A few weeks ago I touched on the importance of an excursion with a difference, how as much as we love to be the typical tourists sometimes it is nice to come across an adventure with a slightly different appeal.
One place that I personally feel fits that category perfectly is the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Sicily. I visited here just a few years ago and I really would love the chance to go back. Although not something entirely suitable for young children it really is an amazing place to visit.
The Capuchin Catacombs (Catacombe dei Cappuccini) are burial catacombs. Originally they started life as crypts for dead friars but in the following years it actually became a status symbol to be entombed into the catacombs. There are tens of thousands of bodies there, one of the most famous being that of little Rosalia Lombardo who died in 1920. Her nickname is Sleeping Beauty as she quite literally looks like she is fast asleep. The oldest mummy within the catacombs is that of brother Silvestro of Gubbio who was entombed in 1599.
Although the catacombs were closed to the deceased from the 1920’s they have become a rather interesting if not macabre tourist attraction with thousands of people visiting every year.
It really is a fascinating place, at first a little overwhelming as quite literally there are skeletons and mummies hanging from every single wall, some also lined up in coffins throughout the hallways, but I really would suggest a visit here. If not for the historical significance then simply just to see something I’d be surprised if you ever had the chance to see again.
The biggest thing about this place that got to me was how amazingly preserved some of these bodies were. Taking Rosalia Lombardo for example, she is mesmerising to look at and recently it was also discovered that she still has all her internal organs including her brain which is extremely rare. Rosalia however is not the only mummy within the catacombs to look rather “life like” you will come across quite a few who still resemble an almost living human being.
There are a few sections by which you can only view from behind tall metal gates but the majority you will be literally side by side with, you can get nose to nose and see every single last detail for yourself, that’s if you really want too of course ;)
If you are planning a trip to Sicily then I really would suggest you consider taking the trip to Palermo and seeing these for yourself, once within the catacombs it can get a little chilly so remember to pack a light jacket or cardigan and don’t expect to be eased into the place gently, you literally come down a steep corridor and you are smack bang in the face with row upon row of mummified corpses.