A first glance at Palermo

Writing a few words about Palermo to give a reader an overall idea of the city is not an easy task, too many things are to be said. Therefore, you will consider these lines as a first rapid glance, later we will say a lot more about specific topics that actually deserve to be treated one by one. Palermo is the capital city of Sicily and the fifth largest city in Italy: it lies on the north-western coast of the island facing the Tyrrhenian sea (map), surrounded by the mountains that are the natural border of the Conca d’oro, the plain once famous for the cultivation of orange trees. Palermo has a very long history, since when the Phoenicians first settled here; many different civilizations followed each other as witnessed by the huge cultural, artistic and architectural treasure: Punic walls, Norman Arab vestiges, baroque palaces and churches, and last but not least the Liberty style villas. Among the  Norman Arab sites, the Palatine chapel, guarded inside the Norman palace, is the absolute jewel: the refinement of its sparkling golden mosaics has no rival! The palace itself, today site of the ARS (the Sicilian Parliament), is wonderful.

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The Palatine chapel (Palermo)

Not to be missed are also the church of St. John of the hermits with its typical red domes, the Zisa, summer “resort” of the Norman kings, the cathedral and many others sites. The Norman arab itinerary of Palermo, together with the duomo of Monreale and the duomo of Cefalù, were included in the world heritage list by UNESCO also because of their uniqueness.

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The Cathedral (Palermo)

Also the baroque architecture has many sites that are really worth a visit: among many others, the church of San Domenico, considered as one of the best expressions of the baroque style in Sicily, the oratorio of Santa Cita with its walls completely coverd in precious white stucco sculptures, or the famous church of Casa Professa. The Villino Florio and the Villino Favaloro are the Pearls of the Liberty period. The Casina Cinese built during the early years of 19th century as a country residence for Queen Maria Carolina, with its particular chinese architecture and paintings is another absolute must see of the city!

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The Casina cinese, interiors. (Palermo)

Also the Neoclassical style is represented by the majestic Teatro Massimo, the largest in Italy and third largest in Europe, where the greatest artist, from Enrico Caruso to Maria Callas, used to perform.

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The Teatro Massimo at night (Palermo)

Architecture and art are not the only interesting things here: also nature, helped by the mild climate even in winter, offers something special. Do not forget to have a look at the huge trees which absolutely dominate the Piazza Marina or to stroll for a while in the botanical garden, one of the most appreciated in Europe for the large range of species it contains, or to spend a couple of hours visiting Mount Pellegrino, from where you will have a special panoramic view on the city and the Mediterranean. Also daily life in Palermo can be somehow a show, in fact whoever walks through one of the noisy traditional markets like, Vucciria, Ballarò or il Capo is stunned by sounds, colours and scents of every kind at every corner.  Patroness of the city is the beloved Santa Rosalia, who has a special dedicated sanctuary on the top of Mount Pellegrino (if you are not travelling by car you can easily get there by bus) and to whom on July 14th is dedicated the most important traditional feast (U Fistinu) that involve the whole city with music, wonderful fireworks, processions, prayers and food.

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The statue of santa Rosalia. (Palermo)

The city of Palermo is well-connected with other Italian cities and many international destinations thanks to the international airport Falcone and Borsellino, situated 30 km far from the city center in Punta Raisi. Maritime transport (Passengers + car) is also available from/to many other cities among which Naples and Genoa, that is an interesting solution for those among you who travel by car. 


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