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How to Book a Hotel in Palermo

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When a hotel search in Palermo is done, please select the room type, the included meals and the suitable booking conditions (for example, "Deluxe double room, Breakfast included, Non-Refundable"). Press the "View Deal" ("Book Now") button. Make your booking on a hotel booking website and get the hotel reservation voucher by email. That's it, a perfect hotel in Palermo is waiting for you!

Hotels of Palermo

A hotel in Palermo is an establishment that provides lodging paid on a short-term basis. Facilities provided may range from a basic bed and storage for clothing, to luxury features like en-suite bathrooms. Larger in Palermo hotels may provide additional guest facilities such as a swimming pool, business centre, childcare, conference facilities and social function services. Hotel rooms in Palermo are usually numbered (or named in some smaller hotels and B&Bs) to allow guests to identify their room. Some Palermo hotels offer meals as part of a room and board arrangement. Hotel operations vary in size, function, and cost. Most Palermo hotels and major hospitality companies that operate hotels in Palermo have set widely accepted industry standards to classify hotel types. General categories include the following:

Upscale luxury hotels in Palermo
An upscale full service hotel facility in Palermo that offers luxury amenities, full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and the highest level of personalized and professional service. Luxury Palermo hotels are normally classified with at least a Four Diamond or Five Diamond status or a Four or Five Star rating depending on classification standards.

Full service hotels in Palermo
Full service Palermo hotels often contain upscale full-service facilities with a large volume of full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and a variety of on-site amenities such as swimming pools, a health club, children's activities, ballrooms, on-site conference facilities, etc.

Historic inns and boutique hotels in Palermo
Boutique hotels of Palermo are smaller independent non-branded hotels that often contain upscale facilities of varying size in unique or intimate settings with full service accommodations. Palermo boutique hotels are generally 100 rooms or less. Some historic inns and boutique hotels in Palermo may be classified as luxury hotels.

Focused or select service hotels in Palermo
Small to medium-sized hotel establishments that offer a limited amount of on-site amenities that only cater and market to a specific demographic of Palermo travelers, such as the single business traveler. Most Palermo focused or select service hotels may still offer full service accommodations but may lack leisure amenities such as an on-site restaurant or a swimming pool.

Economy and limited service hotels in Palermo
Small to medium-sized Palermo hotel establishments that offer a very limited amount of on-site amenities and often only offer basic accommodations with little to no services, these facilities normally only cater and market to a specific demographic of travelers, such as the budget-minded Palermo traveler seeking a "no frills" accommodation. Limited service Palermo hotels often lack an on-site restaurant but in return may offer a limited complimentary food and beverage amenity such as on-site continental breakfast service.

Guest houses and B&Bs in Palermo
A bed and breakfast in Palermo is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and inclusive breakfast. Usually, Palermo bed and breakfasts are private homes or family homes offering accommodations. The typical Palermo B&B has between 4 and 11 rooms, with 6 being the average. Generally, guests are accommodated in private bedrooms with private bathrooms, or in a suite of rooms including an en suite bathroom. Some homes have private bedrooms with a bathroom which is shared with other guests. Breakfast is served in the bedroom, a dining room, or the host's kitchen. Often the owners of guest house themselves prepare the breakfast and clean the rooms.

Hostels in Palermo
Palermo hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge, and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available. Hostels are often cheaper for both the operator and occupants; many Palermo hostels have long-term residents whom they employ as desk agents or housekeeping staff in exchange for experience or discounted accommodation.

Apartment hotels, extended stay hotels in Palermo
Extended stay hotels are small to medium-sized Palermo hotels that offer longer term full service accommodations compared to a traditional hotel. Extended stay hotels may offer non-traditional pricing methods such as a weekly rate that cater towards travelers in need of short-term accommodations for an extended period of time. Similar to limited and select service hotels, on-site amenities are normally limited and most extended stay hotels in Palermo lack an on-site restaurant.

Timeshare and destination clubs in Palermo
Palermo timeshare and destination clubs are a form of property ownership also referred to as a vacation ownership involving the purchase and ownership of an individual unit of accommodation for seasonal usage during a specified period of time. Timeshare resorts in Palermo often offer amenities similar that of a Full service hotel with on-site restaurant(s), swimming pools, recreation grounds, and other leisure-oriented amenities. Destination clubs of Palermo on the other hand may offer more exclusive private accommodations such as private houses in a neighborhood-style setting.

Motels in Palermo
A Palermo motel is a small-sized low-rise lodging establishment similar to that of a limited service hotel, but with direct access to individual rooms from the car park. Common during the 1950s and 1960s, motels were often located adjacent to a major road, where they were built on inexpensive land at the edge of towns or along stretches of highways. They are still useful in less populated areas of Palermo for driving travelers, but the more populated an area becomes the more hotels fill the need. Many of Palermo motels which remain in operation have joined national franchise chains, rebranding themselves as hotels, inns or lodges.

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Travelling and vacation in Palermo

Città di Palermo
Clockwise from top: Mondello, Teatro Massimo, Cappella Palatina, Zisa, Cathedral, Virgin Annunciate of Antonello da Messina, Quattro Canti in Maqueda Street, Churches of Martorana and San Cataldo, Interior of Santa Caterina Church, Pretoria Square and Mount Pellegrino
Clockwise from top: Mondello, Teatro Massimo, Cappella Palatina, Zisa, Cathedral, Virgin Annunciate of Antonello da Messina, Quattro Canti in Maqueda Street, Churches of Martorana and San Cataldo, Interior of Santa Caterina Church, Pretoria Square and Mount Pellegrino
Flag of Palermo
Coat of arms of Palermo
Coat of arms
The municipality of Palermo within the province
The municipality of Palermo within the province
Palermo is located in Italy
Palermo is located in Europe
Location of Palermo in Italy
Coordinates:  / 38.117; 13.367  / 38.117; 13.367
Country Italy
Region Sicily
Province / Metropolitan city Palermo (PA)
Founded 736 BC
• Mayor Leoluca Orlando (I)
• Total 158.9 km (61.4 sq mi)
Elevation 14 m (46 ft)
Population (31 January 2013)
• Total 676,118 (city)
1,300,000 (metro)
Demonym(s) Palermitani or Panormiti
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
• Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 90100
Dialing code 091
Patron saint Saint Rosalia, Saint Agata, Saint Oliva and Saint Benedict the Moor
Saint day 14 July
Website Official website

Palermo (Italian: [paˈlɛrmo], Sicilian: Palermu, Latin: Panormus, from Greek: Πάνορμος, Panormos) is a city of Southern Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Metropolitan City of Palermo. The city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,700 years old. Palermo is located in the northwest of the island of Sicily, right by the Gulf of Palermo in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The city was founded in 734 BC by the Phoenicians as Ziz ('flower'). Palermo then became a possession of Carthage, before becoming part of the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire and eventually part of the Byzantine Empire, for over a thousand years. The Greeks named the city Panormus meaning 'complete port'. From 831 to 1072 the city was under Arab rule during the Emirate of Sicily when the city first became a capital. The Arabs shifted the Greek name into Balarme (Arabic: بَلَرْم‎‎), the root for Palermo's present-day name. Following the Norman reconquest, Palermo became the capital of a new kingdom (from 1130 to 1816), the Kingdom of Sicily and the capital of the Holy Roman Empire under Frederick II Holy Roman Emperor and Conrad IV of Germany, King of the Romans. Eventually Sicily would be united with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification of 1860.

The population of Palermo urban area is estimated by Eurostat to be 855,285, while its metropolitan area is the fifth most populated in Italy with around 1.2 million people. In the central area, the city has a population of around 676,000 people. The inhabitants are known as Palermitani or, poetically, panormiti. The languages spoken by its inhabitants are the Italian language, Sicilian language and the Palermitano dialect.

Palermo is Sicily's cultural, economic and touristic capital. It is a city rich in history, culture, art, music and food. Numerous tourists are attracted to the city for its good Mediterranean weather, its renowned gastronomy and restaurants, its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches, palaces and buildings, and its nightlife and music. Palermo is the main Sicilian industrial and commercial center: the main industrial sectors include tourism, services, commerce and agriculture. Palermo currently has an international airport, and a significant underground economy. In fact, for cultural, artistic and economic reasons, Palermo was one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean and is now among the top tourist destinations in both Italy and Europe. It is the main seat of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale. The city is also going through careful redevelopment, preparing to become one of the major cities of the Euro-Mediterranean area.

Roman Catholicism is highly important in Palermitano culture. The Patron Saint of Palermo is Santa Rosalia whose Feast Day is celebrated on 15 July. The area attracts significant numbers of tourists each year and is widely known for its colourful fruit, vegetable and fish markets at the heart of Palermo, known as Vucciria, Ballarò and Capo.

Palermo: Geography

Palermo lies in a basin, formed by the Papireto, Kemonia and Oreto rivers. The basin was named the Conca d'Oro (the Golden Basin) by the Arabs in the 9th century. The city is surrounded by a mountain range which is named after the city itself. These mountains face the Tyrrhenian Sea. Palermo is home to a natural port and offers excellent views to the sea, especially from Monte Pellegrino.

Palermo: Topography

Monte Pellegrino pictured at the end of the 19th century; the mountain is visible from everywhere in the city

Palermo is surrounded by mountains, formed of calcar, which form a cirque around the city. Some districts of the city are divided by the mountains themselves. Historically, it was relatively difficult to reach the inner part of Sicily from the city because of the mounts. The tallest peak of the range is La Pizzuta, about 1,333 metres (4,373 ft) high. However, historically, the most important mount is Monte Pellegrino, which is geographically separated from the rest of the range by a plain. The mount lies right in front of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Monte Pellegrino's cliff was described in the 19th century by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as "the most beautiful promontory in the world", in his essay "Italian Journey".

Palermo: Rivers

Today both the Papireto river and the Kemonia are covered up by buildings. However, the shape of the former watercourses can still be recognised today, because the streets that were built on them follow their shapes. Today the only waterway not drained yet is the Oreto river that divides the downtown of the city from the western uptown and the industrial districts. In the basins there were, though, many seasonal torrents that helped formed swampy plains, reclaimed during history; a good example of which can be found in the borough of Mondello.

View of Palermo from Monte Pellegrino

Palermo: History

Palermo: Early history

Mesolithic cave art at Addaura.

Evidence of human settlement in the area now known as Palermo goes back to at least the Mesolithic period, perhaps around 8000 BC, where a group of cave drawings at nearby Addaura from that period have been found. The original inhabitants were Sicani people who, according to Thucydides, arrived from the Iberian Peninsula (perhaps Catalonia).

Palermo: Ancient period

A brief stretch of Palermo's Phoenician defence wall, now enclosed in the Santa Caterina Monastery.

During 734 BC the Phoenicians, a sea trading people from the north of ancient Canaan, built a small settlement on the natural harbor of Palermo. Some sources suggest they named the settlement Ziz. It became one of the three main Phoenician colonies of Sicily, along with Motya and Soluntum. However, the remains of the Phoenician presence in the city are few and mostly preserved in the very populated center of the downtown area, making any excavation efforts costly and logistically difficult. The site chosen by the Phoenicians made it easy to connect the port to the mountains with a straight road that today has become Corso Calatifimi. This road helped the Phoenicians in trading with the populations that lived beyond the mountains that surround the gulf.

The first settlement is known as Paleapolis (Παλεάπολις), the Ancient Greek word for "old city", in order to distinguish it from a second settlement built during the 5th century BC, called Neapolis (Νεάπολις), "new city". Neapolis was erected towards the east and along with it, monumental walls around the whole settlement were built to prevent attacks from foreign threats. Some part of this structure can still be seen in the Cassaro district. This district was named after the walls themselves; the word Cassaro deriving from the Arab al-qaṣr (castle, stronghold, see also alcázar). Along the walls there were few doors to access and exit the city, suggesting that trade even toward the inner part of the island occurred frequently. Moreover, according to some studies, it may be possible that there were some walls that divided the old city from the new one too. The colony developed around a central street (decumanus), cut perpendicularly by minor streets. This street today has become Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

Carthage was Palermo’s major trading partner under the Phoenicians and the city enjoyed a prolonged peace during this period. Palermo came into contact with the Ancient Greeks between the 6th and the 5th centuries BC which preceded the Sicilian Wars, a conflict fought between the Greeks of Syracuse and the Phoenicians of Carthage for control over the island of Sicily. During this war the Greeks named the settlement Panormos (Πάνορμος) from which the current name is derived, meaning "all port" due to the shape of its coast. It was from Palermo that Hamilcar I's fleet (which was defeated at the Battle of Himera) was launched. In 409 BC the city was looted by Hermocrates of Syracuse. The Sicilian Wars ended in 265 BC when Carthage and Syracuse stopped warring and united in order to stop the Romans from gaining full control of the island during the First Punic War. In 276 BC, during the Pyrrhic War, Panormos briefly became a Greek colony after being conquered by Pyrrhus of Epirus, but returned to Phoenician Carthage in 275 BC. In 254 BC Panormos was besieged and conquered by the Romans in the first battle of Panormus (the name Latin name). Carthage attempted to reconquer Panormus in 251 BC but failed.

Palermo: Middle Ages

San Giovanni degli Eremiti, a church showing elements of Byzantine, Arabic and Norman architecture.

As the Roman Empire was falling apart, Palermo fell under the control of several Germanic tribes. The first were the Vandals in 440 AD under the rule of their king Geiseric. The Vandals had occupied all the Roman provinces in North Africa by 455 establishing themselves as a significant force. They acquired Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily shortly afterwards. However, they soon lost these newly acquired possessions to the Ostrogoths. The Ostrogothic conquest under Theodoric the Great began in 488; Theodoric supported Roman culture and government unlike the Germanic Goths. The Gothic War took place between the Ostrogoths and the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire. Sicily was the first part of Italy to be taken under control of General Belisarius who was commissioned by Eastern Emperor. Justinian I solidified his rule in the following years.

Cappella Palatina, decorated with Byzantine, Arabic and Norman elements.

The Arabs took control of the island in 904, and the Emirate of Sicily was established. Muslim rule on the island lasted for about 120 years . Palermo (Balarme during Arab rule) displaced Syracuse as the capital of Sicily. It was said to have then begun to compete with Córdoba and Cairo in terms of importance and splendor. For more than a hundred years Palermo was the capital of a flourishing emirate. The Arabs also introduced many agricultural crops which remain a mainstay of Sicilian cuisine.

Arabesque on a wall of the Cuba Palace.

After dynastic quarrels however, there was a Christian reconquest in 1072. The family who returned the city to Christianity were called the Hautevilles, including Robert Guiscard and his army, who is regarded as a hero by the natives. It was under Roger II of Sicily that Norman holdings in Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula were promoted from the County of Sicily into the Kingdom of Sicily. The kingdom's capital was Palermo, with the King's Court held at the Palazzo dei Normanni. Much construction was undertaken during this period, such as the building of Palermo Cathedral. The Kingdom of Sicily became one of the wealthiest states in Europe.

Sicily fell under the control of the Holy Roman Empire in 1194. Palermo was the preferred city of the Emperor Frederick II. Muslims of Palermo emigrated or were expelled during Holy Roman rule. After an interval of Angevin rule (1266–1282), Sicily came under control of the Aragon and Barcelona dynasties. By 1330, Palermo's population had declined to 51,000. From 1479 until 1713 Palermo was ruled by the Kingdom of Spain, and again between 1717 and 1718. Palermo was also under Savoy control between 1713 and 1717 and 1718–1720 as a result of the Treaty of Utrecht. It was also ruled by Austria between 1720 and 1734.

Palermo: Two Sicilies

After the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), Sicily was handed over to the House of Savoy, but by 1734 it was in Bourbon possession. Charles III chose Palermo for his coronation as King of Sicily. Charles had new houses built for the growing population, while trade and industry grew as well. However, by now Palermo was now just another provincial city as the Royal Court resided in Naples. Charles' son Ferdinand, though disliked by the population, took refuge in Palermo after the French Revolution in 1798. His son Alberto died on the way to Palermo and is buried in the city.

When the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was founded, the original capital city was Palermo (1816) but a year later moved to Naples.

The revolution in Palermo (12 January 1848).

From 1820 to 1848 Sicily was shaken by upheavals, which culminated on 12 January 1848, with a popular insurrection, the first one in Europe that year, led by Giuseppe La Masa. A parliament and constitution were proclaimed. The first president was Ruggero Settimo. The Bourbons reconquered Palermo in 1849, and remained under their rule until the time of Giuseppe Garibaldi. The famous general entered Palermo with his troops (the “Thousands”) on 27 May 1860. After the plebiscite later that year Palermo, along with the rest of Sicily, became part of the new Kingdom of Italy (1861).

Palermo: Italian unification and today

Giuseppe Garibaldi entering Palermo on 27 May 1860

The majority of Sicilians preferred independence to the Savoy kingdom; in 1866, Palermo became the seat of a week-long popular rebellion, which was finally crushed after Martial law was declared. The Italian government blamed anarchists and the Church, specifically the Archbishop of Palermo, for the rebellion and began enacting anti-Sicilian and anti-clerical policies. A new cultural, economic and industrial growth was spurred by several families, like the Florio, the Ducrot, the Rutelli, the Sandron, the Whitaker, the Utveggio, and others. In the early twentieth century, Palermo expanded outside the old city walls, mostly to the north along the new boulevards Via Roma, Via Dante, Via Notarbartolo, and Viale della Libertà. These roads would soon boast a huge number of villas in the Art Nouveau style. Many of these were designed by the famous architect Ernesto Basile. The Grand Hotel Villa Igiea, designed by Ernesto Basile for the Florio family, is a good example of Palermitan Art Nouveau. The huge Teatro Massimo was designed in the same period by Giovan Battista Filippo Basile, and built by the Rutelli & Machì building firm of the industrial and old Rutelli Italian family in Palermo, and was opened in 1897.

During the Second World War, Palermo was untouched until the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. In July, the harbour and the surrounding quarters were heavily bombed by the Allied forces and were all but destroyed.

In 1946 the city was declared the seat of the Regional Parliament, as capital of a Special Status Region (1947) whose seat is in the Palazzo dei Normanni.

A theme in the city's modern age has been the struggle against the Mafia, Red Brigades and outlaws such as Salvatore Giuliano, who controlled the neighbouring area of Montelepre. The Italian state effectively has had to share control of the territory, economically and administratively, with the Mafia.

The so-called "Sack of Palermo" is one of the major visible faces of the problem. The term is used to indicate the speculative building practices that have filled the city with poor buildings, mainly during the 1950s to the 1980s. The reduced importance of agriculture in the Sicilian economy has led to a massive migration to the cities, especially Palermo, which swelled in size, leading to rapid expansion towards the north. The regulatory plans for expansion was largely ignored in the boom. New parts of town appeared almost out of nowhere, but without parks, schools, public buildings, proper roads and the other amenities that characterise a modern city.

Palermo: Districts

Quarters of Palermo
Municipality Quarters
I Kalsa, Albergheria, Seralcadio & La Loggia
II Settecannoli, Brancaccio & Ciaculli-Oreto
III Villagrazia-Falsomiele & Stazione-Oreto
IV Montegrappa, S. Rosalia, Cuba, Calafatimi, Mezzomonreale, Villa Tasca-Altarello & Boccadifalco
V Zisa, Noce, Uditore-Passo di Rigano & Borgo Nuovo
VI Cruillas, S. Giovanni Apostolo, Resuttana & San Lorenzo
VII Pallavicino, Tommaso Natale, Sferracavallo, Partanna Mondello, Arenella, Vergine Maria & San Filippo Neri (formerly known as ZEN)
VIII Politeama, Malaspina-Palagonia, Libertà & Monte Pellegrino

Shown above are the thirty five quarters of Palermo: these thirty five neighbourhoods or "quartiere" as they are known, are further divided into eight governmental community boards.

Palermo: Climate

Gulf of Mondello seen from Monte Pellegrino

Palermo experiences a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification: Csa) that is mild with moderate seasonality. Summers are hot and dry due to the domination of subtropical high pressure system, while winters experience moderate temperatures and changeable, rainy weather due to the polar front. Temperatures in autumn and spring are usually mild. Palermo is one of the warmest cities in Europe (mainly due to its warm nights), with an average annual air temperature of 18.5 °C (65.3 °F). It receives approximately 2,530 hours of sunshine per year. Snow is usually a rare occurrence, but it does occur occasionally during the strongest cold spells. Between the 1940s and the 2000s there have been eleven times when considerable snowfall has occurred. In 1949 and in 1956, when the minimum temperature went down to 0 °C (32 °F), the city was blanketed by several centimetres of snow. Snowfall also occurred in 1999, 2009 and 2015. The average annual temperature of the sea is above 19 °C (66 °F); from 14 °C (57 °F) in February to 26 °C (79 °F) in August. In the period from November to May, the average sea temperature exceeds 18 °C (64 °F) and in the period from June to October, the average sea temperature exceeds 21 °C (70 °F).

Palermo: Landmarks

Palermo Cathedral

Palermo has a large architectural heritage and is notable for its many Norman buildings.

Palermo: Churches

San Cataldo's Church.
Chiesa della Martorana.
Church of Saint Catherine.
  • Palermo Cathedral: Located at Corso Vittorio Emanuele, corner Via Matteo Bonello, its long history has led to an accumulation of different architectural styles, the latest being the 18th century.
  • Cappella Palatina, the 12th century chapel of the Palazzo dei Normanni, has outstanding mosaics in both Western and the Eastern traditions and a roof by Saracen craftsmen.
  • San Giovanni dei Lebbrosi
  • San Giovanni degli Eremiti (St. John of the Hermit Order): Located near the Palazzo dei Normanni, a 12th-century church notable for its bright red domes, a remnant of Arab influence in Sicily. In his Diary of an Idle Woman in Sicily, F. Elliot described it as "... totally oriental... it would fit well in Baghdad or Damascus". The bell tower is an example of Gothic architecture.
  • Chiesa della Martorana: Also known as Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (St Mary of the Admiral), the church is annexed to the next-door church of San Cataldo and overlooks the Piazza Bellini in central Palermo. The original layout was a compact cross-in-square ("Greek cross plan"), a common south Italian and Sicilian variant of the middle Byzantine period church style. Three eastern apses adjoin directly to the naos, instead of being separated by an additional bay, as was usual in eastern Byzantine architecture. The bell tower, lavishly decorated, still serves as the main entrance to the church. The interior decoration is elaborate, and includes Byzantine mosaics.
  • San Cataldo: Church, on the central Piazza Bellini, which is a good example of Norman architecture.
  • Santa Maria della Gancia
  • Santa Caterina: This church is located behind Piazza Pretoria and built between 1566 and 1596 in the baroque style.
  • Santa Maria della Catena: This church was built between 1490-1520. Designed by Matteo Carnilivari: The name derives from chains that were once attached to one of the walls.
  • San Domenico: Located near Via Roma, it is known as the “Pantheon of illustrious Sicilians”.
  • San Giuseppe dei Teatini: Located near the Quattro Canti, it is an example of Sicilian Baroque.
  • Oratorio di San Lorenzo Working in stucco, Rococo sculptor Giacomo Serpotta, his brother Giuseppe and his son Procopio, decorated the church (1690/98–1706) with such a profusion of statuary, and an abundance of putti, the walls appear alive. In October 1969, two thieves removed Caravaggio's Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence from its frame. It has never been recovered.
  • Oratorio del Rosario: Completed by Giacomo Serpotta in (1710–17)
  • Santa Teresa alla Kalsa, which derives its name from Al-Khalisa, an Arabic term meaning elected, was constructed between 1686-1706 over the former Emir's residence, is one of the best examples of Sicilian Baroque. It has a single, airy nave, with stucco decorations from the early 18th century.
  • Santa Maria dello Spasimo was built in 1506 and later turned into a hospital. This church inspired Raphael to paint his famous Sicilia's Spasimo, now in the Museo del Prado. The church today is a fascinating open-air auditorium, which occasionally houses exhibitions and musical shows.
  • Church of the Gesu (Church of Jesus): Located in the city centre, the church was built in 1564 in the late-Renaissance style by the Jesuits. It was built over a pre-existing convent of Basilian monks. Alterations in 1591 were completed in a Sicilian Baroque. The church was heavily damaged after the 1943 bombings, which destroyed most of the frescos. The interior has a Latin cross plan with a nave and two aisles, and has a particularly rich decoration of marbles, intarsia and stuccoes, especially in St Anne's Chapel. At the right is the Casa Professa, with a 1685 portal and a precious 18th century cloister. The building has been home to the Municipal Library since 1775.
  • San Francesco di Assisi: this church was built between 1255 and 1277 in what was once the market district of the city, at the site of two pre-existing churches and was largely renovated in the 15th, 16th, 18th and 19th centuries, the last after an earthquake. After the 1943 bombings, the church was restored to its Medieval appearance, which now includes part of the original building such as part of the right side, the apses and the Gothic portal in the façade. The interior has a typical Gothic flavour, with a nave and two aisles separated by two rows of cylindrical pilasters. Some of the chapels are in Renaissance style, as well as the late 16th century side portals. The church includes precious sculptures by Antonio, Giacomo Gagini and Francesco Laurana. Of note are also statues built by Giacomo Serpotta in 1723.
  • Church of the Magione: Officially known as the church of the Holy Trinity. This church was built in the Norman style in 1191 by Matteo d'Ajello, who donated it to the Cistercian monks.

Palermo: Palaces and museums

Palazzo dei Normanni, seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly.
  • Palazzo dei Normanni (the Norman Palace), one of the most beautiful Italian palaces and a notable example of Norman architecture. It houses the famous Cappella Palatina.
  • Zisa (1160) and Cuba, magnificent castles/houses historically used by the kings of Palermo for hunting. The Zisa today houses the Islamic museum. The Cuba was once encircled by water.
  • Natoli Palace, of Vincenzo Natoli,
  • Palazzo Chiaramonte
  • Palazzo Abatellis. Built at the end of the 15th century for the prefect of the city, Francesco Abatellis. It is a massive though elegant construction, in typical Catalan Gothic style, with Renaissance influences. The Gallery houses an Eleonora of Aragon bust by Francesco Laurana (1471) and the Malvagna Triptych (c. 1510), by Jan Gossaert and the famous Annunziata by Antonello da Messina.
  • The Regional Archeological Museum Antonio Salinas is one of the main museums of Italy: it includes numerous remains from Etruscan, Carthaginian, Roman and Hellenistic civilisations. It houses all the decorative remains from the Sicilian temples of Segesta and Selinunte.
  • Palazzina Cinese, royal residence of the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and location of the Ethnografic Museum of Sicily.

Palermo: City walls

City wall at Corso Alberto

Palermo has at least two rings of city walls, many pieces of which still survive. The first ring surrounded the ancient core of the Phoenician city – the so-called Palaeopolis (in the area east of Porta Nuova) and the Neapolis. Via Vittorio Emanuele was the main road east–west through this early walled city. The eastern edge of the walled city was on Via Roma and the ancient port in the vicinity of Piazza Marina. The wall circuit was approximately Porto Nuovo, Corso Alberti, Piazza Peranni, Via Isodoro, Via Candela, Via Venezia, Via Roma, Piazza Paninni, Via Biscottari, Via Del Bastione, Palazzo dei Normanni and back to Porto Nuovo.

In the medieval period the walled city was expanded. Via Vittorio Emanuele continued to be the main road east–west through the walled city. The west gate was still Porta Nuova, the walls continued to Corso Alberti, to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele Orlando where it turned east along Via Volturno to Piazza Verdi and along the line of Via Cavour. At this northeast corner there was a defence, Castello a Mare, to protect the port at La Cala. A huge chain was used to block La Cala with the other end at Santa Maria della Catena (St Mary of the Chain). The sea-side wall was along the western side of Foro Italico Umberto. The wall turns west along the northern side of Via Abramo Lincoln, continues along Corso Tukory. The wall turns north approximately on Via Benedetto, to Palazzo dei Normanni and back to Porta Nuova.

Several gates in the city wall survive. Images of the wall can be seen here.

Palermo: Opera houses

Teatro Massimo opera house.
Teatro Politeama.

Up until the beginning of 20th century there were hundreds of small opera theatres known as magazzeni in the city of Palermo.

  • The Teatro Massimo ("Greatest Theatre") was opened in 1897. It is the biggest in Italy (8,000 m, 86,000 sq ft), and one of the largest of Europe (the third after the Paris Opera and the Vienna State Opera), renowned for its perfect acoustics. Enrico Caruso sang in a performance of La Gioconda during the opening season, returning for Rigoletto at the very end of his career. Closed for renovation from 1974 until 1997, it is now restored and has an active schedule.
  • The Teatro Politeama was built between 1867 and 1874.

Palermo: Squares

Quattro Canti at Christmas time.
Piazza Pretoria.
  • Quattro Canti is a small square at the crossing of the ancient main roads (now: Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda) dividing the town into its quarters (mandamenti). The buildings at the corner have diagonal baroque façades so the square has an almost octagonal form.
  • Piazza Pretoria was planned in the 16th century near the Quattro Canti as the site of a fountain by Francesco Camilliani, the Fontana Pretoria

Palermo: Other sights

Palermo Botanical Garden: the Winter Garden greenhouses.

The cathedral has a heliometer (solar observatory) dating to 1690, one of a number built in Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries. The device itself is quite simple: a tiny hole in one of the minor domes acts as pinhole camera, projecting an image of the sun onto the floor at solar noon (12:00 in winter, 13:00 in summer). There is a bronze line, la Meridiana, on the floor, running precisely north–south. The ends of the line mark the positions as at the summer and winter solstices; signs of the zodiac show the various other dates throughout the year.

The purpose of the instrument was to standardise the measurement of time and the calendar. The convention in Sicily had been that the (24‑hour) day was measured from the moment of dawn, which of course meant that no two locations had the same time and, more importantly, did not have the same time as in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. It was also important to know when the vernal equinox occurred, to provide the correct date for Easter.

The Orto botanico di Palermo (Palermo Botanical Garden), founded in 1785, is the largest in Italy with a surface of 10 hectares (25 acres).

One site of interest is the Capuchin Catacombs, with many mummified corpses in varying degrees of preservation.

Close to the city is the 600-metre-high (2,000 ft) Monte Pellegrino, offering a panorama of the city, its surrounding mountains and the sea.

Another good panoramic viewpoint is the promontory of Monte Gallo (586 m, 1,923 ft), near Mondello Beach.

Palermo: UNESCO World Heritage Sites

UNESCO World Heritage Sites include the Palazzo Reale with the Cappella Palatina, the Chiesa di San Giovanni degli Eremiti, the Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, the Chiesa di San Cataldo, the Cattedrale di Palermo, the Palazzo della Zisa and the Ponte dell’Ammiraglio. This makes Italy the country with the most UNESCO world heritage sites, and Sicily the region hosting the most within Italy.

Palermo: Demographics

Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1861 199,911 -
1871 223,689 +11.9%
1881 244,898 +9.5%
1901 309,566 +26.4%
1911 339,465 +9.7%
1921 397,486 +17.1%
1931 379,905 −4.4%
1936 411,879 +8.4%
1951 490,692 +19.1%
1961 587,985 +19.8%
1971 642,814 +9.3%
1981 701,782 +9.2%
1991 698,556 −0.5%
2001 686,722 −1.7%
2008 (Est.) 659,623 −3.9%
Source: ISTAT 2001

In 2010, there were 1.2 million people living in the greater Palermo area, 655,875 of which resided in the City boundaries, of whom 47.4% were male and 52.6% were female. People under age 15 totalled 15.6% compared to pensioners who composed 17.2% of the population. This compares with the Italian average of 14.1% people under 15 years and 20.2% pensioners. The average age of a Palermo resident is 40.4 compared to the Italian average of 42.8. In the ten years between 2001 and 2010, the population of Palermo declined by 4.5%, while the population of Italy, as a whole, grew by 6.0%. The reason for Palermo's decline is a population flight to the suburbs, and to Northern Italy. The current birth rate of Palermo is 10.2 births per 1,000 inhabitants compared to the Italian average of 9.3 births.

As of 2006, 97.79% of the population was of Italian descent. The largest immigrant group came from South Asia (mostly from Sri Lanka): 0.80%, other European countries (mostly from Albania, Romania, Serbia, Macedonia and Ukraine): 0.3%, and North Africa (mostly from Tunisia): 0.28%.

Palermo, AMAT Tramway System Map

Palermo's public bus system is operated by AMAT which covers a net area of 340 km (211 mi). About 90 different routes reach every part of the city.

Palermo has a public tram system finalized in 2015 and operated by AMAT. There are 4 lines:

  1. Roccella - Central Station
  2. Borgo Nuovo - Notarbartolo Station
  3. CEP - Notarbartolo Station
  4. Corso Calatafimi - Notarbartolo Station

The local coach company, AST, with its coaches totalling 35 lines, links Palermo to all of the main cities in Sicily.

Palermo: Roads

Palermo is a key intersection on the Sicilian road network, being the junction between the eastern A19 motorway to Trapani, the southeastern A29 to airport and Mazzara del Vallo and the southwestern A19 to Messina and A20 to Catania. Palermo is one of the main cities on European route E90. The three main national roads starting from Palermo are the SS113, SS121, SS186 and the SS624.

Palermo: Airports

Palermo International Airport, known as Falcone-Borsellino Airport (formerly Punta Raisi Airport), is located 32 km (20 mi) west of Palermo. It is dedicated to Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, two anti-mafia judges killed by the mafia in the early 1990s.

The airport's rail facility, known as Punta Raisi railway station, can be reached from Palermo Centrale, Palermo Notarbartolo and Palermo Francia railway stations.

Palermo-Boccadifalco Airport is the second airport of the city.

Palermo: Port

The port of Palermo, founded by the Phoenicians over 2,700 years ago, is, together with the port of Messina, the main port of Sicily. From here ferries link Palermo to Cagliari, Genoa, Livorno, Naples, Tunis and other cities and carry a total of almost 2 million passengers annually. It is also an important port for cruise ships. Traffic includes also almost 5 million tonnes (5.5 million short tons) of cargo and 80,000 TEUs yearly. The port also has links to minor sicilian islands such as Ustica and the Aeolian Islands (via Cefalù in summer). Inside the Port of Palermo there is a section known as "tourist marina" for sailing yachts and catamarans.

Palermo: National rail

The main railway station of Palermo is Palermo Centrale which links to the other cities of Sicily, including Agrigento, Trapani and Catania, and through Messina and the strait to the rest of Italy. The railways also connect to the Palermo airport with departures every thirty minutes.

Palermo: Patron saints

The patron saint of Palermo is Saint Rosalia, who is widely revered.

On 14 July, people in Palermo celebrate the annual Festino, the most important religious event of the year. The Festino is a procession which goes through the main street of Palermo to commemorate the miracle attributed to Saint Rosalia who, it is believed, freed the city from the Black Death in 1624. Her remains were discovered in a cave on Monte Pellegrino, and her remains were carried around the city three times, banishing the plague. There is a sanctuary marking the spot where her remains were found which can be reached via a scenic bus ride from the city.

Before 1624 Palermo had four patron saints, one for each of the four major parts of the city. They were Saint Agatha, Saint Christina, Saint Nympha and Saint Olivia.

Saint Lucy is also honoured with a peculiar celebration, during which the inhabitants of Palermo do not eat anything made with flour, but boil wheat in its natural state and use it to prepare a special dish called cuccìa. This commemorates the saving of the city from famine due to a miracle attributed to Saint Lucy; A ship full of grain mysteriously arrived in the city's harbour and the hungry population wasted no time in making flour but ate the grain as it arrived.

Saint Benedict the Moor is the heavenly protector of the city of Palermo.

The ancient patron of the city was the Genius of Palermo, genius loci and numen protector of the place, that became the laic patron of the modern Palermo.

Palermo: International relations

Palermo: Twin towns and sister cities

Palermo is twinned with:

  • Tunisia Bizerte, Tunisia
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • China Chengdu, China
  • Poland Gdańsk, Poland
  • Vietnam Hanoi, Vietnam
  • State of Palestine Khan Younis, Gaza, Palestine
  • United States Miami, Florida, United States
  • United States Monterey, California, United States
  • Canada Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • Colombia Palermo, Colombia
  • Italy Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy
  • Croatia Rijeka, Croatia
  • Russia Samara, Russia
  • Cuba Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
  • Italy Sestu, Sicily, Italy
  • Georgia (country) Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Romania Timișoara, Romania
  • United States Utica, New York, United States
  • Lithuania Vilnius, Lithuania
  • Russia Yaroslavl, Russia
  • Croatia Zagreb, Croatia

Palermo: See also

  • Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale
  • List of mayors of Palermo
  • Hugo Falcandus

Palermo: References

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  2. "Sicily". europa.eu. Retrieved 2017-08-01.
  3. php Capital dell'euromediterraneo for redevelopment, development and promotion of the metropolitan area of Palermo
  4. Pergament, Danielle (8 January 2008). "In Palermo, Life Vibrates in a Fading Market". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  5. Sandars, Nancy K., Prehistoric Art in Europe, Penguin (Pelican, now Yale, History of Art), 1968 (nb 1st edn.), pp. 85-86
  6. "Sicily: Encyclopedia II – Sicily – History". Experience Festival. 7 October 2007. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013.
  7. "Aapologetico de la literatura española contra los opiniones". Ensayo historico. 7 October 2007.
  8. "History of Palermo". ItalyTravelEscape.com. 7 October 2007.
  9. "Destiny of a King's Capital". BestofSicily.com. 7 October 2007.
  10. "Panormos Info". Bio.vu.nl. 7 October 2007. Archived from the original on 24 November 2004.
  11. Privitera, Joseph. Sicily: An Illustrated History. Hippocrene Books. ISBN 978-0-7818-0909-2.
  12. "Theodoric". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 October 2007.
  13. Hearder, Harry. Italy: A Short History. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-33719-9.
  14. "The Greek and Byzantine Roots of Palermo". HellenicComserve.com. 7 October 2007.
  15. "Brief history of Sicily" (PDF). Archaeology. Stanford.edu. 7 October 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 9, 2007.
  16. https://archive.org/details/storiadeimusulm01amargoog
  17. Of Italy, Touring Club (2005). Authentic Sicily. Touring Editore. ISBN 88-365-3403-1.
  18. Joseph Strayer, Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Scribner, 1987, t.9, p.352
  19. Appleton, The World in the Middle Ages, 100.
  20. ISBN 978-0-14-015212-8.
  21. J. Bradford De Long and Andrei Shleifer (October 1993). "Princes and Merchants: European City Growth before the Industrial Revolution". The Journal of Law and Economics. University of Chicago Press. 36 (2): 671–702 [678]. doi:10.1086/467294
  22. Lucy Riall (12 March 1998). Sicily and the Unification of Italy : Liberal Policy and Local Power, 1859-1866: Liberal Policy and Local Power, 1859-1866. Clarendon Press. pp. 198–. ISBN 978-0-19-154261-9.
  23. "Quartieri". Palapa.it. 8 January 2008.
  24. http://www.palermo.climatemps.com/
  25. http://www.meteoservice.net/dossier-neve-a-palermo-nel-1986-nevico-persino-a-natale/
  26. http://www.italyheritage.com/magazine/articles/history/1956-snow.htm
  27. http://meteolive.leonardo.it/news/In-primo-piano/2/tutte-le-nevicate-su-palermo-/364/
  28. "Palermo Climate Guide".
  29. "Palermo/Boccadifalco (PA) 117 m. - Servizio Meteorologico dell'Aeronautica Militare, 1971-2000" (PDF).
  30. Kitzinger, Mosaics, 29–30.
  31. "Theft of Caravaggio’s Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco". Fbi.gov. 2012-09-17. Retrieved 2017-05-09.
  32. Sooke, Alastair (23 December 2013). "Caravaggio's Nativity: Hunting a stolen masterpiece". BBC website. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  33. Palermo - City Guide by Adriana Chirco, 1998, Dario Flaccovio Editore.
  34. "Picasa Web Albums - Kevin Flude - Palermo City". Picasaweb.google.com. 2012-04-01. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
  35. "A paper from University of Bologna describing Heliometers in Italian Cathedrals". Cis.alma.unibo.it. 1995-12-06. Archived from the original on 2011-04-13. Retrieved 2011-04-03.
  36. http://www.siciliaincammino.it/promontori-sul-mare-ascesa-monte-gallo-da-partanna-mondellopalermo
  37. "Palermo and its Arab-Norman architecture become UNESCO heritage site". Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  38. Centre, UNESCO. "Sites in Italy, Jordan and Saudi Arabia inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List". whc.unesco.org. Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  39. Centre, UNESCO. "Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale - UNESCO World Heritage Centre". whc.unesco.org. Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  40. http://www.thesalmons.org/lynn/world.heritage.html
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  52. "Sister Cities:Miami Florida, Palermo Italy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  53. "Tbilisi Sister Cities". Tbilisi City Hall. Tbilisi Municipal Portal. Archived from the original on 2013-07-24. Retrieved 2013-08-05. External link in |work= (help)

Palermo: Sources

See also: Bibliography of Palermo (it)

  • Fabbri, Patrizia (2005). Palermo e Monreale. Florence: Bonechi.
  • Almsaodi, Aymn. The Desert Race.
  • Appleton, D (2005). The World in the Middle Ages. University of Michigan.
  • Langdale, Allan (2015). Palermo: Travels in the City of Happiness.
  • Official website (in Italian)
  • Tourist Information Centre
  • Palermo Tourist Board
  • Palermo Coupon
  • Things to do in Palermo
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