Piazza Armerino – Villa Romana Del Casale
Wednesday 21st May 2014
After a lovely quiet night we left the farm at about 10 in the morning and had a pleasant drive through the countryside until we reached the town of Piazza Armerino where we were trying to get to the Roman Villa with the famous mosaics. Upon entering the town there were clear signs as where to go, until we got to a critical corner where the signs were nowhere to be seen. We ended up going right through the middle of the town and out the other end. Consulting the maps and our TomTom we tried again and ended up at the same place near the beginning of the town again. Jenny and Anna were trying to work out how to get there when I went to the hardware store to buy a file, which I needed for a job. A friendly Italian man who had his American wife with him helped me in the store and offered to direct us to the right road warning us that there were sharp bends and narrow roads. We followed them back through the main street, then it was a left hairpin bend to access the main road that led down the narrow street, of course there was busy traffic and in the usual Italian way, cars parked in the way which didn’t help the situation. While doing this we did get a glimpse of the sign pointing to the site, the sign was on the opposite side of the road and not obvious while trying to negotiate traffic that is just a bit crazy. A few kilometres further and we had reached the parking spot for the Roman Villa. We weren’t alone in this situation as we did speak to other people who had the same trouble finding the location.
The Villa Romana Del Casale was once a large roman villa and in the 12th century was covered over in mud after a land slide. It was rediscovered in the 1950’s and the mosaics were found to be surprisingly well preserved. We found them to be quite amazing with much detail, colour and design. The villa was quite extensive and we took over two hours to see the whole place. The photo’s we took will not give justice to how they looked but will give you a small glimpse.
We discovered that it was not possible to sleep overnight in the car park but the attendant told us we could sleep near a museum of which he was the caretaker and was only a kilometre way. He was charging 5 euros per camper and that night there were 4 in the car park. He was on a winner and so were we as the place had shade, good views over the valley and was quiet.
Thursday 22nd May
We spent the day driving to the next campsite which was about 175 kilometres away only stopping to do some shopping at a large supermarket on the outskirts of Palermo. The campsite main attraction was its closeness to the train station and was handy for getting into the city of Palermo. We founded a shady pitch under Olive trees and then our afternoon was spent doing some hand washing and relaxing at the campsite. The campsite owners where very helpful and gave instructions as to how to catch the train complete with a time table and a map of Palermo. Tickets for the train were also available from the office.
Friday 23rd May
Taking the 9.45 train into Palermo we arrived half an hour later and headed to the catacombs which was about a 20 minute walk. The catacombs of Palermo are really an underground cemetery where people were first embalmed then dressed in their clothes and either hung in niches along the walls or placed lying down on shelves or in coffins. There are about 8,000 remains in the catacombs and they were placed in ordered sections of sex and social class. To say that it is macabre would be an understatement and at first Jenny felt a bit sick and found it disturbing. They did not allow photo’s to be taken and even if we did our blog would not be an appropriate place to have them. If you are interested go to Google Images and enter Catacombs of the Cappuccini.
We left the catacombs and walked to the centre of town where we stopped at the cathedral and continued on to the market area where we stopped for some lunch. We found the markets and looked around at the various stalls hoping to find something we couldn’t live without, lol. There was lots of fruit, vegetables and meat and fish but we weren’t sure when we would be catching the train so it wasn’t convenient to buy anything fresh there, but we still enjoyed ourselves. We ended up settling for a fish meal at one of the vendors in the marketplace and had a nice lunch surrounded by the atmosphere of the busy laneway. We then wandered through some other small streets and laneways seeking shelter under doorways and canopies when the skies opened up. Our overall impression of Palermo was that of a sad, rundown city with only a few places worthy of interest. Back on the train by 3.30 and we headed back to the campsite again.