Top 10 in Palermo
Nights suggested: 3
It was Greek and Roman, Arab and Norman. French and Spanish conquered it. Every culture has left its marks in Palermo, a crossroads of peoples, languages and arts. They call it the city of delights, also for its street food: arancini, sfincione, fritters and sandwich with the spleen, or pan ca 'meusa, are all to try.
This is our 10 stops journey in the historic Palermo.
From the outside it looks like a mosque. It is not a coincidence: when the Saracens invaded Palermo they used the Cathedral as their worship place. The prevailing style is the Norman one, although the interiors are debtors of neoclassical. In the church lie the Norman kings and Emperor Frederick II of Swabia. The treasure rooms preserve many precious objects, such as the golden tiara of Queen Constance of Aragon.
If you're not too emotional, go down in the basement of the Capuchin Monastery in Cuba Quarter. Famous worldwide, the catacombs are home to about eight thousand mortal remains of monks, famous people, rich people of Palermo and ordinary people. Excavated in the late sixteenth century, the tunnels are a meditation journey on the transience of life, earthly vanities and futility of men attachment to their external features.
To experience real Palermo is a must to stroll in the popular markets. The most famous are those of Ballarò and Vucciria. Ballaro is one of the oldest markets in Palermo: it take place every day, in the afternoon, between Piazza Casa Professa and corso Tukory, towards Porta Sant'Agata. The one of Vucciria, in Piazza Caracciolo, next to the Martorana Church, was born as a butcher shop: today it is a triumph of scents and colors typical of the island, from lemons to fresh sardines, olives, and dried tomatoes. Other popular markets are those of the Cape, surrounding Porta Carini, and the one of Borgo Vecchio, between Piazza Sturzo and Piazza Ucciardone.
4. Teatro Massimo
It is the third largest opera house in Europe, surpassed only by the Opéra National de Paris and the Vienna State Opera. Neoclassical-eclectic, Teatro Massimo is in Piazza Giuseppe Verdi. If its exterior will surprise you, once climbed the staircase and passed the entrance, you will be amazed: the Liberty room, the richness of the decorations and scenery are unique.
5. Norman Palace and Palatine Chapel
Also known as the Royal Palace, it is the Europe's oldest royal residence and one of the most visited attractions in Sicily. As it happens a bit 'all over ancient Palermo, this building is the result of an architectural styles mix, from the Norman to Arabic. Byzantine are the Palatine Chapel mosaics, housed within the building.
6. Stanze al genio
Go to 11 Via Garibaldi and walk through the doors of the Museum House RoomsStanze al Genio.In its halls are exposed more than two thousand and three hundred Neapolitan and Sicilian ancient majolica, from the end of the sixteenth century to the early twentieth century - it is one of the biggest collections in Europe.
Visits by appointment only. For information: 340 0971561 or 335 6885379.
7. Palazzo Mirto
The throne lounges, the underground jails, the stables with buggies. If you're curious about how the nobility of Palermo lived, visit Palazzo Mirto. The residence is in the Kalsa, the Arab quarter of the city, at 2, Via Merlo: for nearly four centuriesit was the home of Filangieri family, who transformed it into a small palace. Many tapestries, lacquer panels from ancient Chinese art, Murano chandeliers, pomp and luxury at will.
8. Church of Martorana
Also known as the Church of St. Nicholas of the Greeks, guides point it out as one of the most beautiful Middle Age Byzantine churches in Italy. The building is in Arabic style and overlooks Piazza Bellini, near St. Joseph Theatine and Piazza Pretoria. Remarkable its Byzantine mosaics, the oldest in Sicily.
9. Mount Pellegrino
Is it a beautiful sunny day? If you want to capture the most beautiful views of Palermo, climbs on top of Mount Pellegrino. Against the rock of the mountain is the Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia, the patron of the city. On the northeastern flank you’ll see the Addaura caves, with its ancient petroglyphs at least eight thousand years old.
It was founded by the Arabs, conquered by the Normans, loved by the Palermo nobility. Monreale stands behind the city, on the hills overlooking the Conca d'Oro. Its masterpiece is the Cathedral, a beautiful mix of the Norman architecture and the Arab art. For a breathtaking view, climb the San Martino le Scale rise.