The city of Palermo

Palermo is the undisputed pearl of Sicily, and there are not many reasons to convince yourself to visit it. What see? The choice of interesting attractions is very rich. Why go? The reasons are endless … What to do in the evening? Palermo has a nightlife that has nothing to envy to that of other centers better known to nightlife lovers. The cities of Sicily are all wonderful, from Trapani to Catania, but Palermo … is Palermo!

In Palermo there is the sea (and the Sicilian sea deserves it!), There is the beauty of the city, a variety of peoples who lived there (Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spaniards …) and who have left traces of their passage in ancient Palermo and in the historic center, in churches and alleys, in the Sicilian language and in Sicilian cuisine. What to see and where to go in the city is only your choice, and there are no wrong choices! Our advice is to let yourself go and walk in search of inspiration, to taste street food and to look up to admire the buildings. Palermo is splendid in every season, and if summer is hot, in winter the weather is amazing. It will seem … to be at the sea!

Norman Palace / Palatine Chapel

Today the Palazzo dei Normanni is the seat of the Sicilian regional assembly, but there was a time when the Palermo “politicians” who sat in its austere rooms were called Federico II or Corrado IV: the palace was the imperial seat, and the wealth of its Palatine Chapel – built in the twelfth century – still reminds many visitors. It is difficult not to be impressed by the splendor of its mosaics, which make it one of the most visited destinations in Palermo.

Teatro Massimo

Impossible not to notice it, for example along the central via Volturno: the Teatro Massimo in Palermo is the largest opera house in Italy, the third in Europe in size, second only to the Paris Opera and the Vienna State Opera. Inaugurated at the end of the nineteenth century, the Theater is built in a neoclassical style and, in addition to the external magnificence, it also boasts perfect acoustics, with natural amplification effects in some rooms. A word of advice: if you are in the so-called “noon roundabout”, be very careful with what you say … Everyone will hear you!

Catacombs of the Capuchins

During the Grand Tour, in the nineteenth century, more than a century before the success of series such as The Walking Dead and films populated by zombies and mummies, the Capuchin Catacombs attracted visitors from all over the world intrigued by their macabre content: about 8000 bodies , many of which are exposed and perfectly mummified. Today, a tour of the basements annexed to the Church of Santa Maria della Pace is still a disturbing and intense experience. Note especially the mummy of the little Rosalia Lombardo, who died of pneumonia in two years in 1920, considered one of the best examples of mummification in the world. However: since 1599, the year of the first burial, no corpse has ever moved. At the moment.

Monte Pellegrino and the Addaura Caves

Looking north, the unmistakable shape of Monte Pellegrino closes the Gulf of Palermo to the north. If you are not satisfied with seeing it in almost every postcard, an integral part of the skyline of Palermo as the Empire State Building is in New York, the promontory-mountain massif is also a nature reserve. It contains various beauties: monuments, towers, ancient buildings, the Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia and – above all – the complex of the Addaura Caves, where there are cave graffiti dating back to the Paleolithic. In short, the first Palermitans lived here.

Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia

On Monte Pellegrino, leaning against the rock, stands the baroque facade of the Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia, the protector of Palermo. The saint died in a cave, now included in the Sanctuary, and the discovery of her bones by a hunter coincided, according to legend, with the end of a plague in 1624. Between July 14th and 15th every year it takes place the feast of Santa Rosalia, with processions and carts, and on September 4 the liturgical feast of the Saint is celebrated. Whether or not you have some favor to ask Rosalia, it is certainly worth a visit!

Quattro Canti

In the center of the center of Palermo, at the intersection of via Maqueda and Cassaro (the oldest street in Palermo, now Corso Vittorio Emanuele), stands the octagonal piazza Villena, better known as the Quattro Canti. The four decorated facades that close it, built in the Baroque period, contain dedications to four sovereigns (Charles V, Philip II, III and IV), to four patron saints (Cristina, Ninfa, Oliva and Agata) and to the four seasons. Play to find the differences, strictly with the nose upwards.

Cathedral of Palermo

The visit of a city is complete only with a glance at the cathedral: and that of Palermo, dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary Assumption into Heaven, is truly remarkable. Its history dates back to the Punic era; in Roman times the same place housed a place of Christian worship, then it was rebuilt in the Byzantine era to become a large mosque - the Gami Mosque - during the Arab domination. Reconquered and rebuilt by the Normans, and then by the Spaniards, and still restored countless times, the cathedral has undergone every change, and is today a unique place in the world.

Chiaramonte-Steri Palace

Halfway between a noble palace and an austere castle, the Chiaramonte-Steri palace, built in 1320 by the will of Count Manfredi Chiaramonte, later ”“ of the Spanish viceroys, now houses the rectorate of the University of Palermo. You don't have to register, however, to visit it: it's open to the public! One of the main attractions of the palace, together with the beautiful audience hall covered with graffiti, is the famous painting La Vucciria by Renato Guttuso.

The markets of Palermo

And after having seen the Vucciria hanging on the wall, it is good to see it in person: it is one of the most famous markets in Palermo, together with Ballarò, Il Capo and Borgo Vecchio. Whether or not you have to buy something, the show - between carnizzeri and pisser, street vendors and more - is guaranteed. At night, then, the Vucciria turns into the hub of Palermo's nightlife, crowded with students in the mood to have fun until dawn. At all hours of the day and night, the Palermo markets are an explosion of life and colors that are absolutely unmissable.

Santa Maria dello Spasimo

The most distinctive element of the church of Santa Maria dello Spasimo, in the ancient district of Kalsa, will not escape even the most inattentive travelers: there is no roof. Collapsed in the mid-eighteenth century, it was never rebuilt. Renovated at the end of the last century, the church is - if possible - even more fascinating in this version, and hosts concerts and events (open air, of course).

The Zisa

Al-Az? «Za means, in Arabic,“the splendid”: an indication that alone is worth more than any review or travel advice. The Arab-Norman style palace, built in 1165 as a summer royal residence, once surrounded by a vast hunting park, is now not far from the center of Palermo, among buildings of lesser charm. It is worth taking a walk to enjoy its magnificence!

Oratory of San Lorenzo

A paradise on earth: this is how the interior of the baroque Oratory of San Lorenzo should seem, full of white stuccoes, decorations and marble statues. We are very far from the austere sobriety of Norman architecture: here everything captivates the eye and distracts the visitor. The Oratory also housed a precious altarpiece by Caravaggio: it can still be seen, in photographic reproduction. Stolen in 1969, it has never been found. So now that you know, keep your eyes peeled! (Maybe at the Vucciria ...)

Fontana Pretoria

And finally, to restore yourself from the heat, a bit of fresh water: the imposing and elegant Fontana Pretoria, in the square of the same name, seems to have little to do with the various artistic-architectural mix of Palermo. In fact it was built in Florence, in the sixteenth century, and only later transported and relocated to the Sicilian capital. Have fun photographing its stairways, concentric pools, water features and above all the dozens of statues depicting the gods of Olympus and the rivers of Palermo, and in the end ... take the opportunity to cool off from the Sicilian heat!

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