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Palermo: the sights of the capital of the island of Sicily

Historical sights of Palermo

Palermo, the capital of the famous island of Sicily, is a beautiful pearl of Italy. This sunny city with a rich ancient history, comfortably situated in a beautiful green valley at the foot of Pelegrino, is washed by the azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Here every building breathes with history and romance.

Many cultures left their traces in Palermo — its attractions, unique in its beauty, are a unique combination of different architectural styles and historical eras.

Due to the favorable geographical position of the island on the trade routes of the Mediterranean, Palermo has always remained an important strategic point, the power over which many times passed from one conqueror to another. The city was founded by the Phoenicians in the eighth century BC, and during the reign of the Saracens became an important port, which it still remains.

Later, Palermo was the capital of the Sicilian kingdom, which in the 13th century passed to the duke of Anjou. However, the French could not retain power even for two decades — as a result of the famous Sicilian vespers in Palermo, they were all destroyed, after which the island was ceded to the kings of Aragon. Only in the 19th century, under the leadership of Garibaldi, Sicily was liberated and became part of the Italian kingdom. Currently, Palermo is the main transport hub of the region and a popular tourist destination.


Palermo surpasses many famous Italian cities in number and variety of attractions. It harmoniously coexists with Gothic cathedrals and Islamic mosques, magnificent palaces and amazing fountains, and the narrow streets of the historic center, filled with ancient houses, still keep the spirit of the Middle Ages.

Palaces Palermo

  • One of the most beautiful architectural structures is the Royal Norman Palace, located in the historic part of Palermo. The building was erected in the 11th century on the site of an Arab fortress, and later four towers and a royal chapel were added to it — the Palatine Chapel. The architecture of the palace is a mixture of different styles — from the western facade there is an Arabic pattern of false arches, and the southeast is made in the style of an Italian Renaissance palace. The halls and the chapel are painted with magnificent Byzantine mosaics and frescoes.
  • Steri Castle or Palazzo Chiaramonti is a grand palace built in the 14th century for the powerful family of Chiaramonti. The last representative of a noble family, who rebelled against the king, was executed in front of his own castle, after which the building became the royal residence. Since the 17th century for almost two centuries, it housed the main tribunal of the Sicilian Inquisition. The palace was built in the style of the Norman Gothic, which later became known as the Chiaramonti style and was widely used in the construction of architectural structures in Sicily. Inside, the castle is decorated with magnificent paintings depicting biblical and mythological scenes.
  • A wonderful monument of architecture is the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The remains of the Sicilian kings are buried here, and during the rule of the Arabs the temple was turned into a Friday mosque. In the 12th century, on the site of an old building, a three-nave basilica was built with four towers in the corners. In subsequent years, the cathedral was rebuilt several times. As a result, it combined elements of the Arab-Norman style, and high Gothic, and classicism. Above the cathedral rises a classic dome, in the eastern part of it is decorated with pointed windows and floral ornaments of Arabic style. The western part is made in the Gothic style, and the south facade is an eclectic mix of different styles. The relics of Saint Rosalia are kept in the walls of the cathedral, attracting thousands of pilgrims.

  • Especially popular with newlyweds is the Church of La Martorana, built in the 12th century in the Arab-Norman style. As a result of its numerous reconstructions, a significant mixture of elements of different architectural styles occurred, but the original cruciform shape of the foundation remained. The interior of the church is famous for its beautiful golden mosaics. They are one of the most ancient on the island. Plates lined with colored marble, covered with gilded mosaic. Martorana — one of the main attractions of the city.
  • Church of St. Maria di Gesu kaza The professa is the oldest Jesuit church in Sicily. It was built in the Baroque style by the monks of the Order of Jesus, who settled in Palermo in the 16th century. Despite the restrained facade, the interior of the building is striking in its magnificence. The walls are decorated with colored marble bas-reliefs, inlays and floral patterns. The dome is painted with luxurious frescoes on biblical scenes.
  • The archaeological museum of Palermo occupies an old building of a former monastery of the 16th century. It has a unique collection of artifacts obtained during archaeological excavations and belonging to different periods of history. Here are the ancient ceramics, beautiful sculptures, ancient objects from Egyptian temples. The museum is named after the archaeologist and scientist A. Salinos, who donated his rich collection to the institution.
  • The Capuchin Catacombs are the most unusual sight in Palermo, so not everyone will decide to look at it at least once. In the dungeons of the Capuchin Abbey, right in the rocks, are carved long corridors that are the burial place of notable citizens of the city. Embalmed corpses are located on both sides of the aisle in various positions, and their wardrobe is updated regularly.
  • Sicily has always been famous for its puppet theaters. The International Puppet Museum in Palermo is an amazing place. There are more than three and a half thousand different dolls from around the world. In the museum you can also get acquainted with the features of the manufacture and management of puppets.

Piazza Pretoria

One of the main squares of Palermo is surrounded by a magnificent ensemble of architectural monuments in the Baroque style. On one side stands the Church of Santa Catarina with a luxurious interior in rococo style. On the other hand is the Catholic Church of San Jazeppe dei Teatini, surmounted by a large dome covered with blue-and-yellow majolica. The oldest building on the square is Palazzo Pretorio, built in the 15th century for sittings of the senate. Now it is the city mayor’s office.

In the 16th century, a grandiose fountain composition consisting of three cascades was installed on the square in front of the palace. From the uppermost tier occupied by a large fountain, spacious stairs descend. Between them there are four smaller fountains, and the lower tier is represented by four basins, symbolizing the Palermo River. All fountains are decorated with sculptures of gods, mythological characters, figures and heads of animals and fantastic monsters.

The originality of the composition, brought from one of the cities of Italy, consisted in the fact that almost all the figures were naked. This circumstance caused a mass protest of the conservative population of the city. Over the years, residents have come to terms with the unusual fountain, but the name “Fountain of Shame” has stuck behind it.

Botanical Garden

Today, the Botanical Garden of Palermo is a huge complex on ten hectares, including greenhouses, aquarium, school of botany. And it was laid more than two hundred years ago on a small plot of land to grow and explore the healing properties of plants.

Near the main entrance to the garden is located the building of the Gymnasium, which houses the herbarium and library. A large aquarium for aquatic plants, divided into 24 sections, is installed on the central avenue. Next are the greenhouses, each of which is designed for a particular type of plant. On the territory there is a genetic bank, which stores material for scientific research. More than 12 thousand unique plant species are grown in the garden — from tiny specimens to huge exotic trees. This is a great place to relax at any time of the year. Many come with children all day.

Next to the Botanical Garden is located Villa Giulia — the first urban park of Palermo. In the center of the picturesque territory stands a fountain with twelve facets — a sundial. The alleys are decorated with beautiful sculptural groups.

This city of Sicily is a great place for a varied holiday. Every traveler can choose according to his taste what to see in Palermo. In any case, he will get the best and unforgettable impressions of a wonderful pastime.

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