Palermo is an Italian city where the mafia once originated, and before that it was ruled by either African or European kings. It is considered the most frequently conquered city in the world. At different times, Arabs, Normans, Phoenicians, Spaniards, Greeks dominated here. Now the city can boast of its rich history and cultural traditions.
Who and why should come to Palermo
The capital of Sicily is called the bridge between East and West. It has many historical and cultural attractions left in memory of the Arab, Byzantine and Roman rulers.
Palermo’s most famous heritage is the Capuchin Catacombs, which house some 8,000 clothed mummies. The second most popular monument of antiquity is the Cathedral. It was built in the 12th century and is a fusion of Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical styles.
One of the best ways to get closer to the spirit of Palermo is to taste the local delicacies. Sicily is home to a massive culinary movement where chefs try to preserve regional traditions and support local suppliers. In the markets of Vuccaria and Il Cappo, you can taste the famous street delicacies — arancini and sfincione (pizza).
A trip to Palermo is not possible without exploring art exhibitions and galleries. You should start with the Gallery of Modern Art, which presents paintings by Italian masters of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
The oriental flavor of the Cathedral of Palermo came from the Norman masters, who decorated it with asps, arches and parapets. On the south side of the cathedral, overlooking the square, a Catalan portico was added in 1453. The pediment is decorated with frescoes with biblical scenes — God the Father and the Virgin Mary.
In the figured sarcophagus in the right wall of the cathedral is the tomb of the first wife of Frederick II — Constance of Aragon, who died in 1222. The sarcophagus was opened in 1781, and real treasures were found inside. The most prominent of them is the crown, richly decorated with pearls and precious stones.
Chiesa della Martorana
This church has other names: Santa Maria del Ammiraglio, San Nicolò dei Greci. However, it is easy to find it — it goes straight to Piazza Bellini. It is one of the most impressive Byzantine cathedrals in Italy and was built during the Middle Ages. UNESCO considers it historically significant.
It all started with the Albanians, who fled from the persecutors from the Turkish lands and spread the Christian religion throughout the region. Soon she firmly entered the culture of local residents, settled in paintings, ceremonies and even language. Although the Catholic Church does not recognize this, most of the rites performed inside Martorana are Eastern Orthodox.
This is a mountain that the Sicilians considered sacred. It served as a guide for sailors who entered the port after long wanderings. In the cave of Pellegrino is the church of Santa Rosalia, the patroness of the city. She lived in Palermo from 1130 to 1170. Rosalia spent the last years of her life in a hermitage.
Duomo di Monreale
Just seven kilometers from Palermo is an Arab-Norman cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This is a world-famous landmark. The building was built in 1174 by order of the Norman king William II. He claimed that the Madonna appeared to him in a dream and asked him to build a temple in her honor.
The interior of the Duomo di Monreale is striking in its beauty: golden mosaics cover the walls, which depict scenes from the Bible. In the asp stands the figure of Christ Pantocrator.
In general, a large number of relics are kept within the walls of the cathedral, including the main altar of Valadier, the sarcophagi of William I and William II, the chapel of the Crucifixion, a thorn from the crown of Jesus Christ and a completely modern organ of the 20th century.
Church of Jesus
One of the most important religious buildings of the Baroque era, the locals consider the most beautiful church of Palermo. In addition to the official name, the cathedral also has another name — Casa Professa. The building was built by the Jesuits in honor of the Spanish governor.
The Church of Jesus is famous for the presence of numerous decorations, statues and sculptures made of polychrome marble. In 1943, during the bombing, the cathedral was damaged, but only 11 years later it was restored.
It is the third largest theater in Europe (after the National Opera in Paris and the Operhaus in Austria). Locals consider Massimo their Eiffel Tower. To visit Palermo and not go to the theater is the same as coming in vain.
It was built at the end of the 19th century according to the design of the Sicilian architect Giambattista Basile. The project was completed by his son Ernesto, armed with the support of experienced artists, including Ducrot and Ettore de Maria. At that time, the theater was considered the property of the Florio family and was the center not only for entertainment, but also for doing business, as well as for political negotiations.
Museum of Ceramics Al Genio
The museum was opened in 2008 and contains one of the largest collections of Neapolitan and Sicilian art in all of Europe. It features more than 4,900 exhibits, many of which date back to the 16th and later centuries. The halls of the museum are located in the Palazzo Torei (Piraino), an elegant and beautifully decorated building.
It is believed that the name Zisa comes from the Arabic “al-Aziz”, that is, “noble and majestic.” The structure was built in the XII century and is a reflection of the Arab-Norman presence and rule in Sicily. Today the Castle houses the Museum of Islamic Art.
Palazzo Steri Chiaramonte
Palazzo Steri (translated from Greek as “fortified palace”) was built by the wealthy Chiaramonte family. From the end of the 15th to the beginning of the 16th century, Spanish governors lived in it. From 1600 to 1782, Palazzo Steri became the official residence of the Holy Inquisition. The square on which the building is located was once the place of execution for those who opposed the government.
Since the 12th century it has been the residence of the Sicilian rulers. Arabic motifs can be traced in the architecture of the building — it turns out that the customer admired the oriental style. Outwardly, the palace resembles a cube, which is why it has such a name. Its facade is decorated with Moorish arches and Arabic script, which was traditional for that time.
Quattro Canti (Piaca Vilhena)
The buildings, built in the form of an octagonal square, are exposed at the intersection of two main roads — Via Vittorio and Via Maqueda. Each corner of the square is a structure richly decorated with statues and columns.
The buildings were built in honor of the founders of the districts of Palermo — Albergeria, Capo, La Doggia and Calsa. They have patron saints — Ninfa, Oliva, Agatha and Christina.
In the 9th century, this palace was built by the Arabs, and later, when the Normans and Frederick II came to power, the castle really changed. For a long time they did not pay attention to it, however, with the advent of the Spanish governor in Palermo, it was renovated, expanded and served as a residence for the monarch. Well, now the regional parliament of Sicily sits here.
Piazza Pretoria and the Fountain of Shame
The fountain is located right in the center of the square, which is dominated by historical buildings, churches and a palace. That is why the praetoria is so attractive for tourists. The fountain itself was created in the 16th century in honor of Don Pedro de Toledo, but was soon bought out by the Senate of Palermo.
Despite the fact that the source is a real architectural masterpiece, decorated with sculptures of mythical gods, it has often been criticized. It was believed that it was inappropriate to show nude figures in the city center. Therefore, the locals gave the sculpture a nickname — the Fountain of Shame or the Fontana Della Vergogna.
For those who like to tickle their nerves, Palermo has a unique place — the Capuchin Catacombs. This underground cemetery was previously a monastery. Inside it, in separate sarcophagi, the remains of servants are buried, and many of them were famous, wealthy people.
In the tunnels under the monastery, there are a total of about 8,000 mummified bodies that were buried here from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Some are of particular interest. One of the last to be buried was the so-called “Sleeping Beauty” — she was preserved in perfect condition, despite the fact that she died as much as 100 years ago.
This is a beach resort in one of the districts of Palermo. There is no large concentration of sights and architectural monuments here, as in the Old Town — except for the old bathhouse and the pier. However, there is plenty to do in Mondello as well.
For example, swim in the crystal clear water and sunbathe on the white sand of the beach. In addition to this, entertainment lovers should visit local clubs, souvenir shops and restaurants.