“It is easy to guess the exotic in the life of Palermo: it is poured here in the air, hot and humid; it catches the eye at every step in the outlandish and lush vegetation.
P. Muratov “Images of Italy”
The main city of Sicily, its capital Palermo is the soul, history and heart of the island. Mario Puzo, in his famous novel The Sicilian, described this unique city very accurately, with bright and concise strokes: Mediterranean Sea. The golden rays of the sun caressed the majestic marble columns of Greek temples, the slender Muslim minarets, the bizarre ligature on the facades of Spanish cathedrals; on the slope of a distant hill, the gloomy battlements of an ancient Norman castle could be seen. The legacy of the most diverse and cruel military rulers in Sicily can be found even from earlier times before the birth of Christ.
The history of Palermo begins from time immemorial – from the 8th century BC. In those days, the island was inhabited by the most ancient pre-Indo-European tribe “Sicana” – until 754 BC, when the Phoenicians founded the city and called it Sus – which in translated from Phoenician means “flower”. Then, during the first Punic war, the city was under the rule of Carthage, and after it became a Roman colony. In 515 Palermo was occupied by the Goths, in 831 by the Saracens, making the city the most important trading center in Sicily and leaving behind magnificent mosques and libraries. At that time, most of the population of Palermo were Greeks, Jews and Arabs who traded with North Africa. In 1072, the Normans took over Palermo, and the city became the capital of the Sicilian kingdom. Then the city was under the rule of the French, Spaniards, and only in 1860. Garibaldi transferred Palermo under the auspices of the Italian government. Today Palermo is the capital of Sicily, a beautiful resort and the cultural and historical center of the island. Magnificent architecture, historical monuments and museums, ancient squares, a labyrinth of streets and beautiful seascapes attract tourists from all over the world to the Sicilian capital.
The historic central square of Palermo – Quattro Canti or Piazza Villena (Quattro Canti – Four Corners) was created in 1600. The corners of the four Sicilian Baroque buildings overlooking Piazza Villena are cut in such a way that the area has the shape of an octagon. The lower tier of the facades is adorned with a fountain, the middle one is decorated with statues of Spanish kings, and the upper one is with sculptures of saints. On the corner of the square is the church of San Giuseppe dei Teatini (Chiesa di San Giuseppe dei Teatini) – another excellent example of Sicilian baroque, both outside and inside – the church is decorated with amazing frescoes. Another square – Piazza Pretoria also presents a delightful baroque ensemble with a Mannerist fountain. The square got its name thanks to the Palazzo Pretorio, a palace built in 1463, which has housed the city hall of Palermo since the 19th century. On Place Verdi (piazza G. Verdi) is the Grand Opera House – Massimo (Massimo), the third largest theater in Europe after Paris and Vienna. The theater with 3500 seats was built in 1891 in neoclassical style. Enrique Caruso, Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti performed on Massimo’s stage.
One of the significant monuments of the city is the Royal Norman Palace (PALAZZO dei Normani), located on Liberty Square (piazza Indipendenza). Initially, there was a Roman bastion, then, in the IX-X centuries. – the castle of the emir, and in the XI-XII centuries. the Normans rebuilt it into a magnificent royal residence. In the palace there is the Roger Hall – the royal bedroom overlooking the Gulf of Palermo, the Palatine Chapel built in 1143, like the palace hydraulic clock, combines all the beginnings of Sicily: European, Sicilian, Byzantine and Arabic. Today, the Norman Palace houses the Regional Assembly of Sicily. In the center of the ancient Garibaldi Garden is the Chiaramonte Palace (Palazzo Chiaramonte), which is an architectural combination of late Gothic and Norman-Arab elements. In the 15th century, the palace belonged to Count Manfredi Chiaramonte, then it was the residence of the Spanish Viceroy, the headquarters of the Royal Customs, and from 1600 to 1782 the courts of the Inquisition were held here. Now part of the Palace is occupied by a museum.
There are 295 churches in Palermo, including 70 former monasteries. The Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady (Cattedrale di Santa Maria L’Assunta) was erected in 1185 under the Norman King William II. In the Cathedral are the royal and imperial sarcophagi of the Norman and Suevian dynasties. One of the chapels of the cathedral is dedicated to the patroness of Palermo – Saint Rosalia, who, according to legend, during the plague that swept the city, made a holy vow to go to the monastery so that the Lord would help overcome the plague, and after her tonsure, the epidemic receded. Also in the Cathedral is a treasury with jewels found in the tombs of monarchs. Church of San Giovanni degli Eremita (San Giovanni degli eremita) is one of the most beautiful Norman churches and is decorated with unusual domes, reminiscent of a mosque. The Admiral’s Church (Martorana or Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio) was built in 1143 with donations from Admiral George of Antioch, and in 1463 was transferred to the Martorana monastery. The church is decorated with marvelous mosaics by Constantinople artists. The Church of Santa Maria dello Spasimo (Santa Maria dello Spasimo) is also called the “church that is not here”, since only ruins remained from the building, among which concerts are held in an unusual setting. At one time, the interior of the church was decorated with paintings by Raphael. The Church of Santa Maria dello Spasimo (Santa Maria dello Spasimo) is also called the “church that is not here”, since only ruins remained from the building, among which concerts are held in an unusual setting. At one time, the interior of the church was decorated with paintings by Raphael. The Church of Santa Maria dello Spasimo (Santa Maria dello Spasimo) is also called the “church that is not here”, since only ruins remained from the building, among which concerts are held in an unusual setting. At one time, the interior of the church was decorated with paintings by Raphael.
The famous Sicilian Catacombs of the Capuchins (Catacombe dei Cappuccini) deserve a separate story – burial catacombs located under the Capuchin monastery, where the remains of more than eight thousand people – clergy, aristocracy and representatives of various professions – are buried in the open. Moreover, the mummified bodies of the deceased are a kind of composition. Here there is a corridor of monks – the oldest part of the catacombs, a corridor of men dressed in different clothes, and a corridor of women dressed in luxurious dresses, cubicles of children and virgins, and in the chapel of St. Rosalia in a glass coffin lies the body of two-year-old Rosalia Lombardo, so skillfully embalmed, that for many years it seemed that the girl was sleeping. The Capuchin Catacombs stagger the mind and imagination. So, Maupassant, who visited here, wrote, recalling a visit to the catacombs: “And I suddenly see in front of me a huge gallery, wide and high, the walls of which are lined with many skeletons, dressed in the most bizarre and ridiculous way. A number of the dead stands on the ground in a continuous formation; their heads are terrible, their mouths seem to be about to speak. The unique cemetery is one of the most famous sights of Palermo.
Among the famous museums of Palermo are the Regional Archaeological Museum, representing a rich collection of artifacts from various eras, reflecting the ancient history of Sicily; Puppet Museum with a collection of puppets from Sicily and other countries; Tesoro Museum, where you can see a unique collection of royal jewels, including magnificent crowns. The Regional Sicilian Gallery, located in the Abatellis Palace, includes a heritage of sculptures and paintings from the 12th-18th centuries, among which the main exhibits are the frescoes of the Triumph of Death, the Annunciation by Antonello do Messina and the Mallow Triptych by Mabuse.
It is difficult to list all the sights of Palermo – the wealth of history and culture of the Sicilian capital is unique. Along with this, guests of Palermo are waiting for a lot of entertainment – from wonderful beaches, numerous restaurants for every taste, nightclubs and discos to excellent shopping, during which you can buy things from famous brands at more than reasonable prices. You can also just walk around this amazing city, its narrow streets and fabulous gardens.