Palermo is the Sicilian regional capital located in the western Sicilian area in Italy. The city founded in 734 BC by Phoenicians became subsequently a possession of Carthage. In the Island, two Greek colonies were established, known as Panormos or “All-Port”. Panormus became part of the Roman Empire for over a thousand years. From 831 to 1072 the city was under Arab rule, becoming a capital, changing the name into Balarm. From 1130 to 1816 following the Norman reconquest, Palermo became the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily and the capital of the Holy Roman Empire under Emperor Frederick II and King Conrad IV.
Palermo is historically the crossroad of the Mediterranean people. Lifestyle, culture, food are the result of a crossover of stories and cultures with ancient origins that have developed a tradition of hospitality and integration over the years. Numerous tourists are attracted to the city for its good Mediterranean weather, its renowned gastronomy and restaurants, its Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau churches, palaces and buildings, and its nightlife and music.
For details and other information please visit: https://turismo.comune.palermo.it/
The Palace of Zisa
The palace started to be built during the reign of William I and was completed by William II around the year 1167. It was the favourite summer residence of the king and his court. Its name comes from the Arab term “al-Aziz”, meaning “splendid”.
The term “cuba” comes from the Arabic “Qubba” which means “dome”, and was built in 1180 for King William II, in the middle of a large park called “Genoardo” (from the Arabic “Jannatt al-ard”, which means “paradise on earth”).
The Praetorian Fountain
The Praetorian Fountain was created in 1554 by the Tuscan sculptor Francesco Camilliani as a decoration for a Florentine villa. It was subsequently purchased by the Palermo Senate for 20 or 30.000 scudi, and reached Palermo in 644 pieces and then reconstructed differently from the original design.
Fontana del Garraffo
La fontana del Garraffo fu realizzata, in stile barocco, nel 1698, e fu posta nel centro della piazza del Mercato della Vucciria, a Palermo. Il suo nome significa “abbondante d’acqua” e deriva dall’arabo gharraf.
The Porta Nuova (The New Gate)
One of the most representative examples of triumphal architecture in Palermo, the Porta Nuova (The New Gate) is the entrance from the western side of the city.
The Four Corners
It is known as square Vigliena, from the name of the Spanish viceroy under whom it was concluded its first arrangement in 1620, made necessary after the opening of via Maqueda in 1600.
The Felice Gate
Dedicated to Donna Felice Orsini, wife of the viceroy Marcantonio Colonna, its construction began in 1582 but works were interrupted immediately afterwards and were resumed in 1602 under the direction of Mariano Smiriglio and completed in 1637 by Vincenzo Tedeschi.
The Spasimo (The Church of Santa maria dello Spasimo)
A church in late Gothic style: construction work began in 1506 in the ancient district of Kalsa, by Olivetan Fathers, who chose the name “Spasimo” as a sign of devotion to the Virgin Mary suffering before Christ on the Cross.
The Carini Gate
An elegant example of pillar doorway, built in 1782 replacing one of the oldest doorways built in the 13th century. The name comes from the presence of a road that started here and, advancing through the northern countryside, led to Carini.
The Capuchin Catacombs
The Capuchin Catacombs are located in the basement of the Capuchin Fathers ever since 1599, the year of their completion; the galleries that compose them form a large rectangular cemetery.
Modern art Gallery (G.A.M.)
In 1910 the Foyer of the Politeama Theater became the headquarters of the Empedocle Restivo Modern Art Gallery. The reasons for this choice were motivated by the emblematic value of the monument, a testament to the exciting season of the Belle Époque, and by its very location in the heart of the modern city.
Regional Archaeological Museum “A. Salinas”
Housed in the former convent of the Oratorians of Saint Philip Neri, which was divided around three courtyards, two of which are still intact, and inside which there were loggias and private chapels
Regional Gallery of Sicily “Abatellis Palace”
A majestic late-XV century residence and splendid residence in Gothic-Catalan style belonging to Francesco Patella, also known as Abatellis, who was the port master of the kingdom and praetor of the city, who commissioned the construction work to the architect Matteo Carnalivari.
Museum of Islamic Art
Housed within the Castello della Zisa, the museum was inaugurated in 1991 and is managed by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage.
The museum is located inside the Palazzo Arcivescovile, which was built in the mid-XV century at the behest of Archbishop Simone Beccadelli, replacing the older building located behind the Cathedral.
CHURCHES AND ORATORIES
Located on the first floor of the Norman Palace, the Palatine Chapel was built from 1130 to 1132 under the reign of Roger II as the main chapel of the Royal Palace.
The Cathedral is considered to be “History Book of Palermo”, because all dominations which have taken control over the centuries have left traces of their presence: the construction dates back to 1184.
Church of the Jesus or Casaprofessa
The Chiesa del Gesù, better known as the Casa Professa, built in 1564 by the Jesuits, is definitely the most significant example of Baroque art in Palermo.
Church of the Immaculate Conception at the Capo
The church was once connected to the vast Benedictine monastery, founded in 1576. The convent expanded over the following centuries until it reached the northern limit of the city walls.
Church of San Domenico
The church was built in the 14th century, but the current structure dates back to 1726. Since 1853, it has become the Pantheon of the city, where illustrious Sicilian artists, writers, and politicians are buried.
Church of St. Francis of Assisi
The church was built twice in thirty years following the destruction of the first one, ordered by Frederick II to take revenge for the excommunication ordered by the Pope
The Church of St. John of the Hermits
The church of St. John of the Hermits (San Giovanni degli Eremiti), one of the most distinguished medieval buildings of Palermo and one of most symbolic monuments of the city, was built in the Norman age, from 1130 to 1148, under the reign of Roger II, and later underwent a radical restoration by Giuseppe Patricolo, in 1882.
Church of St Joseph of Teatini
Built between 1612 and 1645, designed by Giacomo Besio, from Chieti. Damaged by the bombings in 1943, the church was renovated and reopened in 1966. The main façade was only completed in 1844, in neoclassical style
Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria
Belonging to the Dominican order, it was built between 1566 and 1596. The church develops longitudinally, crossed by the transept from which the dome departs.
The Puppets Theatre ” Carlo Magno”
The “Carlo Magno” Theatre Company was born on the initiative of Enzo Mancuso, the last descendant of the puppet master family of the same name, who began his activity in Palermo in 1928, when he opened an Opera dei Pupi (traditional marionettes) theatre in the Borgo Vecchio neighbourhood.
The Massimo Vittorio Emanuele Theatre
For this theatre, an area was chosen between the ancient centre of the city and the new northern expansion, as if to certify the historical continuity between the two areas.
The Politeama Garibaldi Theatre
The theatre was built between 1867 and 1874 with a design by Giuseppe Damiani Almeyda, in Pompeian style with a double order of external colonnaded ambulatories and a façade designed as a triumphal arch; on this stands a bronze chariot, by Mario Rutelli.
PUBLIC GARDENS AND GREEN AREAS
The University of Palermo’s Botanical Garden is one of the most important Italian academic institutions. This enormous outdoor museum can boast over 200 years of activity and is responsible for the study and diffusion of innumerable plant species in Sicily, in Europe and throughout the Mediterranean basin, many of which come from tropical and subtropical regions. Today, the Garden is particularly noteworthy for the large variety of species and the expressivity of the many floras it hosts.
The monuments born from the contamination of the Arab civilization with the Norman one is unique in the world, leaving us beautiful buildings with very peculiar characteristics.
The uniqueness and beauty of these buildings has led UNESCO to add some of them to the World Heritage list, grouping them into the 51st UNESCO serial site, which as well as 7 monuments in Palermo also includes the cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale.
From the Norman domination we have however also inherited many other sites which, for various reasons, are not currently included in the World Heritage list.
The style known as Arab-Norman encompassed three different artistic expressions: Romanesque, Byzantine, and Arab.
The peculiarities of this stylistic mix can be traced in every building: in the churches we can find the Latin or Greek cross basilica plan, towers and portals on the façades, Byzantine mosaics and Arab ornaments, and the characteristic domes; inside the buildings, immersed in marvellous gardens dotted with lakes with their verdant islets, we can find: the iwan (room with three exedra, typical of Islamic culture), the outdoor courtyard surrounded by arcades and adorned with one or more fountains, marble floors, or brick floors arranged in a zig-zag pattern, walls covered with mosaics with arabesque motifs, and finally ceilings and arches decorated with muqarnas (honeycomb or stalactite-shaped decoration). In churches and in palaces the use of arches is common, usually pointed ones.
One cannot be a tourist without enjoying the magic that only a visit to these unique monumental sites can give (the first 9 in the list are protected by UNESCO).
To walk around Palermo is like taking a trip inside a kaleidoscope of styles. As a matter of fact, it is not rare to find, a few steps away from each other, constructions of completely different styles such as, just to give an example, the Cathedral in Via Vittorio Emanuele, a masterpiece of the Arab-Norman style, which is located in front of Asmundo Palace, dating back to the 1600s.
It would be absurd to think of listing all the aristocratic residences and historical buildings here, as the city is already full of them, but it could be enough to just take a walk in the historic centre, in the seaside village of Mondello, or in the Piana dei Colli to discover the abundance of palaces, villas, and small villas that embellish the city.
La famiglia Serpotta
The Serpotta family, known for the art of sculpture but most of all for their stucco work, was active in Sicily in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was composed by the father, Gaspare, his sons Giuseppe and Giacomo, and Procopio, the latter’s son. The most representative of the family, who distinguished himself to such an extent to be considered a genius of the art of stucco, is Giacomo, to whom we owe the technique of “allustratura”, which gives the stucco works the brilliance and smoothness typical of marble.
Cherubs chasing each other, life-size statues, archways composed of flowerings, all of a dazzling white, can be admired in churches and oratories scattered around the historical centre. The style is a redundant Baroque, a prelude to Rococo. The “teatrini” can be attributed to Giacomo Serpotta, deep descriptive panels, like niches in sequence along the walls where the episodes of the subject to be narrated are depicted… practically a stucco comic strip.
Listing the sites where the works of Giacomo and of the other Serpotta family artists are hosted isn’t easy, because their production, to be admired with incredulity, is so vast.
The term Baroque, which in other locations refers only to art, in Palermo acquires a more common dimension. We can say that Baroque Palermo exists; the purely scenographic style of Baroque can indeed here also be found in desserts such as the cassata, or in the way goods are exhibited in the historical markets, but, most of all, the entire historical centre is Baroque.
From Piazza Villena (also known as the 4 canti, the Teatro del Sole, or also Ottagono del Sole) a cross forms where the intersecting lines are two important arteries: via Maqueda and via Vittorio Emanuele, dotted with Baroque buildings that fascinate visitors immediately.
Video city monuments: https://youtu.be/42qhBU0glYM
Palermo traditional foods: https://youtu.be/DIPEyIv_hgo