Yes, Sicily is the correct answer. Val at Alentejo was the first, Jane and Lance at Hattat were second, Christa at Emilie's Daughter was third, and Gina at Gina Ceramics was fourth. Gina was at a disadvantage being later on the scene from USA. I am very impressed with you all - well done, everyone came close.
Sicily a sun drenched island, the ball to Italy's foot. A land bountiful in lemons, grapes, and olives. It formed a significant portion of the Greek empire, was strategically vital to Rome, and was invaded in succession by the Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish and Bourbons, before unifying with Italy. Each conquest left its mark, to create an exotic mixture of cultures - an art lovers 'paradiso'. A cornucopia, a treasure house of art and architecture.
H travelled to Sicily many years ago as a student, but this was my first visit.
Three Norman Cathedrals -
Monreale, Cefalù and Palermo - and Palazzo Reale
The Duomo of Monreale is one of the great sights of Norman Sicily. Founded by the Norman King William II, it flanks a monastery of the Benedictine Order. The interior glitters with mosaics carried out by Sicilian and Byzantine artists - the inspiration of a king who wanted to rival the power of the Archbishop of Palermo, and like Cefalù it was to serve as a royal sepulchre.
The cloisters are a masterpiece of Norman artistic expression. Each column is different, carved deeply, left fairly plain or inlaid with Arabic mosaic. The details in the capitals tell the bible stories.
Adam and Eve
In the apse - Christ the Pantocrator.
To give some idea of scale the hand measures two metres.
Eve coming out of Adam's rib
The mosaic cycle shows scenes from the Old Testament, teachings of Christ, and the Gospels.
Here Adam and Eve are being expelled from the Garden of Eden wearing fur coats to shield their modesty!!! I wonder whether this was prudery or the humour of the artist responsible for the mosaic?
The Norman Duomo in Cefalù
The pretty unspoilt seaside town of Cefalù is where we stayed. The Norman Cathedral was built in 1131 by Norman King Roger II. His boat was capsizing offshore, and he promised that if he was saved he would build a church wherever he landed!
The rock in the first photo and behind the Duomo is said to be Daphne!!! Now I am no expert on Greek mythology, but I remember that the nymph Daphne was turned into a laurel by her father to protect her from the advances of Apollo. Perhaps this is the Latin version of the myth. On the rock is also a 4th century BC megalithic Tempio di Diana, the Latin name for the Greek goddess is Artemis.
The Duomo, Palermo founded in 1184 displays many architectural styles. The exterior shows the development of the Gothic style from the 13th-14th centuries. Sturdy Norman work can be seen through an Islamic inspired overlay.
Before you all lose patience with me, a couple of images of Palazzo Reale, Palermo.
Inner courtyard Palazzo Reale
The nucleus of the present building was constructed by the Arabs, but after the Norman conquest of the city in 1072 is was enlarged for the Norman court.
Built by King Roger II in 1132, the dazzling chapel blends Byzantine, Islamic and Norman styles. It is lavishly adorned with fine mosaics and marble inlaid with gold.
Finally, yesterday a big clue was, the cut down Sicilian flag.