Palermo sits at the foot of Monte Pellgrino at the heart of a large natural harbour, offering hints of its complex history. Being Italy’s capitol of Culture is well deserved because it has hosted dozens of civilisations:- Arab, Greek, Roman, Norman, Carthaginians, Goths, the Byzantine Empire and the Spanish have all left a little in the interesting architectural mix of this gem as well as the diverse population. Now it is a modern city where the million inhabitants go about their daily business, the sound of car horns and confusion have replaced the sound of animals and bargaining. Look and you will find history, like the Arab-Norman artistry of the fabulous, mosaic-laden Palazzo dei Normanni to the Capuchin Catacombs full of Palermitans mummified by the Capuchin monks. Palermo’s people are famous for their love of art and literature as well as their hospitality and cuisine. In 2018 Palermo will host around 800 events to celebrate their new found status. The Fondazione Sant’ Elia hosts many of these entitled events which include the large mirrored table shaped like the Mediterranean basin from the Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, but sadly their web site offers no immediate English translation. With some effort you can find more that is on offer there. The Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio and the church of San Cataldo are located right in the centre in Piazza Bellini. Built in 1160 by admiral Majone di Bari, it fell to being a post office in the 18th century and was restored in the 19th century to a form similar to the original Mediaeval place of worship, with huge arches that look golden. The biggest opera house in the whole of Italy is here in Palermo, The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele located on the Piazza Verdi. Dedicated to King Victor Emanuel II the ceiling is what you should try and see if you can get inside. Another site to visit, though there are a lot of stairs and the guide boards are again in Italian only, is the Castello della Zisa which is included in the UNESCO Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale World Heritage Site. It is a site that began construction in the 12th century with additions through time. Palermo has a tram network (see map) you can use.
Just outside Palermo, about 9 miles inland is Monreale with its lavishly decorated cathedral, one of the greatest extant examples of Norman architecture anywhere. Begun in 1174 by William II, in 1182 the church, dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, was, by a bull of Pope Lucius III, elevated to the rank of a metropolitan cathedral. It is one of the worlds ten most visited monuments. The very fertile valley is famed famed for its orange, olive and almond trees, which they export in large quantities. If you wish to get round these with a commentary then the hop on hop off bus may be the answer.
If you have been to Palermo before you might want to take a ship excursion to to Trapani; whilst your guide takes you back to ancient times and sets the scene to help you imagine how life was in this rural community. From the coach window, you’ll have your first glimpse of what will be a fleeting, but magnificent, image of the ancient Greek Temple, set upon the hilltop of Monte Barbaro plus more.
- P&O Cruises to Palermo – Click here
- Fred Olsen Cruises to Palermo – Click here
- Marella Cruises to Palermo – Click me