Palermo is a sumptuous open-air museum with Norman-Arab architecture. It is the capital and administrative center of the independent region that was established in 1847. The city’s name is derived from the Greek “Panormus,” which means a large port. It was through this port that the city came into contact with centuries of external influences and invaders. It was founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century B.C. Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Longobards, Byzantines, Arabs and Bourbons have left their marks on Sicily. These cultures have contributed to the eclectic splendor of the city. Here are some of the sights that I love http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlCs66BO8Jc
The various civilizations that have inhabited Sicily contributed to the magnificence of her art, architecture, viticulture, culture and cuisine. The city came under Norman rule in 1072. The Byzantine heritage is evident in the brilliantly decorated churches of the Martarano and the Palatine Chapel in Palermo.
There are many reasons why I love Palermo. These are the Top Ten:
1. When I checked my grandfather’s “Certificato di Nascita” it said that he was born on Apriles 5, 1894 in Comune di Castronovo di Sicilia in the Provincia di Palermo. Castronovo di Sicilia is about 50 km southeast of Palermo. My grandfather Antonino’s parents were Illuminato and Colombo Coneetta, both from the same town. My dad was named after his grampa but everyone called him Lenny. My dad was the best guy in the entire planet so I LOVE PALERMO!!!
2. The Porto Nuova is crowned with a majolica figure on the roof that represents the eagle of the Senate of Palermo. It is located at the beginning of Corso Catalafimi. The archway is decorated with four telamons with turbins. The arch was built in 1583 to celebrate the triumphant entrance of Charles V into the city.
3. The 17th century Palazzo dei Normanni is known as the Royal Palace and stands alongside the Porta Nuova. It was the seat of the rulers of Sicily. Since 1947 it has been the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The main entrance is home to the majestic marble coat of arms. The courtyards are lined with beautiful Byzantine mosaics.
4. The piazza in front is dominated by the Baroque Monument to Philip V, surrounded by elegant gardens and palm trees. Palermo’s Palatine Chapel (Cappella Palatina) at the Royal Palace is adorned with mosaics, marble and gold. The mosaic image in the apse of the chapel depicts a magnificent mosaic of Christ as Pantocrator in the classic Byzantine style surrounded by angels and the four Evangelists. Work on the chapel began in 1130 when Roger II was crowned king of Italy and was completed in 1143.
5. The Cathedral of Palermo is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. It was founded in 1184 and has been transformed over time into a magnificent blend of architectural styles from Norman to Gothic. The eighteenth century statue which crowns the fountain in the piazza represents Saint Rosalina, the patron saint of Palermo, defeating the plague in Messina. My aunt was named after Rosalina. The silver urn in the Chapel contains her mortal remains.
As a result of radical charges in the 18th century, the interior is primarily Neoclassical. It houses the tombs of famous Sicilian kings and emperors including Roger II and Henry VI who died in 1154 and 1197 respectively. The Roman sarcophagus contains the remains of Constance of Aragon. The Praetorian Fountain is from 1573.
6. The Museo Archeologico’s extensive collections are housed in a 17th century former monastery. Palermo is an intriguing city with a wide spectrum of art, entertainment and culinary options. The museum’s collections provide an overview of the various contributors to the cultural spectrum from Phoenicians to Carthaginians and Greeks to Romans.
7. San Giovanni Degli Eremiti (St. John of the Hermits) was built in 1132 under Roger II, the first medieval king of Sicily. He spoke Arabic and had a harem. It may have been built over a mosque from the period of Arab domination. The cloister is part of an ancient Benedictine monastery with lush gardens. Climb to the top for a breathtaking view of Palermo.
8. Quattro Canti (Four Corners) is located in the heart of Baroque Palermo. It was built as part of an urban planning effort during Spanish domination. At street level, each corner has a fountain with a statue of the four seasons by Gregorio Tedeschi and Nunzio La Mattina.
Above the fountain, the niche contains a statue of Phillip II of Spain and Emperor Charles V sculpted by Giovanni Battista D’Aprile. In the upper parts of the structures, the four guardian saints of the city Agatha, Christina, Nymph and Olivia, watch over the Piazza Vigliena. The Church of San Giuseppe Dei Teatini is located in the “Four Corners,” built in the 17th century. It has a gleaming majolica dome built in the 18th century by Giuseppe Mariani.
9. The Piazza Pretoriais behind the Four Corners and was the seat of the local senate. The Fontana Pretoria was sculpted between 1554 and 1555 by Francesco Camilliani for a Florentine’s Tuscan residence. It was dismantled into 644 pieces and the allegorical and mythological figures were re-erected on this site in Palermo. It is known as the “fountain of shame” because many of the statues are nude.
10. Mercato della Vucciria is glorious open-air market that carries everything from pigs, tuna, squid and sardines to eggplant and tomatoes. The ingredients are anxiously awaiting placement into those incredible Sicilian specialtieslike pasto con le sarde and Norma. This market was immortalized by Renato Guttuso in his 1974 panorama of the food market in central Palermo, “La Vucciria.” Guttuso was the most popular painter in 20th century Italy.
The annual “Il Festival delle Marionette” takes place during the month of December in the Museo Internazionale delle Marionette in Palermo on Via Butera. The event features puppets and marionettes from all over the world.
Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides to Italy and Vino Con Vista Travel Guides can be purchased at these sites
To learn more about Sicily visit www.vino-con-vista.com