CATHEDRAL QUEST: OUR 2014 quest to visit churches and cathedrals in Sicily and southern Italy =" .


We have enjoyed our two previous travels to Italy very much, and there is so much more to see of great interest. Our thoughts for this year's Cathedralquest began around a trip to Sicily, and soon developed into going  to the Amalfi coast. From all that we read and heard, it seemed unwise for us to drive in Sicily. Now having been there, I agree. So we began pouring over tourist company literature.  We decided that Collette Tours offered visits to places that we were interested in and had a lot of interesting cathedrals and churches of unique architecture.

We booked an eight day tour called – "Crossroads of Sicily" beginning on September 6. Sicily has an extremely interesting history. Before beginning our journey we read "Sicily – 3000 Years of Human history" by Sandra Benjamin. In reading the history of Sicily it seems like everybody occupied Sicily at one time or another. From the Table of Contents of Sandra Benjamin's book the following dates are given:

The Greeks - the earliest
The Romans – 263 BC – 212 BC
The Germans (Vandals, Goths, Byzantines) – ca 425 – 467
The Muslims – 827 – 902
The Normans – 1061 – 1091
the Hohenstaufens – 1189 – 1194
 Angevin to Aragon – 1282 – 1285
The Spanish – 1713 – 1734
The Bourbons – 1848 – 1860
Garibaldi – 1848 – 1860
World War II and its aftermath – 1943 – 1948

Each chapter of Sandra Benjamin's book relates an extensive history of each period and the contributions that each ruling country made to the development of Sicily. Of great interest to me, is how much of the architecture of each culture remains today. I will be relating some of this history as I write my daily reflections.

Another book that I would recommend is "The People's of Sicily – a Multicultural Legacy" by Louis Mendola and Jacqueline Alio. Jacqueline was our day trip guide in Palermo. Her latest book, which I have not yet read, is "Women of Sicily: Saints, Queens, and Rebels".
We arrived in Palermo, Sicily three days before the tour. We had made reservations for the same hotel as the tour. During those days, we did an extensive exploration of some of the churches and other sites that we knew would not be included on the Collette Tour. We found Palermo a fascinating but very crowded city. Complete descriptions will follow day by day. I must add here that my wife had suffered a knee injury several weeks before our adventure began. For most of the trip, she relied on a cane. She missed several of the day trips because there was a lot of walking and steep climbing.

Our group assembled on Saturday afternoon for introductions and details of the trip. We had an excellent tour guide, Marco, who was very knowledgeable about the area and its history. The next four days, our hotel in Palermo would be the home base from which we would take daily trips into other nearby towns. These included Monreale, Erice , Segesta , Cefalu. On day 5, we left Palermo for our second base city, Catania, with a visit to Agrigento (site of the Valley of the Temples) on route.

For the next four days, we explored areas not too far from Catania – Siracusa, Mount Etna, Taormina. Our tour ended on Sunday, September 14 in Catania.

It was a wonderful tour, and we would recommend Collette very highly. There was a small group of us who enjoyed each other's company very much. We hated to leave our newfound friends.
Later in the afternoon, after the tour ended, we boarded a large ferry that would take us on an overnight journey from Catania to Naples. Arriving in Naples, we immediately took another smaller ferry to Sorrento on the Amalfi coast.  We had five magnificent days in Sorrento. We were on the top floor of our hotel with our own private balcony overlooking the sea. The weather was perfect. We had planned to take several day trips but my wife's knee was hurting, so we only went only to Amalfi one afternoon. We had planned on going to the Isle of Capri, but decided to wait until the next time.
We then took a local train to Naples, where we changed trains to Rome, then changed again for Assisi. Assisi is a magnificent town with many, many interesting sites and churches including St. Francis's church and St. Clair's church. We stayed in a small hotel in the historic area, where there were no level streets!
After three days in Assisi, we took the train to Florence, where we would begin our travel home. We planned two days for Florence, one to go back to Siena as we wanted to go into the Cathedral. We had visited Siena on our Globus tour in 2004, but did not have time to go into the Cathedral. My wife spent most of the her time in Florence just resting her knee.
This was a very memorable Cathedralquest. We saw magnificent churches and cathedrals, historic cities, and enjoyed a lot of delicious food. We highly recommend this trip.
In the near future I will be posting our day to day activities. Come back soon.