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Palermo, one and one hundred thousand

You won’t give up giving a tip if you talk about Palermo: see it from the sea, have a look at the mountains’ view then plunge deep into the gulf and focus on the towers and the domes.

A town nestled among the palms and the gardens, once the capital of the Arabian Reign of Sicily, described from the chronicle of that time by the geographer Ibn Idris as an Eden where the mosques and the lavish buildings mirrored on rings of water that are the result of an advanced hydraulic engineering. The urban area of the town brings the memories of the Arabian town, above all as far as the huge network of markets such as Capo, Ballarò, La Vucciria and Lattarini is concerned – they stretch along the historical centre. The oldest one is the market of La Vucciria, an inviting chance to look around and discover the very tasty local food. If you wish to add cultural elements to your visit, you can admire the painting by Renato Guttuso dating back to 1974 – it is kept at Palazzo Steri – actually, it pictures that very lively market.

The predominating style in Palermo is the Baroque, one of the many reference points to be followed when visiting the town. You can even choose an historical era and go through it along the streets, the districts, the squares and discover the Byzantine, the Roman, the Arabian, the Borbonic and the Norman town, to mention only a few. Of course, the “Norman Palermo” is a must: starting with the famous Cathedral wanted by the King William II where Frederick II of Svevia is buried. The cathedral is huge, its spire bell towers stand out against the sky and the towers are inlaid with many mullioned windows. The entrance to Via Bonello is amazing, featuring a big portal with low relieves and the statues of the saints.

On the way of incense, you won’t miss a visit to the church of SS. Trinità del Cancelliere, generally known as La Magione, where you’ll breath a true Gothic atmosphere. This huge church, very close to the central station of Palermo is a typical example of the Normans’ skills who made the constructions built by Arabic people bigger and bigger. Among the leading monuments of the town that are very important from the historical and artistic point of view, the Royal Palace stands out, today it is the seat of the Regional parliament of Sicily and it is known as the Palace of the Normans featuring a tower, the Pisana, where “la Stanza dei tesori” (the room of treasures) was discovered, with a double access door surrounded by patrolling paths covered with huge vaults: the four walled-in jars could contain millions of golden coins. In this palace, after a careful and detailed restoration, the most precious artistic treasure of Palermo was reopened, the Cappella Palatina, a church with three naves covered with mosaics made of pure gold.

In the same area you can visit the church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti (St. John of the Hermits), a perfect mix of Arab and Normal styles, with five red domes on the top of it. Next to the Convento dei Cappuccini (Capuchin Monastery) there is the Summer residence of the king build by the Arabic people, the Castle of Zisa, whose inner part has been restored and it is rich in fountains that get water from underground sources. A masterpiece of the Italian Classicism is also the Teatro Massimo dating back to the XIXth century, it is the main temple of Opera in the town with five rows of stages and a gallery with around 3.500 seats.

Luciana Francesca Rebonato

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