Italy Day 13 — Monreale, Sicily and Milan

Today was our final day in Italy before returning home to the States. Our mid-afternoon flight to Milan gave us time to do a little exploration, so we were up and out early. Leaving wasn’t as painful as it might have been because the sky was a leaden gray with no sun predicted.

Monreale, a UNESCO world heritage site, is near Palermo and only a little off the route to the airport.  On my last trip to Sicily, I’d tried to visit the Cathedral, reputed to be magnificent. It was my first day driving on Sicily and I almost turned around and returned the car. Traffic was beyond horrendous and there was zero parking. We sat bumper-to-bumper for an hour thinking this wasn’t a good omen.  It turned out there was a festival taking place which had brought enormous crowds.  We left town without stopping.

This time there wasn’t a festival. There was however torrential rain, narrow streets and ditzy (the GPS) making things worse. We eventually located a parking lot (without Ditzy’s help) and gratefully pulled in. In the pouring rain we made our way up a long staircase leading up to the town. The staircase was lined with street vendors selling very soggy scarves and a lot of umbrellas.

The Byzantine Cathedral was indeed magnificent.  I was glad we had returned there, even battling the rain. Started in 1172, the outside is unimpressive. But nearly every inch of the interior walls and ceiling are covered with stunning mosaics, many in glowing gold, telling stories from the Old and New Testament.

When we exited, the rain was coming down in sheets. We ducked into a small pizzeria and had lunch, hoping the rain would dissipate. It didn’t. If anything, the intensity increased. But we had to get to the airport, so we slogged our way back down the steps to the car. Despite an umbrella, I was thoroughly drenched, and my shoes soaked through.

It was still pouring when we returned the rental car. We got even wetter walking from car return into the terminal. Fortunately, check-in was fast and easy. The flight departed and arrived on time.

In Milan we had a kerfuffle with a couple of taxi drivers, the first rude people we’d met on our journey.  That was mitigated by the charming, helpful staff at our hotel, Cardano Hotel Malpensa, a few miles from the airport. They arranged for a car to pick us up and take us to a charming local restaurant for dinner. It was a fantastic final meal in Italy—seafood pasta for Kathy, mushroom pasta for me.