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Travel guide to Palermo, Sicily

Mark, one of our travelers visited Sicily and bring us this tourist guide It consists of several destinations on the wonderful island. This section is dedicated to Palermo. We hope it helps!

In the following photo, the Palatine Chapel, one of the two most visited monuments in all of Sicily.

Recently rehabilitated by the Würth Insurer, with the idea of ​​“I will restore the Palatine Chapel to Siciliani, there´Italia ed al mondo intero.”

Indeed, its wooden coffered ceiling, with 12th-century Byzantine mosaics, its marble-covered walls and mosaic floors forming geometric figures, achieve a very beautiful set, which attracts visitors from all over the world. The mosaics represent with incredible precision and dexterity scenes of the Old Testament (some very risque, in places a little difficult to see).

The stalactites that form the coffered ceiling are unique in a Christian church and worth seeing. They worked Muslim artists applying unknown techniques and more typical of mosques. It was built by Ruggero II in 1132, being the chapel of the court. Sitting on one of its benches and admiring this work of art calmly, is a real pleasure.

The Palatine Chapel is open from Monday to Saturday from 8:15 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. (last entry issued at 5:00 p.m.). On Sundays and holidays, from 8:15 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (Last entry, at 12:15 pm). From 9:45 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. access to the chapel is not allowed when there are religious functions. The visit inside the chapel is not guided.

At the end of the visit to the Palatine Chapel you access the second floor (Royal Apartments …) through a beautiful pink marble staircase.

Other museum spaces:

  • The Punic Wall
  • When you leave the Wall, you find an interesting Bookstore, which I recommend to be visited.

  • The Archaeological Museum "Antonio Salinas".
  • The cloister, where it is accessed. Inside, archaeological remains of the Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultures are exhibited (and interestingly some ceramic piece from the Valencian area of ​​Paterna – Manises.)
    The Museum costs a bit to find, even if you ask for it. I asked a group of policemen, in Vía Maqueda, a few meters from their location and they did not know it. Its three floors of shelves and showcases are located in a convent, the Olivella, built at the end of the XVI and beginning of the XVII. In 1866 its director was Antonio Salinas who drives him and gives him the almost definitive air (hence the name, nowadays, of the museum).

    The surroundings of the fountain is a place to sit and rest, have a good time. For tourists, it is a distraction to observe and photograph the turtles from the waters of the fountain.

    Next to the previous source, there is a small room of recent incorporations: A very interesting collection of 8 amphorae, a cratera recovered to art dealers and remains of a wreck, sunk as a result of a battle of the year 241 a. C.

    Schedules and ticket prices

    Visiting hours
    Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
    From Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

    Tickets
    General public: € 4.00
    People from 18 to 25: € 2.00
    Residents in the Province: € 1.00

    Monuments

  • Royal Palace (Palace of the Normans).
  • In the following photo, the facade of the Royal Palace (Palace of the Normans), on whose first floor is the Palatine Chapel and in the sota no, the remains of the Punic Wall (already seen above).

    This palace is built on Punic remains, on a 9th-century Arab defensive building. And it is Ruggero II, who orders to build it in the year 1,130. The visit to the Palazzo dei Normanni, can be made between 8:15 and 17:15, at the price of € 8:50, including at the entrance, the visit to the Palatine Chapel, the Royal Apartments, the King's Hall Ruggero and the Punic Wall.

    On the 2nd floor there is a Sicilian Parliament room.

    Also in the same building, next to the entrance of the Punic Wall there is a room dedicated to temporary exhibitions, specifically the Luca di Montalbo Room, which we include here because when you buy the entrance to the Palace of the Normans, including the Palatine Chapel and the Apartments Real (at the price of € 8:50, as we said), you are forced, practically, to buy the ticket for the “Mostrasul ¿Transisionismo?” The expressive force of the subject, with the participation of the artists Barbará Bou chet and María Hold on

    The price of the ticket: € 1.50 (Sold at the same time as the entrance of the Palatine Chapel).

  • Pretoria square.
  • Named that way, because it houses the Praetorium, the Municipal Palace, the City Hall. If we made a figurative cross, with a horizontal axis that was from the Garibaldi Theater, in the Seventh Ruggero Square and with a vertical axis, whose upper part was the New Door and at the bottom, the Happy Door and the Port (very next) in the center of everything, of the monumental, artistic and visitable Palermo, there would be the Pretoria Square, with its fountain. (Of this, with the names of the streets and avenues we will speak more widely in: Tour and opinion). The source, has a lot of history, was built in 1,555 and its destiny was not, in any way, the one it has today. It was intended for a stately villa in Florence. But in 1,575 it is located at its current point. And surrounded by what? For churches, including the closest ones, the list would be rather long. And he suffered all kinds of attacks, including amputations of the male sexual organs. (They say that produced by the nuns of neighboring convents) and popularly, it is known as the Fountain of the Shame. It is the work of the Florentine artist Fco. Camilliani. Currently under restoration (since 1998).

  • The Four Corners
  • Quattro Canti, four corners, in the Plaza Villena, at the confluence of the two main arteries of the city (Vittorio Emanuele and Maqueda), very close, "glued" to the Pretoria Square, with its source and what was said in that section regarding its important geographical situation.

    Here at this crossroads, in the historical and baroque center of the city, the problem of traffic and noise … The best, be protected.

    Four corners, four buildings, four fountains, say in the lower part, of each of the buildings, dedicated and representing the four seasons of the year. Four statues of Spanish kings, in the hollows of the first floor. Specifically: Carlos V, Felipe II, Felipe III and Felipe IV, (therefore, some could see, in this Plaza the materialization of the Spanish occupation during his reign.) And finally, in the niche of the second and last floor, the statues of the saints of the city, specifically: Santa Cristina, Santa Ninfa, Santa Oliva and Santa Águeda.

    And also, the two routes cited many times (via Maqueda and via Corso Vittorio Emanuele), which at its intersection, form four neighborhoods: Royal Palace, Oreto, Catellammare and Mezzomonreale.

    And in the Four Corners, the columns have three Greek architectural orders: Ionic, Doric and Corinthian.

    To see the photos of the two remaining buildings you can visit the following photo gallery.

  • Happy Door
  • In the following photo (and also, in a later one where you can see from the sea …), the Happy Door, the door of happiness … They say that the aristocracy, which was traveling by horse carriage, ordered its coachman here to turn off the vehicle lights and masks were offered, since they came to meet their lovers, seeking anonymity and discretion. Another version is that it was ordered to be built by a Viceroy of Naples and put the name of his wife, Felice, at the door. Also and curiously, this viceroy was famous in the city for his infidelities and constant denouements.
    Currently, being located at the end of the Via Corso Vittorio Emanuele, next to the sea, it is a place very busy by the inhabitants of Palermo. Looking to the sea, to the right there is a landscaped place very frequented by families. The Via Foro Italico Umberto I to San Erasmo (in Natural Sites, there is a photo). And also, looking at the sea, on the left, in the other direction, the Port. Interestingly, this area is where we heard more sirens (police and fire) and where traffic accidents were most frequent. (We will talk about it later).

  • New Gate
  • Located at one end of the city, specifically at the end of the Vittorio Emanuele road, passing the Four Corners, the Cathedral (on the right) and the Royal Palace (on the left). It is a space, once the Door is passed, as clearer and that is breathed in another way. There are small bars and cafes, with their terraces and it is advisable to sit and relax, after the baroque and surcharge of the visit.

    It was ordered to build to celebrate a victory of the Spanish king Carlos V. And they say, that he was in it, in his view of the city in 1535.

    Via Vittorio Emanuele and through this door, the Nueva, you reach Monreal, where you can admire a masterpiece of Norman Arab art, the Dome, which also includes a Monastery, the Royal Palace, the Archbishop's Palace and the Seminary of Monaguillos.

  • Also anonymous places
  • Something that catches your attention, in a place of passage. Walking in the direction of the Port, we are in a fairly busy way this facade of which I will not comment, but that caught my attention.

    Palermo is the city of contrasts, along great roads, with sumptuous palaces and aristocratic mansions, as soon as you turn, by any side street, you find yourself with deterioration, dirt and pure subsistence … You wonder if the place will be inhabited, you you set a bit and think so.

    In times past, when the Dolce Vita, the nobility accumulated wealth, property and titles, while the lower class had a really bad time.

    There are also neighborhoods in the city where vestiges of World War II remain, whose ravages have not yet been recovered.

    Religious spaces

  • Cathedral
  • Given its grandeur, it has had a series of modifications and changes in its long history: Commanded to be built in 1184 by Archbishop G. Offamilio, wanting that no other building made him shadow and consecrated in 1185. In the fifteenth century the facade is finished; the interior very similar to the current one, is from the 18th century. Also the Tower is from that era. If you look at the previous photograph, its exterior is of impressive and huge proportions, its marble interior is something else, nothing worth highlighting. Keep that, the graves of the Norman kings, viceroys of Sicily and the emperors of the Hohenstaufen family. Highlighting the tomb of Constanza de Aragón (with its gold crown and precious stones).

    Admission is free and its schedule is as follows:
    Monday to Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
    Sundays and holidays from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
    To enter to see your treasure, you have to pay: € 2.00

    More photos and information of the Cathedral in this photo gallery.

  • Maria of the Catena
  • Located very close to where the Sunday market is installed (See below); Also, it has excellent views of the Port. Due to its proximity to it and the fact that there was a chain that served as a separation between the Port and the Cove. Work of the artist M. Carnalivari.

    Open to the public during normal religious worship hours.

  • Santo Domingo
  • Near the Rome road and close to modern commercial establishments and where the Vucciria Market begins.

    From Monday to Friday, it is open from 8:00 until the end of the 12:00 mass. And on weekends, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The cloister, deserves to be visited, is very beautiful.

  • The Martorana
  • The Tower (see next photo) of geminated windows was built in 1143, ordered to be built by Jorge de Antioquía. The side, Baroque style and the facade, are not finished building, until the seventeenth century.

    At the beginning of the 13th century, Greek worship was officiated; In 1433 Alfonso de Aragón gave it to a very close Christian monastery and today the Orthodox cult was officiated. (It is the preferred place for couples in Palermo, to get married for this rite. I had the opportunity to witness a wedding, it coincided with my visit to the church and I stayed).

    Visiting hours to see the Martorana are from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Sundays and holidays, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., with Mass at 10:00 a.m. It is worth going and giving a donation that you are asked, upon entering.
    The mosaics of the dome are exceptional and deserve to be observed calmly, sit on a bench and contemplate them. It highlights a mosaic where King Ruggero II is represented, dressed in his best clothes, crowned by Christ as the founder of his Church.

  • San Francisco de Asis
  • Harmonious and beautiful church of the thirteenth century, completed in 1277, with the facade, which appears in the following photo, from the fourteenth century, where its artistic rosette (recently restored) stands out.

    Visiting hours are Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on weekends and holidays, from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Inside the Church, the representation of the eight virtues, in statues of G. Serpotta, stands out.

  • Saint John of the Hermits
  • When you leave the Palace of the Normans, returning to the city center you find this church and the sign in the following photo. A small alms, as an entrance to see a beautiful view from the bell tower and even sit down to meditate (I remember the expression and attitude of a Japanese lady who spent a good time in that attitude). They provide you with a helmet, which at first misses you, but which is very useful in the climb, given its narrowness, but especially in the descent. I didn't count the "coscorrones". It was built in the year 1132.

    If you want to see the views from the top of the bell tower, you can visit the gallery. Here you will see its five reddish domes, the Cathedral, the Royal Palace and a beautiful view of the rooftops of Palermo.

    Visiting hours are as follows: Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and holidays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
    Really, go up it's worth it. It is a good application of your time …

  • San Cataldo
  • Very close to the Church to another Norman church (which we talked about: La Martorana), full of red crosses. I ask the girl at the door for that cross. He tells me, that corresponds to the Royal Order of Knights of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. The numbered entry also included that cross, but not the price; Suggested donation: € 1.50. Well employed
    In "a span of land" are the Plaza Pretoria, with its source, the Martorana and San Cataldo.

    The visiting hours, from Monday to Saturday, are from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
    If you want to see the photograph of the cross that presides over the Altar you can visit the photo gallery of San Cataldo. (And if you look closely, you will see under the cross, the shield of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher. The Church is the seat of the Order.)

    Theaters

  • Politeama Garibaldi Theater
  • In the photograph, Garibaldi Politeama, designed by Architect G. D. Al meyda in 1866, in a neoclassical and curved enclosure, topped by horse riders.

    This would be another end of my theoretical cross-shaped journey. The New Gate, the Happy Gate, the Central Train Station and the Garibaldi Theater, where I began my journey to the city. In the center of that cross: Plaza Villena, with the Four Corners and the Fontana Pretoria. In the following photo the front of the Bellini Theater, (now restaurant).

  • Maximum Theater
  • It can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

    If in the previous Theater (the Garibaldi), bronze riders stood out, here they stand out their lions on the sides, as if they were their guardians.
    In the following photograph, poster announcing a Sicilian Pupi Theater (Puppet Theater of Glove and Thread: Pupis). Also of silhouettes.

    Markets

  • Vucciria Market
  • Probably the most endearing and real of Palermo's markets. Everything you can imagine, the usual Palermo. From prescription glasses to Gestapo rubber buffers. All used.
    Part, as we said, of the Church of San Domingo (in the Plaza de Sto. Domingo) and extends along the adjacent streets.
    I visited this market accompanied by three young Italian students of Castilian (one of them, had "raised" there and his father has a shoe store); I remember his expression when he said to me: Very, very careful with the backpack. And his gesture to put it on my chest and not on my back. The truth is that it seemed a fairly quiet place, merchandise stops flooding the street, people of all ages having a few beers on the terraces of the bars … But hey, the backpack went ahead …

    Really a must see. Apart from meat, fish, all kinds of snacks, soups and sweets, there are curious relics in the area. The schedule, well I could not say, nor asked.

  • Sunday Market
  • The Palermo trail, with various objects, for those who like to visit this type of environment.
    In the following photograph we see a “post” of the Trail.

    Natural landscapes

  • Botanical Garden
  • One of the walks of the Botanical Garden of Palermo.

    Those responsible for the Botanical Garden tell you with satisfaction, that it is an institution open to the public, which depends hierarchically on the University. The Garden represents the most important didactic and scientific structure of the Department of Botanical Sciences and that is also the origin of botany development since 1795, date of the inauguration of the Garden.
    The origin of the Garden dates back to 1779, the date on which the Academy of Royal Studies is created in Palermo, corresponding to what the university is today. Study, in depth, medicinal plants, both in their pedagogical and practical aspects. It is also worth mentioning, its important collection of seeds and fruits.
    Very nice to visit for plant lovers, with a schedule from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (from April to October) and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (from November to March). These schedules from Monday to Saturday. And on Sundays, all year long, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The ticket price is € 4.00

  • Villa Julia
  • Another green space, important in the city and next to the Botanical Garden. It is a recreational area for the inhabitants of the city, where all kinds of parties and even conventions of political parties are held, because “… all the plants, which I was used to seeing, imprisoned in large pots, live beautiful and free, under the free sky. " It is what Goethe wrote in 1787 on his Journey to Italy and referred to the physical space, constituted by the Botanical Garden and Villa Julia, named after him because he was commanded by the Viceroy Nicolò Palma, in honor of his wife Giulia.

  • The Port and bordering areas
  • If we descend via the Corso Vittorio Emanuele (of which we have talked so much), leaving aside the Church of S. María de Catena and passing through the Porta Felice and turn a little to the right (in the direction of our march ), you find a perfect place to sit and with all the tranquility of the world, take a cappuccino and browse the local newspapers.

    Just in front, there is the Tyrrhenian Sea, where they navigated Carthaginians, Phoenicians (hence its name: Panormos, which means port), Arabs (so many buildings were built, that a traveler came to call Palermo the second Medina ), Normans and Spaniards. I turn to my right, leaving the sea to the left. The place invites me to relax a little more and rest, regardless of the weather. The walk is full of benches decorated with multicolored dots. Some of them even keep a kind of pillow, which invites you to rest and rest even more. The truth is that everything is quiet here.

    Dispassing the path, I head towards the Cala and the Port. I walk north, along the sea, leaving on my left the Porta Felice and the Church of S. María de Catena. It is the view that appears in the following photograph. You can see the moored ships and Mount Pellegrino in the background. Here the picture is already different. Cars run at a very high speed. The beeps of the same, the sirens of the ambulances are more frequent, even than in the Four Corners, the center of the historical and baroque Palermo. Here witness two traffic accidents (a good bump between two cars and also between a car and a moped). Here, in addition to being scary the circulation, if you go a little into the neighborhood of the port, modern constructions of doubtful taste coexist, with old and popular constructions, which still make visible the ravages and effects caused by the last war.

    How to get there … and how to get around

    I arrived on the third day of my stay in Sicily. It came from Trapani. You approach the nice train station and ask the train schedule to go to Palermo. And they tell you, that one part by bus (to Piraineto) and the rest by train, to Palermo. You sit in the small bar of the station, at the tables next to you there is a lively gathering and they encourage you to get closer. The person in charge of the place is very kind. Railroad employees, other travelers come … Until departure. The ticket, a “biglieto a fasce chilome triche” of 200 km. It costs € 10.10. The trip, a curious little tour: Las Salinas de Trapani (with its mill), Masala, Alcamo, Cinisi (where there is a very beautiful sunset), Villagrazia de Casini, … and Piraineto.

    Being near the arrival in Palermo, at its Central Station, a comment made by the people who had made the journey together from Trapani, who was very careful with the backpack and pockets, since the thefts and pulls there are frequent. Well, I thought it was a fairly clean railway station, with a left-luggage service and a functional ticket vending machine, with the possibility of doing the whole process, in Spanish. Well, in this section. I was a little tired from the trip, which was long, and I decided to take a taxi. I say: To Baia del Corrallo, where I had reserved my accommodation, the taxi driver talks to other colleagues who were at the same stop, next to the station and tells me: “35 euros”. As well. The truth is that curious experience, why? Well, because of the speed he could reach, for avoiding passers-by at pedestrian crossings; because the traffic lights and the "stop" was somewhat indicative and … because I had the radio on (I played Inter, which was "fan"), the taxi station sounded quite loud and was talking, loudly, on the mobile phone . And he was explaining to me, the incidents of all three. Well, at the end of the journey, he gave me a brochure, with a “Benvenuti to Palermo”, where he offered the possibility of doing a city tour by taxi, with an approximate duration of 3 hours and a price of € 120.00. And also, indicated the possibility of doing it by horse car, with a price of € 80 and a duration of 1 hour. When using the taxi service, it is advisable to negotiate, in advance, the price to be paid for the trip. Taxis are usually taken at their stops (next to the main monuments) or by telephone. With regard to buses, they are practical and usually circulate on the large roads through reserved spaces, frequently invaded by mopeds and cars. The price of each ticket is € 0.85 and is bought in the “tabacheries”. It is valid, for 90 minutes, from the ascent to the bus, from the first validation. It has a penalty of € 52.00, “per biglietto non convalidato”. Also, they sell tickets for a whole day.

    Accommodations

    For a particular issue of mine, I stayed at the Baia del Corrallo (12 Km. From the Port of Palermo). In those dates, they were the local celebrations, in honor of San Cosme and San Damián. The place is very nice and the place is quiet.

    An anecdote of a person known to me, who resides in Baia de Corrallo. He went from Erasmus to Valencia, the year Italy won the world soccer championship. And he told me that the two times he cried most in his life were there. The first, when he arrived, because in no way he wanted to stay and the second, when he had to return, because he did not want to return.
    Where to sleep?. Palermo has more than seventy hotels, which together with youth hostels, student residences (which offer their free places when they are on vacation) and private houses, which offer their rooms, more or less adapted and cozy, They have a good number of beds. How to choose Well, we can start from the area. Or better, where not to stay. We could eliminate, the area of ​​the Train Station, the port and those near the Mercado de la Vucciria. And recommended, as the areas near monuments, such as the Teatro Máximo and Cuatro Esquinas. So what you want to visit, you will have it at a step. Online and / or in printed guides (there are several that give you extensive information), I think it is an easy task.

    Tourist information

    There are a number of places of tourist information, scattered throughout the city, at points such as, Parliament Square (very close to the Norman Palace), Bellini Square (near the church of S. Cataldo and the Pretoria Fountain), the Central Railway Station, via Cavour (next to the Teatro Massimo), Puerto (Vía del Mare, on the Piave Pier), R. Settimo Square (next to the Politeama Garibaldi Theater). Also in Sferracavallo (Via Torretta). The customer service hours are as follows: From 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

    We attach a map of the city of Palermo. And let's try to place in it, at the top, the Cathedral, St. John of the Hermits, the Palace of the Normans and the New Gate. In the lower one, the Church of S. María de Catena, the Happy Gate and the Cove. On the left, the Central Railway Station and on the opposite, on the right of that imaginary cross, the Politeama Garibaldi Theater.

    In that space that we have created, we can say that there are all the spaces of interest of which we have spoken. And in the center, the Four Corners, with the four neighborhoods into which the city is divided.

    Tours and opinion:

    My area of ​​interest was to visit the monumental and artistic areas of the city of Palermo. I had “designed” since my arrival, what I wanted to contemplate. Arab – Norman monuments such as: Palace of the Normans, Palatine Chapel, Cathedral, etc. Also, a Gothic – Renaissance itinerary, with the Fontana Pretoria and the Church of San Francisco de Asís, and finally, a Baroque tour, with the Villena Square (Four Corners), Church of S. Cataldo, the Church of S. Juan of the Hermits and the Martorana. And with the aforementioned road axes, Corso Vittorio Emanuele and the Rías R. Settimo, Maqueda (and its parallel Via Roma, with modern commercial establishments). These are at least five days of visiting and sitting down to eat, to have a beer or a cappuccino, in places where you can see the city pass in front of you and observe its chaotic traffic, people go through the crosswalks, observing the No respect for the motorist or motorist for the pedestrian. I didn't go to Monreale, relatively close to the city center (An urban bus can bring you closer). It may be worth coming back another time. In my stay I enjoyed two visits to the Palatine Chapel. Another place for those who enjoy archeology (my case) is to visit the Archaeological Museum and dedicate an entire morning and then sit on a nearby terrace and review the abundant material provided, very kindly, by the people at the reception of the museum. Also, visit the Martorana twice … Touring the Cala and the Port, with its establishments a little different from the city center, is distracted. I also had good weather with nice temperature and I could enjoy its sun. I passed and fell in love with the city of Palermo and its people …
    Palermo is the capital of Sicily and in 1787, J. W. Goethe wrote: "Italy without Sicily produces no image in the soul, here is the key to everything."
    On the last day of the trip I went to the Island of Ustica (see next and last installment of the Travel Guide to Sicily). And he had to leave Sicily and return home. With Terravision (www.terravision.eu), a bus company, with a stop at the Railway Station Square, on the corner of the Roma route, they left for Birgi Airport (next to Trapani, as I said). An exclusive service for passengers of the Ryanair company. To be taken to the airport, in addition to the ticket (At the price of € 12.00 the route Palermo – Birgi Airport), you were asked for the boarding pass.
    And so, without further mishap, the return, having spent unforgettable days and wanting to return. With a question: How much I left to see ?.

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