Sightseeing in Palermo.
In the previous report, I told about how I went to the southern suburb of Palermo – the town of Monreale and saw its sights, about which you can read – here “Monreale – city and cathedral”.
Day 10 of the trip. July 24, 2016. 2nd Palermo Report. Start of Palermo reports HERE .
I returned from Montreal to Palermo around 4pm and still had time to see a few important sights in that city. Instead of going to Piazza Indipendenza, from which I left in Montreal, I got off two stops before, in order to quickly walk to the Palermo Catacombs, and I arrived in via Giusseppe Pitre (see image), along which a bus from Montreal took me and then I turned left into via Pindemonte.
After walking 100 meters, I found myself in a small square, where was located the Catacombe dei Cappuccini.
The entrance costs 3 euros. The catacombs are open daily from 09.00 – 13.00 and 15.00 – 18.00. Photography is forbidden, but no one is watching and everybody quietly take pictures.
The burial catacombs are located in the basement of the Capuchin monastery. Here lie the remains of 8,000 people. The catacombs are galleries and are a vast burial place of Sicilian nobility of the 16th-19th centuries.
Skeletonized, mummified and embalmed bodies of the dead stand, lie and even hang on the walls. The entire space is occupied. They are dressed in the clothes of their era.
The branching corridors of the catacombs are divided into compartments – halls of men, women and children. There is a separate hall for virgins, as Catholics believe virgins should be placed separately from women, as they will enter Paradise more quickly. There are separate corridors for priests and monks, as well as for professions – in one of which rests the remains of the famous Spanish painter Diego Velazquez.
It is believed that in the 16th century, the monks of the Capuchin monastery discovered in the monastery cellar a certain preservative in the air, which contributed to the embalming of bodies. Since then, with the permission of the Church authorities, the first burials of monks have been made here since 1599, but from 1738 permission was granted by the abbots of the monastery due to the great popularity of this cemetery among the nobility. This is how they became the most prestigious burial place until the end of the 19th century. Most of the mummies, if I may say so – are in good condition.
The Catacombs owe their fame in Europe also to many famous writers who visited them – this is what Maupassant wrote: “I am shown a man who died in 1882. A few months before his death, cheerful and healthy, he came here accompanied by a friend to choose a place. “That’s where I’ll be,” he said and laughed. His friend now comes here alone and stares for hours at the skeleton standing motionless in the place indicated.”
The catacombs themselves are small – you can walk around them all in 30-40 minutes.
After visiting the catacombs, I continued on foot into the center of the city.
In 10-15 minutes we saw the New Gate, built at the end of the 16th century, about which I told in the first report about Palermo.
In front of them was the usual Sicilian café, where I had a quick snack with a typical Sicilian snack – arancioni (bottom photo) – these are rice balls with different fillings – they are only in Sicily and sold everywhere at a price of 1- to 2 euros per piece, very filling and I had enough two pieces to have a snack.
After passing the New Gate, I started walking along the Corso Vittorio Emanuele – the Palazzo Norman left on my right, but it wasn’t part of my plans yet.
I just took a little walk in front of the palace in its park, which is called – Villa Bonanno
The park is full of palm trees, flowers and various monuments to important Sicilians
Just beyond the park on the left side, walking along Corso Vittorio Emanuele, we see the grandiose cathedral, along which, I had already run in the morning when I was in a hurry to Montreal. But now I had plenty of time to see it. It’s open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and admission is free. If you want to go up to the roof, it’s 5 euros.
The cathedral is the site of the relics of St. Rosalia, the patron saint of Palermo. In 2015, the Palermo Cathedral is listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site
In the 4th century, after the promulgation of the edict of the Roman Emperor Constantine that equalized all religions, the inhabitants of Palermo built a cathedral on the site where Bishop Mamilian, who was later canonized and where many Christians were martyred. This first church was destroyed by the Vandals in the 6th century. Under the Byzantines, who liberated Sicily from the Vandals in 604, a large cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary was built on the same site.
The Arabs invaded Sicily after 200 years, conquered Palermo in 831 and turned the cathedral into a Friday-presbytery that remained for 250 years until the Normans, led by Robert of Guiscard, drove the Arabs out of Palermo on January 06, 1073 and the cathedral was consecrated again in honour of the Virgin Mary that same day. Of this cathedral only the crypt and the left of the four columns of the south portico have survived, on the trunk of which is carved a quotation from the Koran.
Bottom photo shows the marble balustrade (1575) with statues of saints, which separated the cathedral square from Via Vittorio Emanuele
In 1179-1186 the ambitious Archbishop Gualtero Offamilio built the new cathedral we see today on the site of the old cathedral. In the following centuries, it was slightly modified and added to, so the classical dome, for example, was not installed until 1801. In front of the cathedral in 1744 installed a fountain and a statue of St. Rosalie defeating the plague.
The South Portico of the cathedral (lower picture) with three lancet arches was built between 1426 and 1430, in the style of Catalan Gothic. The first column on the left of the portico, on which is a carved quotation from the Koran, belongs to the Byzantine temple
Inside the porch, the Gothic portal dominates – the lower photo shows the Coronation of Charles of Bourbon (1734)
Above the entrance is the mosaic “Virgin Mary on a throne” (15th century).
And here, on the lower photo, is the coronation of Victor Amodeus of Savoy (1713).
The bronze doors of the cathedral depict thematic scenes from the Bible
The expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise.
The interior of the present cathedral was created in 1801 and there is almost nothing medieval left – for example, the Norman mosaics were removed and the carved wooden ceiling was replaced by a stone vault. Pity!
Thus, the cathedral inside has acquired a restrained and even colder form of a neoclassical cathedral.
Inside the cathedral, two shrines of Palermo should be noted: the first is the Statue of Our Lady with Child (1469) and the second is the Chapel of Saint Rosalia, in which a silver casket, made in 1635 and housing the relics of Saint Rosalia – in the bottom photo.
The cathedral is also known for its unique complex of royal and imperial tombs from the 12th and 14th centuries.
So here are buried – Roger the Second (1095-1154) – the first Norman king of the Kingdom of Sicily, Henry the Sixth (1165-1197) – Holy Roman Emperor, etc. For some tombs, ancient Roman sarcophagi were still used, while others are distinguished by the rarity of the material (porphyry) and decoration.
After the cathedral I continued along Corso Vittorio Emanuele
Until I reached Piazza Villena, or Piazza Quattro canti (Four Corners)
The square is located at the crossing of Corco Vittorio Emanuele (the most ancient street of Palermo, known since the time of the Phoenicians) and via Maqueda
In 1608 Giulio Lasso, Florentine architect, was assigned to improve the crossroads. The construction lasted 11 years from 1609 to 1620. The result was four Baroque facades.
Each of the buildings is divided into four tiers, decorated with royal coats of arms and decorative elements. In the lower tier, each of the facades is a fountain. The second tier is made in Doric order and is decorated with the images of Aeolus, Venus, Ceres and Bacchus. The third tier is made in Ionic order – and it is decorated with the statues of Spanish kings: Charles the Fifth, Philip the Second, Philip the Third and Philip the Fourth, placed in niches. The upper tier is decorated with statues of the Saints of Palermo: Agatha, Ninfa, Oliva and Cristina.
In the bottom photo, one of the facades is the facade of the Cathedral of San Giuseppe Teatini (which I mentioned in the first report), and in front of it is the Fountain of Shame
25 Palermo tourist attractions you must visit
This neoclassical opera house took more than 20 years to build. It is the largest theater in Italy and the second largest theater in Europe. The final scene of the third part of The Godfather, in which the director tried to mix motifs of high culture, crime, drama and death, was shot here, and the ornate interiors of this building are sure to impress many fans of the trilogy.
During the day there are numerous 30-minute guided tours in English, Italian, French, Spanish and German.
Address: Teatro Massimo, Piazza Verdi, Palermo, Italy.
What to try in Palermo
Since Palermo is a southern Italian city its inhabitants like all Italians love tasty food and good wine, almost all restaurants and cafes offer dishes of Sicilian cuisine that will please even the most demanding gourmets, as well as a wide variety of wines.
The recipes of the traditional cuisine of Palermo are not too complicated. This, however, does not affect their quality: here, in fact, very tasty dishes are prepared that will not leave lovers of good food on vacation in Sicily disappointed. All over the world the cuisine of this area is known for its sweets: in particular “cannoli” and “cassata”. Cannoli are fried dough cakes filled with ricotta or cream, cassata is a cake made with sweetened ricotta, biscuits, frosting and candied fruit. On the menu of most restaurants in Palermo you will also find very tasty desserts with almonds.
What to see in Palermo in one or more days
Tourists have different ways of planning their time in the city. There are a number of reasons for this:
- The transportation they plan to use to get around the city and see the sights
- The amount of time allocated
- The funds one is counting on
- Attractions that are interesting
The transportation offered is varied: horses, equipped mopeds and motorcycles, cars. Everyone can choose their own speed of travel. It is necessary to buy a map of sights, choose a route. There is a fear of not being able to cope on your own – hire a guide.
Palermo has wonderful beaches and you can have a great vacation on them.
Decide what you need more: beach vacations, markets, delicious snacks or to see and touch historical treasures. Exotic or cultural.
If you plan to spend here a few days, then you need to choose a hotel as described. The choice is huge, for different wallets, budgets and desires. With a view of the sea, with its own beach, in the center or on the outskirts of the city, economy class, variety of cuisine. Cost depends on whether it’s in the center or on the outskirts.
If you have time, you can go to Syracuse or fly on local airlines to ancient Rome.
Catacombs of the Capuchins
These catacombs are burial sites for about 8,000 people. The Sicilian elite, famous Palermo residents, aristocrats and members of the clergy are buried here.
The Catacombs of the Capuchins is the most famous exhibition which consists exclusively of mummies. Here you can see embalmed and mummified corpses. The bodies are arranged in a reclining or suspended position.
Fans of unusual and extreme spectacles can visit the Catacombs of the Capuchins at Piazza Cappuccini 1 (you have to walk to Corso Calatafimi).
The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. You will have to pay one and a half euros for a visit.
In the province of Palermo, as in all provinces of Sicily, the calendar of events is closely linked to history and tradition, both religious and gastronomic. There are countless gastronomic festivals in the province of Palermo (festival of sausages, oranges, hazelnuts, fish, sherbet, buccellato, etc.) – you can find their complete list on the website of the municipality.
Festive fireworks on the square. Photo flickr.com
We, however, offer a look at the most important city events that have been taking place in Palermo for years and even centuries.
Feast of Santa Rosalia
It is one of the most beloved holidays in Palermo, whose origins are linked to an event in 1624, when the Saint Rosalia appeared in the city at the height of the plague, telling the inhabitants that the epidemic would end if her remains were carried through the main streets in a procession. And so it happened. Since then, the event has been celebrated during the month of July in a great procession from the Palazzo Norman along Via Cassaro to the sea, through the Porta Felice gate. The icon of the saint is carried on a richly decorated triumphal chariot.
Feast of St. Rosalia. Photo flickr.com
International Underwater Hunting Competition
Every June, Palermo hosts an underwater hunting competition. The event is accompanied by other competitions related to water sports.
Feast of the Immaculate Virgin
The Feast of the Immaculate Virgen is celebrated on the 7th and 8th of December with a solemn procession with a statue of the patron saint to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
The Feast of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Photo flickr.com
Fountain of Pretoria
This fountain is a magnificent decoration of Palermo’s most famous square. It was built back in the 16th century by the sculptor Camilliani. At the moment, you can often see citizens and tourists strolling around this fountain.
Originally this fountain was built for the Florentine palace, but then it was purchased by the authorities of the city of Palermo.
Initially, the citizens were outraged by the fact that the sculptures available on the fountain were completely naked. At the time, it was believed that because of this, the square of the city became the epitome of shame.
The fountain is located at Piazza Pretoria, Palermo, Italy. Admire the majestic statues of the Olympic gods, and with no time limit.
Not far from the fountain are several restaurants, a hotel and the Church of Jesus.
Thus, tourists in love with Italy should visit the city of Palermo at least because of its amazing sights.
In Palermo, you will surely enjoy the sculptures of the most famous masters and antique museum pieces.
A short video about the city of Palermo:
Regional Archaeological Museum
Regional Archaeological Museum.
This magnificent museum, housed in a Renaissance monastery, houses the most valuable ancient Greek and ancient Roman artifacts of Sicily, including the “jewel of the collection,” a series of original decorative friezes from the ancient temples of the Selinunte. The museum was completely renovated in 2010.
Among other things, there is a picturesque courtyard with fountains, a cloister with citrus trees, and an interesting collection of ancient sarcophagi, statues, and pottery.
The museum offers all the necessary facilities for wheelchair users.
Address: Museo Antonio Salinas, Piazza Olivella, Palermo, Italy.
How to get to Palermo
Palermo is home to an international airport, so getting there is easy. You can take direct charter flights or connect with a domestic airline in Rome or Milan. You can also take a direct flight to Naples and from there by ferry to Sicily. Another option is to take a ferry from Livorno and Genoa. As a rule, there are no problems with transportation to Palermo, so you can not worry and boldly go on an exciting journey to the island of tourist-friendly mafia, wine, golden beaches and crystal clear sea.
Certainly, it’s best to set off to discover Palermo in a private car. If you are a fan of driving, you can get to the port of Palermo by taking the ferry. If you’re coming from the North, you’ll have to cross the entire length of Italy to Reggio di Calabria, from where you and your car will be ferried in about half an hour.
The following highways pass through Palermo:
The road connects the two main cities of Sicily, covering 200 km of distance. The road is reasonably good and safe, but there are often traffic jams. You will not see the sea from here, but the traveler’s eye will be delighted by the green hilly landscapes.
The route is 215 km long and is full of tunnels. The advantage of this road is the spectacular views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The road is tolled, so it is in very good condition.
This highway connects Palermo and Trapani in just one hour. At 30 km is the international airport Falcone-Borsellino.
If you decide to rent a car, book a car in advance, while you are still at home, you will be able to save significantly. “Italy in Russian” advises you to use the services of a popular giant service Rentalcars, multifunctional and simple, which allows you to choose the most suitable car at home and get it immediately upon arrival in Palermo.
Book a cab in Palermo with Kiwitaxi
The following companies offer travelers sea crossings to Sicily and Palermo:
Tirrenia: Cagliari, Trapani, Naples to Palermo
Grandi Navi Veloci: Genoa and Civitavecchia to Palermo
Ustica Lines: Naples, Milazzo to Palermo
Snav: Naples, Civitavecchia to Palermo
It is possible to get to Palermo by bus without problems, but this option is not optimal because of the travel time. For example, the journey from Milan lasts for 21 hours.
Sais Trasporti: Sicily-Rome
Autolinee Segesta: Sicily-Apulia, Rome, Milan, Bologna, Urbino, Mestre
When you travel by train, you have the opportunity to observe the Italian scenery from the window, and – if you don’t have a car – it’s probably the best way to get to know the country. Getting to Sicily by train (and by ferry from Reggio di Calabria) is a very interesting experience if you don’t consider the extremely slow Italian trains: for example the journey from Milan to Palermo will take you 17-21 hours and from Rome 10-12 hours – all depending on delays.
For timetables and fares, see here: http://www.trenitalia.it
Church of La Martorana
This is the most famous church among married people. The building has a whimsical combination of Baroque style and Arab-Norman motifs. In this temple, everyone can enjoy the marvelous Byzantine mosaics created back in the nineteenth century.
Among the most valuable are those mosaics depicting the founders of the basilica (Roger the Second, George of Antioch). The mosaic on the dome of the temple is also noteworthy: it depicts Christ Pantocrator and the archangels.
La Martorana is located at Via Incoronazione, 1-13, Palermo. There is a hotel and a couple of restaurants near the basilica. The temple is open from April 1 to September 30.
Opening hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. On Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free. If you have any questions, you can call +39-091-61-616-92.