Palermo could also be called the city of records. Unesco has declared its historic center as the largest in Europe. The palaces, churches, museums and gardens of Palermo are so many.
Palermo could also be called the city of primates. Unesco has declared its historic center as the largest in Europe. The palaces, churches, museums and gardens of Palermo are so many:
It is the main symbol of the city. The cathedral of Palermo is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world dated back to 600 b.C. even if the current structure was completed only in 1185. Contrary to what many think, this is not dedicated to the cult of Santa Rosalia, patron saint of the city, but to the Holy Virgin Mary Assumed into Heaven. In full Catalan Gothic style, this is a historic architectural jewel to not be missed.
“Fountain Pretoria” or “Piazza della Vergogna”(Square of the Shame); nLocated on the homonymous square in Palermo, it is celebrated as one of the most beautiful fountain in Italy.
Its story begins in Tuscany when Don Pedro de Toledo, father of Eleonora and father-in-law of Cosimo I de ‘Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, commissioned sculptors Francesco Camilliani and Michelangelo Naccherino to build a fountain for the splendid garden of his Florentine villa. However, when the illustrious client died in 1552, the fountain, thanks to the mediation of Don Garçia de Toledo, eldest son and heir of Don Pedro, was purchased by the Senate of Palermo who decided to place it in the square on which the Palazzo Pretorio stands. To make way for the monumental construction, conceived for an open place, several houses were demolished. The care of the reconstruction of the “stupendous” fountain – according to Giorgio Vasari – was entrusted to Camillo Camilliani, son of Francesco who completed his interventions in 1581. The fountain revolves around a central basin surrounded by four bridges of stairways and a fence of balustrades. Distributed within this complex architectural construction they depict the gods of Olympus and the rivers of Palermo, Oreto, Papireto, Gabriele and Maredolce. Some curiosities: the statue of the river Gabriele represented the Tuscan river Mugnone, famous in Boccaccio’s novellas. And yet the Palermitans call the square “Piazza della Vergogna” for the nakedness of the statues.
The characteristic Vucciria market where countless stalls offer everything from vegetables to fruit and preserves, from cheeses to fish, in a riot of colors and shouts.
The Favorita park, wanted by King Ferdinand of Bourbon in exile in Palermo. It start at the foot of Mount Pellegrino for a good 3 km and is now home to numerous sports facilities.
The Massimo theater
The Massimo theater designed by G.B. Filippo Basile in 1864, with its 7700 square meters of surface, is the largest opera house in Italy and the third in Europe. The structure, built in a neoclassical-eclectic style, recalls the shapes of classical architecture, with its famous staircase, columns with Corinthian capitals, the portico and the large metal dome. It stands in the current Piazza Verdi. The works began in 1875 after the numerous controversies that followed the 1864 competition won by the architect Giovan Battista Filippo Basile, whose death was succeeded by his son Ernesto, also an architect, who, at the request of the Municipality of Palermo, agreed to complete the work of the father.
The construction of the impressive theater was entrusted to the construction company of Giovanni Rutelli and Alberto Machì, who were already known as great experts in classical art. It was they, together with Basile, who established that the structure was to be made of carved stone, to which finely carved inserts by about 150 craftsmen would then be added.
The Politeama theater
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the advent of the new bourgeoisie in the forefront of political and social life brought with it new needs, to satisfy which, decent neighborhoods began to be built beyond the walls. Designed by architect Giuseppe Damiani Almejda, it is a harmonious and impressive building in the Pompeian style located in Piazza Ruggero Settimo, one of the most beautiful and lively squares in the city. The Politeama theater was the first in order of time to be built in the new city, in fact its construction began, in 1867, almost concurrently with the construction of the Massimo theater and ended in 1891 by the will of the municipal administration of the city. Ultimately, with the construction of a political theater, the city administration intended to align Palermo with the rest of Europe by proposing an architectural typology for a new genre of spectacle, which the city lacked.
The Politeama theater dominates with its elegant circular structure, a double portico marked by a series of Ionic and Doric style columns characterizes the exterior of the monumental building which culminates in the enchanting entrance in the shape of an “Arc de Triomphe” surrounded by two majestic candelabra and surmounted by a superb bronze chariot. The magnificent quadriga, also known as the “Triumph of Apollo and Euterpe” is a very refined work of the sculptor Mario Rutelli; on the sides it is flanked by two equestrian statues depicting a pair of horsemen on two soaring steeds, modeled by Benedetto Civiletti, master of Rutelli.
Palace of the Normans
it is famous for being not only the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly, also known as the royal palace of Palermo, it is the oldest royal residence in Europe. This palace is certainly the most visited tourist attraction in all of Sicily, thanks to its beautiful Arab fortification and the opulent interiors of its rooms with priceless mosaics.
The Palatine Chapel Ruggero was crowned King in the year 1130 and in that year the construction of the chapel was begun. It has the shape of a basilica with three naves, with columns, of granite with gilded Corinthian capitals, which support the momentum of the pointed arches. The ceilings cover the three naves of the chapel. The mosaics entirely occupy the upper parts of the walls, the dome, the apses. In the dome is the Christ Pantocrator, blessing to the Greek, surrounded by four archangels and four angels. The Palatine Chapel is one of the monuments not to be missed!
La Martorana the church was founded in 1143 and was dedicated to the Madonna. The sacred building, which over the centuries has been destroyed and restored several times, is accessed from the bell tower: a square construction of the thirteenth century.The church has a Greek cross plan, extended with the narthex and the atrium. An axial portal overlooks the atrium and the narthex, as in the first Christian churches. Beyond the narthex, the building was arranged and decorated like a 4-column Byzantine church, except for the pointed arches and spandrels of the dome which were of Islamic origin. In 1193 the houses around were used as a Basilian convent for women and the church was later incorporated into it. Around 1394 the foundation of the Martorana convent takes place (from the name of the owners) which will be ceded to the Benedictines by the Norman crown and which will then give the church its name. Entering the first body of the building – eighteenth-century reconstruction with frescoed vaults by Olivio Sozzi, Antonio Grano and Guglielmo Borremans – two mosaic decorations on the front of the original body depict Roger II and George of Antioch; only the head and hands of the latter are original of the time.
After passing the aforementioned environment, you reach the actual church. Here the upper part of the walls and the dome, at the top of which is the image of Christ Pantocrator, are entirely covered with mosaic decorations from the Byzantine period, the oldest in all of Sicily, in connection with those concerning Daphne, in Attica .
The mosaics of the dome represent Christ in the center, then going down you can see the 4 archangels (three originals plus one apocryphal) and the patriarchs, while the four evangelists are housed in the niches and finally, in the vaults, the remaining apostles. at the end of the seventeenth century, it was replaced with the current baroque chapel with marble inlays.
Martorana fruit or pasta reale, one of the most typical sweets of Sicilian pastry, owes its name to the church of the same name. The tradition dates back to the Middle Ages, when each convent specialized in the confection of a particular type of dessert. At the beginning of November, for the anniversary of the dead, the Benedictine convent of Martorana prepared these marzipan sweets, processed and colored to take on the appearance of real fruit. Even today, during the Fiera dei Morti, the area between via Spicuzza and piazza Olivella is invaded by colorful stalls offering martorana fruit, sugar puppets and toys for children.
Of great historical and artistic interest, la Gancia is located in via Alloro, at Palazzo Patella. Its construction began in 1490 when the friars of S. Maria di Gesù, near Palermo, obtained permission from Innocent VIII to build a church outside the city walls, that is a hospice for their sick and business in the city. Having already owned the church of San Girolamo, located within the city walls, in the 16th century they began the construction of the current church of the Gancia. Although it has been tampered with over the centuries, its original character is still visible on the outside. The chapels inside preserve a precious collection of works of art. Of great value are the wooden ceiling of the late sixteenth century, the organ on the choir of the late sixteenth century. and the three fonts of the sixteenth century.
The Catacombs of the Capuchins
About eight thousand mummified bodies were deposited from the seventeenth to the end of the nineteenth century in the galleries built under the convent and the adjacent church dedicated to the Madonna della Pace. The methods used by the friars to embalm the bodies, allowed the bodies to be preserved almost intact, and very recognizable. In reality the name is improper, as it is an underground cemetery, with long tunnels dug into the tuff, in use in the 17th century, with about 8,000 embalmed corpses. The macabre parade depicts an entire society that lived from the 17th to the 19th century.
The origin of the catacombs dates back to around 1599, when the friars, taking advantage of a pre-existing natural cavity below the main altar of the church, transferred the bodies of 40 friars previously buried at the southern side of the church. The friars began to dig as the pre-existing cavity was no longer able to contain the bodies that gradually arrived. They were all placed around the walls and the image of the Madonna was placed in a niche in the center, which no longer exists. The extension work resumed in 1601, a second room was excavated which was accessed by means of a staircase that led from the sacristy. From 1601 to 1678 excavations continued and the corridor of the friars and that of men were built; the work continued until 1732, reaching its present size: four square corridors divided on a rectangular plan by a fifth corridor. This arrangement is due to the architect Felice La Licata da Palermo in 1823. From the seventeenth century until 1881 it was chosen as a place of eternal rest by the most prominent citizens of Palermo. Along the corridors reserved for various categories of people – men, women, professionals and ecclesiastics – there are hundreds of skeletonized, mummified bodies, some embalmed, others placed in urns and coffins. The vision can be disconcerting and disturbing but it falls within the context of the city of Palermo: raw, beautiful, rich in treasures and a bit of a dormant humanity, in which the desire to re-emerge is palpable. Just like with the corpses and skeletons of the Crypt.
The Catacombs of Palermo, despite being located a little outside the heart of the city, are one of the most popular tourist destinations for visitors to the Sicilian capital. The charm of the macabre never goes out of style.
The “Chinese Palace”
It was the home of King Ferdinand IV Di Borbone and his wife Maria Carolina in 1799. The appearance and furnishings with a marked oriental touch are an expression of a taste of the time, and make it truly one of a kind. Absolutely to visit both the exterior, with its large gardens, and the interior rooms with truly delightful decorations.
“Casa Museo Stanze al Genio”, Via Garibaldi, 11
Inaugurated in December 2008, the unique “Casa Museo Stanze al Genio” collects one of the largest collections in Europe of ancient Neapolitan and Sicilian majolica with over 2300 specimens on display (from the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 20th century), and other minor collections of contemporary and modern art. The House Museum is housed in an elegant private house in a part of the noble floor of the historic Torre – Piraino building, in the historic center of Palermo. The museum space is divided into 4 splendid rooms (entrance hall, kitchen room, flower room and neoclassical room), also used for holding collateral cultural events. The exhibition itinerary adopted for the majolica tiles follows a distinction by age, geographical origin and production, highlighting the most beautiful and precious pieces for each of them. Guided tours by appointment (call 340 0971561 – 335 6885379) Cost of ordinary card € 7.00; reduced (students and over 65) € 5.00.
Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia
It is located on the top of Monte Pellegrino (which Goethe had defined the most beautiful promontory in the world). The cult of Santa Rosalia in Palermo is sacred, being the “Santuzza” patroness of the city. The sanctuary is located inside a cave, where Rosalia lived the last years of her life. If you really want to do something like a true Palermitan, then don’t miss the “ attack ”, that is the ascent of the mountain on the old road. Mystical, yes, but also invigorating!
“San Giovanni degli Eremiti” (St. Giovanni of the Hermits)
It is considered one of the symbolic monuments of Palermo, among the most interesting examples of Sicilian-Norman art, one of the most fascinating and singular ecclesiastical buildings of our city, with the exotic charm of the red plastered domes that cover the church of S. Giovanni degli Eremiti. Bordering the ancient medieval southwestern city wall, the complex of San Giovanni degli Eremiti is located near Palazzo dei Normanni in the stretch once lapped by the waters of the river of Maltempo (Kemonia), one of the two rivers that once they crossed the city.
The “Quattro canti” (Four Cantons)
It consists in an octagonal square, Piazza Vagliena, formed by the intersection of Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda. The “Quattro Canti“ represent the true center of Palermo. On the 4 sides there are 4 buildings adorned with statues, fountains and columns, representing 4 districts of Palermo: Albergheria, Capo, La Loggia, Kalsa. At the center of each of these buildings are the 4 statues that represent those who were once the patron saints of the city: Cristina, Ninfa, Oliva and Agata.
The Chiaromonte-Steri palace
This 1300 palace can be found in Piazza Marina. Current seat of the rectorate of the University of Palermo. Famous for having been the seat of the most powerful and sovereign tyrant of all Sicily, the count of the fief of Modica, the beautiful Sala Magna full of frescoes and drapes still well preserved dating back to the ‘300, and the prisons underground where it is still possible to see the engravings in the walls of the condemned to death and all the torture machine of the time.
It is located inside the Kalsa, the historic Arab quarter of Palermo. It was the seat of the noble Filangieri family of the 1600s, which according to many transformed this palace into a miniature palace of Caserta. Glitz and luxury will fill your view as soon as you enter, especially for the impressive Murano chandeliers, tapestries, lacquered panels coming directly from China of the time and other extravagant lush furnishings.
The church of Gesù or “Casa Professa”
It is a Baroque church of the late 1500s, one of the most important in Palermo. It was built in honor of the Jesuits who landed in Sicily in 1564. Today the church is admirable in all its splendor. A simple facade is contrasted by an interior rich in sculptures and stuccos typical of the opulent Baroque style. Tel. +39.091580655; +39.091332213; +39.091327334. Holy Masses Hours:
From Monday to Saturday 7:00 am, 8:00 am
Sundays and holidays at 7:00, 11:00, 12:00, 18:00
Weekdays: 6: 30-13: 00, 16: 00-19: 00
Sundays and holidays: 6:30 am-12:30pm, 5:00 pm-6:30pm.
By accessing the church, you can visit the museum of the Society of Jesus and the Saturday oratory, the sacristy and the crypt.
Marina Square, Abatellis palace, Sclafani palace, collection of Etruscan Art of the Salinas Museum. The Murano chandelier kept in the ballroom of the Pietretagliata Palace.
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