with no existing towns, it was once the political center of the Elymian people, one of the three indigenous peoples of Sicily in over 500 BC
It survived under various rulers unil it was destroyed around the birth of Christ by the Vandals – no not a roudy group of teens but a Germanic tribe best known for their “sack of Rome” in 455BC (Although they were not notably more destructive than other invaders of ancient times, Renaissance and Early Modern writers who idealized Rome tended to blame the Vandals for its destruction. This led to the coinage of “vandalism”, meaning senseless destruction, particularly the defacing of artworks – well there you go!
Till Goths, and Vandals, a rude Northern race,/ Did all the matchless Monuments deface – British Enlightenment poet John Dryden
From the ticket office we trudged up the 2km steep hill to the theatre built in the third century BC.
It’s a perfect and large semi-circle of 63 m in diameter placed on a rocky slope, the steps are oriented towards the hills behind which, on the right you can see the Gulf of Castellammare.
Now that it has been restored, every two years in summer, the theater is revived by throngs of spectators eager to relish in performances of timeless, great tragedies and comedies so beloved to the ancients. The hill of the theatre also offers a magnificent view of the Doric temple,
built sometime in the late 5th century BC it is unusually well preserved and after having a good look at it close up – it’s HUGE,
we headed home 🙂