Overlooking the Golden Valley (Conca d’Oro) on top of Mons Regalis, the medieval village of Monreale earns a spot on the travel map for its magnificent mosaic-filled cathedral, built by William II and completed in 1184. The grand Duomo, considered to be one of the best examples of Norman architecture in Sicily, is filled with mosaics depicting scenes from the Old Testament, covering some 68,889 square feet (6,400 square meters) of the interior.
Beside the cathedral is the abbey cloister, built around the same time as the church and expanded in the 1300s. This portion of the structure is best known for its 200-plus intricate double columns decorated in glass mosaic. Each column’s capital depicts a different aspect of medieval Sicily.
To avoid the worst of the tour bus crowds, plan your visit to the Duomo in the early morning or late afternoon. While only a short drive from Palermo, parking in Monreale can be difficult to find, so it’s better to take the bus from Piazza Indipendenza.