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Palermo

Overview

Capital of Sicily, Palermo is the fifth largest city in Italy after Rome, Milan, Naples and Turin, for its size and population. Already in the middle of the twelfth century the Arab geographer Edrisi, fascinated by the beauty he saw, wrote: "First in order is Balarm (Palermo), the beautiful and great city, the most splendid of all, the largest and widest metropolis in the world, the city adorned with such an elegance that tells the never-ending glory". He told with surprise about its castle and its walls, its neighborhoods and its rivers, its churches and its mosques, the sumptuous palace. Of course, he referred to a very different condition compared to today and obviously it has changed a lot, but the elegant attraction of the old and rich town is still intact as an authentic Mediterranean metropolis - in a renovated complex stratification of architectures and urban sceneries – as well as its fascinating and evocative power. Palermo embraced the different identities and legacies of the various centuries, becoming the home of many cultures and joining together in its own heart both the East and West. Palermo has made itself the cosmopolitan encounter of peoples and history, fantastic crossroads in which Asia, Africa and Europe find their synthesis. Visitors needs to be ready to dive into the frenzied city life, a vibrant co-presence of some homogeneous traces of the past still compatible with modern life, through which the city has become the scene a fascinating architectural and artistic system. Walking through Palermo, we immediately realise that we are in a world of contrasts: splendor and misery in equal measure, at first fascinating domes and bell tower and then old façades cracked by decay and neglect, wide and magnificent boulevards vibrant with life and full of boutiques and eventually, a labyrinth of narrow and poor streets with laundry hanging from the balconies, ancient and rich neighborhoods full of history and other undistinguished area, invaded by modern buildings.

Landmarks

Teatro Massimo, opera house. Palermo has a large architectural heritage and is notable for its many Norman buildings. MUST SEE: Cathedral (“Nostra Signora dell’Assunzione”) It arises in the oldest sacred area of Palermo, where Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines and Arabs had built their places of worship. When Normans came to power, immediately replaced the Muslim mosque with the Christian church. In 1184 the archbishop of Palermo, Walter Offamilio, ordered the demolition of the building and the realization of a great cathedral, as a symbol of the religious power in the city. Inside, we find the royal and imperial tombs where rest Roger II, Henry VI of Swabia, Constance of Altavilla and Frederick II of Swabia, all of them bared in monumental sarcophagus made of porphyry. Among the chapels, there is the Chapel of Saint Rosalia, the patron saint of Palermo. Church of “Santa Maria Dell’Ammiraglio” or “Martorana” It was completed in 1143 thanks to a generous donation from George of Antioch. Unfortunately, today the church has nothing left of its original splendor, due to the many changes that spoiled its original nature. It still remains one of the most beautiful religious buildings in Palermo and Sicily.   “Quattro Canti” of the City (Four Corners) This is the best-known name of the old “Piazza Vigliena”, center of the oldest part of town. It is also called "Theater of the Sun" because it is lighted up by the sun from sunrise to sunset. The square has long been the center of the city, a place to exchange news and gossip. It was also the symbol of the Spanish urban reform, that gave glory to the two main streets crossing the city – “Via Maqueda” and “Corso Vittorio Emanuele”.   Massimo Theatre “One of the largest and most sumptuous theaters in Europe”, designed by G.B. Basile, under whose direction work began in 1.875, then completed by his son Ernesto in 1.897. It stands in Piazza Verdi, after the collapse of a large number of buildings of the area. The theater, noble architecture inspired by neoclassicism, covers an area of 7.730 sqm and fully meets the criteria of decoration and balance of the middle class from the past century. Churches
  • San Cataldo's Church.
  • Chiesa della Martorana.
  • Church of Saint Catherine.
  • Church of San Francesco d'Assisi.
  • Palermo Cathedral: Located at Corso Vittorio Emanuele, corner Via Matteo Bonello, its long history has led to an accumulation of different architectural styles, the latest being the 18th century.
  • Cappella Palatina, the 12th century chapel of the Palazzo dei Normanni, has outstanding mosaics in both Western and the Eastern traditions and a roof by Saracen craftsmen.
  • San Giovanni dei Lebbrosi
  • San Giovanni degli Eremiti
  • Chiesa della Martorana:
  • San Cataldo: Church, on the central Piazza Bellini, which is a good example of Norman architecture.
  • Santa Maria della Gancia
  • Santa Caterina: This church is located behind Piazza Pretoria and built between 1566 and 1596 in the baroque style.
  • Santa Maria della Catena: This church was built between 1490-1520.
  • San Domenico: Located near Via Roma, it is known as the “Pantheon of illustrious Sicilians.
  • San Giuseppe dei Teatini: Located near the Quattro Canti, it is an example of Sicilian Baroque.
  • Oratorio di San Lorenzo
  • Oratorio del Rosario: Completed by Giacomo Serpotta in (1710–17)
  • Santa Teresa alla Kalsa,
  • Santa Maria dello Spasimo was built in 1506 and later turned into a hospital.
  • Church of the Gesù (Church of Jesus):
  • San Francesco di Assisi
  • Church of the Magione
Palaces and museums Palazzo dei Normanni, seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly.
  • Palazzo dei Normanni (the Norman Palace), a notable example of Norman architecture, this palace houses the Cappella Palatina.
  • Zisa (1160) and Cuba, magnificent castles/houses historically used by the kings of Palermo for hunting. The Zisa today houses the Islamic museum. The Cuba was once encircled by water.
  • Palazzo Natoli
  • Palazzo Chiaramonte
  • Palazzo Abatellis. Built at the end of the 15th century for the prefect of the city, Francesco Abatellis.
  • The Regional Archeological Museum Antonio Salinas is one of the main museums of Italy
  • Palazzina Cinese, royal residence of the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and location of the Ethnographic Museum of Sicily.
City walls The Palazzo dei Normanni Palermo has at least two rings of city walls, many pieces of which still survive. The first ring surrounded the ancient core of the Phoenician city – the so-called Palaeopolis (in the area east of Porta Nuova) and the Neapolis. Via Vittorio Emanuele was the main road east–west through this early walled city. The eastern edge of the walled city was on Via Roma and the ancient port in the vicinity of Piazza Marina. The wall circuit was approximately Porto Nuovo, Corso Alberti, Piazza Peranni, Via Isodoro, Via Candela, Via Venezia, Via Roma, Piazza Paninni, Via Biscottari, Via Del Bastione, Palazzo dei Normanni and back to Porto Nuovo. In the medieval period the walled city was expanded. Via Vittorio Emanuele continued to be the main road east–west through the walled city. The west gate was still Porta Nuova, the walls continued to Corso Alberti, to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele Orlando where it turned east along Via Volturno to Piazza Verdi and along the line of Via Cavour. At this northeast corner there was a defense, Castello a Mare, to protect the port at La Cala. A huge chain was used to block La Cala with the other end at Santa Maria della Catena (St Mary of the Chain). The sea-side wall was along the western side of Foro Italico Umberto. The wall turns west along the northern side of Via Abramo Lincoln, continues along Corso Tukory. The wall turns north approximately on Via Benedetto, to Palazzo dei Normanni and back to Porta Nuova. Several gates in the city wall survive. Images of the wall can be seen here. Opera houses Teatro Massimo opera house. Teatro Politeama.   UNESCO World Heritage Sites UNESCO World Heritage Sites include the Palazzo Reale with the Cappella Palatina, the Chiesa di San Giovanni degli Eremiti, the Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, the Chiesa di San Cataldo, the Cattedrale di Palermo, the Palazzo della Zisa and the Ponte dell’Ammiraglio. This makes Italy the country with the most UNESCO world heritage sites, and Sicily the region hosting the most within Italy. Cathedral (“Nostra Signora dell’Assunzione”) It arises in the oldest sacred area of Palermo, where Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines and Arabs had built their places of worship. When Normans came to power, immediately replaced the Muslim mosque with the Christian church. In 1184 the archbishop of Palermo, Walter Offamilio, ordered the demolition of the building and the realisation of a great cathedral, as a symbol of the religious power in the city. Inside, we find the royal and imperial tombs where rest Roger II, Henry VI of Swabia, Constance of Altavilla and Frederick II of Swabia, all of them bared in monumental sarcophagus made of porphyry. Among the chapels, there is the Chapel of Saint Rosalia, the patron saint of Palermo. Church of “Santa Maria Dell’Ammiraglio” or “Martorana” It was completed in 1143 thanks to a generous donation from George of Antioch. Unfortunately, today the church has nothing left of its original splendor, due to the many changes that spoiled its original nature. It still remains one of the most beautiful religious buildings in Palermo and Sicily. Quattro Canti” of the City (Four Corners) This is the best-known name of the old “Piazza Vigliena”, center of the oldest part of town. It is also called "Theater of the Sun" because it is lighted up by the sun from sunrise to sunset. The square has long been the center of the city, a place to exchange news and gossip. It was also the symbol of the Spanish urban reform, that gave glory to the two main streets crossing the city – “Via Maqueda” and “Corso Vittorio Emanuele”. Massimo Theatre “One of the largest and most sumptuous theaters in Europe”, designed by G.B. Basile, under whose direction work began in 1.875, then completed by his son Ernesto in 1.897. It stands in Piazza Verdi, after the collapse of a large number of buildings of the area. The theater, noble architecture inspired by neoclassicism, covers an area of 7.730 sqm and fully meets the criteria of decoration and balance of the middle class from the past century.

    MARKETS

 VUCCIRIA Its name derives from the French "boucherie" (meat shop), where you can find everything: Fish, fresh fruits, vegetables, clothes etc. Here you can still breathe the atmosphere of the Arab Suk. IL CAPO It is located between “Via S. Agostino”, “Via Capuccinelle” and “Porta Carini”. There is everything: from food of all kinds to household objects and secondhand clothes. BALLARÓ It is in the old neighborhood called “Albergheria” from “Piazza Carmine to “Via Ballarò”. Also, in here you can find everything. MERCATO DELLE PULCI  Located in “Piazza Domenico Peranni”, it’s open every day for antiques lovers.  CASA PROFESSA Located in Piazza Professa. You can find new or secondhand clothes and fabrics etc.    

SHOP ROADS

The shopping streets of Palermo provide purchasing opportunities for all budgets. In “Via Libertà” (the most beautiful street of Palermo, rich in trees and buildings) you can find the major brands: Louis Vuitton, Bagagli, Furla, Giorgio Armani, Max Mara, Hermes, ect. This street continues to “Via Ruggero Settimo” and “Via Maqueda”, where there are shops with less important names but also interesting and above all cheaper where you will enjoy the pleasure of shopping. “Via Roma”, the street beginning at the central station ending approximately 2 km and a half later, near “Piazza Ruggero Settimo” (better known from locals as “Piazza Politeama”), a street full of shops that deserves to be visited. Another street worthy to be mentioned is “Via Principe di Belmonte”, a pedestrian street rich in shops and bars each of them having its own terrace where locals often stop for an aperitif before dinner or to relax with a refreshing drink or ice cream at any time of day.

PARKS & GARDENS

GIARDINO INGLESE Viale Libertà – Opening times: 9.00am - 7.00pm PARCO DELLA “FAVORITA” Piazza Leoni et Piazza Gen. Cascino. This park was the area for royal hunting in ancient time. Open daily. VILLA GARIBALDI It has ancient trees worthy to be seen. Piazza Marina. Open daily. VILLA GIULIA Via Lincoln – tel. 091 7404028 Opening times: every day from 8.00am to 8.00pm VILLA MALFITANO Via Dante Alighieri, 167– tel. 091 6820522. Open every day (Sunday on request). VILLA TRABIA Via Antonio Salinas, 3 – tel. 091 7405905. Opening Times: every day from 8.30am to 6.00pm

THEATRES

TEATRO MASSIMO Tours are available everyday until 4.00pm. Piazza Verdi, 9 – tel. 091 6053521 TEATRO POLITEAMA The prestigious home of the “Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana Foundation”. Every year it organises classical music concerts and plays.  Piazza Ruggero Settimo. TEATRO BIONDO Drama, music and dance. Via Roma, 258 tel. 091 7434345 – 091 7434339.  

MUSEUMS

­ PALAZZO ABATELLIS MUSEUM Works of art from Middle-Age to the Eighteenth century. Via Alloro, 4 tel. 091 6230011. Open from Tuesday to Friday 9.00am-6.30pm; Saturday and Sunday 9.00am-1.00pm. Closed on Mondays. TESORO DELLA CATTEDRALE You can find relics and vestiges deriving from the tombs of the Norman kings. “Piazza della Cattedrale” tel. 091 334373. TESORO DELLA CAPPELLA PALATINA Piazza Parlamento – Palazzo dei Normanni (The Royal Palace) tel. 091 6262833 (Fondazione Federico II). Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9.00am-4.15pm; Sunday and bank holidays 8.30am-9.40am and 11.15am-1.00pm. BOTANICAL GARDEN Built in 1.795, is one of the largest and most important in Europe. You can see plants, trees and flowers coming from all over the world with great and very rare examples, such as the "soap tree" and the “Ficus Benjamin” the largest in the world. Via A. Lincoln, 2 tel. 091 23891236. Opening hours: Everyday 9.00am-5.00pm. Closed on January 1st and December 25th. ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM “ANTONIO SALINAS” Via Bara all’Olivella, 24 tel. 091 6116805/7. Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 9.00am-6.00pm; Sunday and bank holidays 9.00am-1.30pm. Closed on Mondays. PALAZZO MIRTO House of Princes St. Marco. Via Merlo 2 tel. 091 6164751. Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 9.00am-6.00pm, Sunday and bank holidays 9.00am-1.00pm. Closed on Mondays. MODERN ART GALLERY “E. RESTIVO” Paintings and sculptures from the nineteenth century to today. Via Sant’Anna 21 Tel 091 8431605. Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 9.30am-6.30pm. Closed on Mondays. GEOLOGICAL MUSEUM In Corso Tukory 131 Tel 091 23864665. Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9.00am-1.00pm. and 3.00pm-5.00pm: Saturday 9.00am-1.00pm. Closed on Sundays. MUSEUM OF ZOOLOGY INSTITUTE In “Via Archirafi”, 18 tel. 0916230111. Opening hours: Monday-Friday 9.00am-1.00pm. Closed on Sundays. ARSENALE DELLA MARINA REGGIA Via Dell’Arsenale, 142 Opening hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 8.00am-5.00pm; Wednesday 8.00am-6.00pm; Friday 8.00am-3.00pm. Closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
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