Palermo is the capital of Sicily, Italy, and its largest city. Originally a Phoenician, then a Carthaginian colony, this remarkable city was long considered a prize worth capturing. After the first Punic war it was passed from the Carthaginian hands to the Romans and later became a Roman colony under the reign of Augustus.
Under the Arab domination it obtains great splendor: it becomes an emirate and will hold around 300 mosques. Finally, Palermo became Norman in 1072, after the conquest of the city by Ruggero d'Altavilla. Ruggero II made it capital of the island and Federico II Houhenstaufen made it "Capital of the Mediterranean Culture", creating the first Sicilian school. Palermo became the greatest city not just in Sicily, but also one of the most important in Italy and Europe!
In the hands of the French the city passes through a phase of decline, due to the transfer of the reign's capital to Naples. The population revolts and in 1282 began the "War of the Vespers". In its history, Palermo always searched the independence. In 1860 Garibaldi free the city and add the entire Sicily to the Kingdom of Italy.
Palermo is a great and exciting city. The mix of Arabic and Viking influences is one of the strangest and unexpected surprises that the city has to offer. Buildings dating from the 11th and 12th century and the buildings from Medieval Sicily offer great vacation attractions. During your vacation in Palermo an absolute must is "Palazzo dei Normanni". Other interesting sights include "Quattro Canti" (a nice example of Baroque architecture) and the "Catacombs", where local noblemen and clergy were mummified. Very impressive for each traveler are the Monastery and Cathedral of Monreale, settled not far away.
The Cathedral of Palermo, which is a former mosque turned into a church in 1185
San Giovanni degli Eremiti, built in 1132
Santa Maria dell'Ammiragliato, built in 1143, named also "Martorana"
Santa Maria della Gangia
San Giuseppe dei Teatini
Oratorio di San Lorenzo
Oratorio del Rosario
Santa Teresa alla Kalsa; the church, constructed between 1686-1706 over the residence of the former emir, is one of the most outstanding examples of Sicilian Baroque.
Santa Maria dello Spasimo; was built in 1506 and later turned into a hospital. For this temple Raphael painted his famous "Spasimo", hosted now in the "Museo del Prado" in Madrid. The church is today a fascinating air-open ruin.
The Church of the Jesus - "Chiesa del Gesu" - was built by Jesuits in the centre of the city from 1564, over a pre-existing convent of Brazilian monks. The edifice was further enlarged in 1591, becoming one of the most relevant examples of Sicilian Baroque, despite to a severe late Renaissance re-fashioning. The church was heavily damaged in 1943 by bombings, most of the frescoes being destroyed. This church is home of the Municipal Library, placed here from 1775.
The church of St. Francis of Assisi was built between 1255 and 1277 in the old market district of the city; it was largely renovated in the 15th, 16th, 18th and 19th centuries. After bombings, in 1943, the church was restored to its Mediaeval appearance. The interior has a typical Gothic flavor, with a nave and two aisles separated by two rows of cylindrical pilasters. Still, some of the chapels are in Renaissance style. The church includes precious sculptures by Antonio & Giacomo Gagini and Francesco Laurana. Important are also the allegorical statues by Giacomo Serpotta, which is also author of the stucco decoration.
The church Magione is an example of Norman architecture. Was founded in 1191 by Matteo d'Ajello and donated later to Cistercian monks. Six years later the German Emperor Henry VI gave it to the Teutonic Order, which detained it until the 15th century. Interesting is also the 12th century cloister.
Palazzo dei Normanni, one of the most beautiful palaces from Italy and a notable example of Norman architecture, probably built over an Arab fortress. It is home for the famous Cappella Palatina, one of the main travel attractions from Palermo.
Palazzo Abatellis, with the Regional Gallery. It was built at the end of the 15th century for the prefect of the city, Francesco Abatellis. It is a massive but elegant construction and has a typical Gothic style with some Renaissance influences.
Museo Archeologico Regionale is one the main museums from Italy. It includes numerous remains from Etruscan, Carthaginian, Roman and Hellenistic civilizations.
Teatro Massimo - "The Greatest Theatre" - was opened in 1897. Closed for renovation from 1974 until 1997, it is now carefully restored and has an active schedule.
Teatro Politeama was built between 1867 and 1874. Nowadays the town's Gallery of Modern Art is accommodated here.
Other tourist attractions in Palermo
Quattro Canti is a small place at the crossing of the ancient main roads, dividing the town into its quarters.
Piazza Pretoria was built in the 16th century near Quattro Canti as a place for a fountain - Fontana Pretoria.
The Cathedral has a solar observatory from 1690.
Orto Botanico, founded in 1785, is the largest botanical garden in Italy, with a surface of 10 ha.
The Capuchin Catacombs contain many mummified corps of local nobles.
Close to the city is Monte Pellegrino, a 600 meter high hill, where you can admire spectacular views of the city and of its surroundings.