The Catacombs are located in central Palermo so driving and parking is an experiance in itself. The Catacombs are well worth a visit, but if you are of a nervous disposition think carefully before you decide to visit. As you would expect, you enter the Catacombs by walking down flights of steps into the basement area of the Capuchin church. There is an elevated walkway (to protect the floor below) over a large part of the subterranean area and dried corpses line both walls of the passageways.
We found the visit very interesting, on our first attempt at a visit we found the Catacombs closed for disinfestation!! On our visit 2 days later there were workmen plastering the walls of the stairs and the ceiling of the Catacombs, and they were talking in normal voices so any hope of reverence was quickly dispelled. We both had difficulty in relating the corpses to real people, so we had no sense of shock or anguish whilst we visited.
We understand that one of the reasons for being placed in the Catacombs after your death was that you could still have contact with your family. It was not uncommon for the living members to visit their deceased relative on birthdays and the like and even hold hands and sing!
The really touching scene is the embalmed body of the 2 year old girl who is laid to rest in her cot, in her nice clothes, with her hair intact and a yellow bow ribbon to tie it back. She died in 1920 and appears that she has just fallen to sleep. Most of the remaining bodies are virtually skeletons many still wearing the clothes that they chose to be buried in.
There is some pay parking in the Piazza Cappuccini in the piazza itself, however 2 blocks down and turn right and you will find one of the only surface carparks in the area and at 1 euro an hour (or part hour!) it represents very good value.
After you have visited the Catacombs, go and see the cemetery that is attached to the church and just wander pass the graves. If you have not visited a Sicilian cemetery before its worth the visit.
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