Mark, one of our travelers visited Sicilia and it brings us this tourist guide consisting of various destinations on the wonderful island. This section is dedicated to Palermo. We hope it will be of great help!
In the next photo, the Palatine Chapel, one of the most visited monuments in all of Sicily.
Recently refurbished by the Würth Insurance Company, with the idea of "Restituire the Palatine Chapel ai siciliani, all´Italia ed al mondo intero."
Indeed, its wooden coffered ceiling, with Byzantine mosaics from the XNUMXth century, its walls covered with marble and its mosaic floors forming geometric figures, achieve a very beautiful set, which attracts visitors from all over the world. The mosaics depict scenes from the Old Testament with incredible precision and dexterity (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. Muslim artists worked applying unknown techniques and more typical of mosques. It was ordered to be built by Ruggero II in 1132, being the court chapel. 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 17:45 p.m. (last ticket issued at 17:00 p.m.). On Sundays and holidays, from 8:15 a.m. to 13:00 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, the second floor (Royal Apartments…) is accessed through a beautiful pink marble staircase.
Other museum spaces:
When you leave the Wall, you come across an interesting Bookstore, which I recommend that you visit.
The cloister, where it is accessed. Inside, archaeological remains of the Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultures are exhibited (and curiously some piece of ceramics from the Valencian area of Paterna - Manises.)
The Museum is a bit difficult to find, even if you ask for it. I asked a group of policemen, in Via Maqueda, a few meters from their location and they did not know. Its three floors of shelves and display cabinets are located in a convent, the Olivella, built in the late 1866th and early XNUMXth centuries. In XNUMX its director was Antonio Salinas, who promoted it and gave it the almost definitive air (hence the name, at present, of the museum).
The fountain setting is a place to sit and rest, have a good time. For tourists, it is a distraction to observe and photograph the turtles in 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 crater recovered from art dealers and the remains of a wreck, sunk as a result of a battle in 241 BC. C.
Opening hours and ticket prices
Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 13:30 p.m.
From Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 13:30 p.m. and from 15:00 p.m. to 18:30 p.m.
General public: € 4,00
People from 18 to 25: € 2,00
Residents in the Province: € 1,00
In the next photo, the façade of the Royal Palace (Palace of the Normans), on the first floor of which is the Palatine Chapel and on the second floor, the remains of the Punic Wall (already seen previously).
This palace is built on Punic remains, on an Arab defensive building from the 1.130th century. And it is Ruggero II, who ordered its construction in the year 8. The visit to the Palazzo dei Normanni, can be done between 15:17 and 15:8, at the price of € 50:XNUMX, including in the entrance, the visit to the Palatine Chapel, the Royal Apartments, the King's Room Ruggero and the Punic Wall.
On the 2nd floor there is a hall of the Sicilian Parliament.
Also in the same building, near the entrance to the Punic Wall, there is a room dedicated to temporary exhibitions, specifically the Luca di Montalbo Room, which we include here because when buying the entrance to the Palace of the Normans, including the Palatine Chapel and the Apartments Real (at the price of € 8:50, as we already said), they practically force you to buy the ticket for the "Mostrasul ¿Transisionismo?" The expressive force of matter, with the participation of the artists Barbará Bou chet and María Mantegna.
The ticket price: € 1,50 (Sold at the same time as the Palatine Chapel ticket).
So called, because the Praetorium, the Municipal Palace, the City Hall are located there. If we made a figurative cross, with a horizontal axis that went from the Garibaldi Theater, in the Plaza Ruggero Séptimo and with a vertical axis, in whose upper part, there would be the New Gate and in the lower part, the Happy Door and the Port (very next) in the center of everything, of the monumental, artistic and visitable Palermo, there would be the Plaza Pretoria, with its fountain. (Of this, with the names of the streets and avenues we will speak more widely in: Tour and opinion). The fountain has a long history, it was ordered to be built in 1.555 and its destination was not, in any way, what it has today. It was destined for a stately villa in Florence. But at 1.575 it is at its current point. And surrounded by what? Well, of churches, including the closest ones, the list would be rather long. And she suffered all kinds of seizures, including amputations of the male sexual organs. (They say that they were produced by the nuns of neighboring convents) and popularly, it is known as the Fuente de las Vergüenzas. It is the work of the Florentine artist Fco. Camilliani. Currently undergoing restoration (since 1998).
Quattro Canti, four corners, in Plaza Villena, at the confluence of the two main arteries of the city (Vittorio Emanuele and Maqueda), very close, "glued" to Plaza Pretoria, with its fountain and what was said in that set apart in terms of its important geographical location.
Here at this crossroads, in the historic and baroque center of the city, the problem of traffic and noise ... The best, to be protected.
Four corners, four buildings, four fountains, let's 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 recesses 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 niches 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 roads mentioned so many times (via Maqueda and via Corso Vittorio Emanuele), which at their 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.
In the next photo (and also, in a later one where it can be seen from the sea ...), the Happy Door, the door of happiness ... They say that the aristocracy, who traveled by horse-drawn carriage, here ordered their coachman 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 that he put the name of his wife, Felice, on the door. Also and curiously, this viceroy was famous in the city for his infidelities and constant flings.
Currently, as it is located at the end of the Vía Corso Vittorio Emanuele, next to the sea, it is a very popular place for the inhabitants of Palermo. Facing the sea, to the right there is a landscaped place that is very frequented by families. The Via Foro Italico Umberto I to San Erasmo (in Natural Places, there is a photo). And also, looking at the sea, to the left, in the other direction, the Port. Curiously, this area is where we heard the most sirens (from police and firefighters) and where traffic accidents were most frequent. (We will talk about this later).
Located at one end of the city, specifically at the end of Via Vittorio Emanuele, passing the Four Corners, the Cathedral (on the right) and the Royal Palace (on the left). It is a space, once past the Door, as more clear and that you breathe in a different way. There are small bars and cafes, with their terraces and it is advisable to sit and relax, after the baroque and flight attendant of the visit.
It was ordered to be built to celebrate a victory for the Spanish King Carlos V. And they say that it was in it, in his view of the city in 1535.
Via Vittorio Emanuele and passing through this gate, the New, 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.
Something that catches your attention, in a passing place. Walking in the direction of the Port, we find ourselves on a fairly busy road, this facade of which I am not going to comment, but which caught my attention.
Palermo is the city of contrasts, along large roads, with sumptuous palaces and aristocratic mansions, as soon as you turn, down any side street, you find yourself with deterioration, dirt and pure subsistence ... You wonder if the place is inhabited, you you fix 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 remains of the Second World War remain, from whose ravages they have not yet recovered.
Given its grandeur, it has had a series of modifications and changes in its long history: Built in 1184 by Archbishop G. Offamilio, wanting no other building to overshadow it and consecrated in 1185. In the XNUMXth century the façade was completed; the interior very similar to the current one, is from the XNUMXth century. The Tower is also from that time. If we look at the previous photograph, its exterior is of impressive and huge proportions, its interior, made of marble, is something else, nothing worth highlighting. It does guard the tombs of the Norman kings, viceroys of Sicily and the emperors of the Hohenstaufen family. Highlighting the tomb of Constanza de Aragón (with its crown of gold and precious stones).
Admission is free and its hours are as follows:
Monday to Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 19:00 p.m.
Sundays and holidays from 8:00 a.m. to 13:30 p.m. and from 16:00 p.m. to 19:00 p.m.
To enter to see his treasure, you have to pay: € 2,00
More photos and information of the Cathedral in this Photo gallery.
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 in its time that served as a separation between the Port and the Cove. Work of the artist M. Carnalivari.
Open to the public during normal hours of religious worship.
Near the road Rome and close to modern commercial establishments and where the Vucciria Market begins.
From Monday to Friday, it is open from 8:00 am, until the end of the 12:00 mass. And on weekends, from 8:00 a.m. to 14:00 p.m. and from 17:00 p.m. to 20:00 p.m. The cloister deserves to be visited, it is very beautiful.
The Tower (see next photo) with mullioned windows was built in 1143, ordered to be built by Jorge de Antioquia. The Baroque-style side and the façade were not finished until the XNUMXth century.
At the beginning of the XIII century, Greek worship was officiated; in 1433 Alfonso de Aragón gave it to a very close Christian monastery and today Orthodox worship is celebrated. (It is the preferred place for couples in Palermo, to get married by 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 13:00 p.m. and from 15:30 p.m. to 17:30 p.m. On Sundays and holidays, from 8:30 a.m. to 13:00 p.m., with mass at 10:00 a.m. It is worth it to go and give a donation that they ask you, upon entering.
The mosaics in the dome are exceptional and deserve to be observed calmly, sit on a bench and contemplate them. A mosaic stands out where King Ruggero II is represented, dressed in his best finery, crowned by Christ as the founder of his Church.
Harmonious and beautiful 1277th century church, completed in XNUMX, with the XNUMXth century façade that appears in the photo below, where its artistic rose window (recently restored) stands out.
Visiting hours are from Monday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 17:30 p.m. and on weekends and holidays, from 7:00 a.m. to 13:00 p.m. Inside the Church it is worth highlighting the representation of the eight virtues, in statues by G. Serpotta.
When leaving the Palace of the Normans, returning to the center of the city you find this church and the sign in the following photo. A small alms, as a ticket 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 on the rise, given its narrowness, but especially on the descent. I didn't count the "bumps." 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 can 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 to Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 19:00 p.m. and holidays from 9:00 a.m. to 14:00 p.m.
Really, go up, it's worth it. It is a good application of your time ...
Very close to the Church to another Norman church (which we already talked about: La Martorana), full of red crosses. I ask the girl at the door about that cross. She tells me that it corresponds to the Royal Order of Knights of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. On the numbered entry, that cross also appeared, but not the price; Suggested donation: € 1,50. Well employed.
In "a span of land" are, the Plaza Pretoria, with its fountain, the Martorana and San Cataldo.
Visiting hours, from Monday to Saturday, are from 9:00 a.m. to 14:00 p.m. and from 15:30 p.m. to 19:00 p.m.
If you want to see the photograph of the cross that presides over the Altar you can visit the San Cataldo photo gallery. (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.)
In the photograph the Garibaldi Politeama, designed by Architect GD Al meyda in 1866, in a neoclassical shape and curved enclosure, topped by horsemen on horseback.
This would be another end of my theoretical cross-shaped tour. The New Gate, the Happy Gate, the Central Train Station and the Garibaldi Theater, where I started my tour of the city. In the center of that cross: Plaza Villena, with the Four Corners and the Fontana Pretoria. In the next photo the front of the Bellini Theater, (now a restaurant).
It can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 14:30 p.m.
If in the previous Theater (the Garibaldi), the bronze horsemen stood out, here their lions stand out on the sides, as if they were their guardians.
In the following photo, a poster for a Teatro de Pupi Siciliano (Glove and string puppet theater: Pupis). Also of silhouettes.
Probably the most endearing and royal of the Palermo markets. Everything you can imagine, from the Palermo of always. From prescription glasses to rubber tampons from the Gestapo. All used.
It starts, as we have already said, from the Church of San Domingo (in the Plaza de Sto. Domingo) and extends through the adjacent alleys.
I visited this market accompanied by three young Italian students of Spanish (one of them had "grown up" there and her father owns a shoe store); I remember his expression when he told me: Very, very careful with the backpack. And his gesture for me to put it on my chest and not on my back. The truth is that it seemed a fairly quiet place, merchandise stalls 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 sandwiches, soups and sweets, there are curious relics of the area. The schedule, well I couldn't say, nor did I ask.
The Palermo trail, with various objects, for those who like to visit this type of environment.
In the next photograph we see a “post” of the Rastro.
One of the walks of the Botanical Garden of Palermo.
Those in charge of the Botanical Garden tell you with satisfaction that it is an institution open to the public, which hierarchically depends on the University. The Garden represents the most important educational and scientific structure of the Department of Botanical Sciences and it is also the origin of the development of botany since 1795, the date of the Garden's inauguration.
The origin of the Garden dates back to 1779, the date on which the Academy of Royal Studies was created in Palermo, corresponding to what the university is today. He studies medicinal plants especially in depth, both in their pedagogical and practical aspects. It is also worth noting its important collection of seeds and fruits.
Very pleasant to visit for plant lovers, with a schedule from 9:00 a.m. to 20:00 p.m. (from April to October) and from 9:00 a.m. to 17:00 p.m. (from November to March). These hours from Monday to Saturday. And on Sundays, all year round, from 9:00 a.m. to 14:00 p.m. The ticket price is € 4,00
Another important green space in the city and next to the Botanical Garden. It constitutes a playful area for the inhabitants of the city, where all kinds of parties and even conventions of political parties are held, because “… all the plants that I was used to seeing, imprisoned in large pots, live beautiful and free, under the free sky ”. This is what Goethe wrote in 1787 in his Trip to Italy and referred to the physical space, consisting of the Botanical Garden and Villa Julia, so called because it was ordered to be done by Viceroy Nicolò Palma, in honor of his wife Giulia.
If we go down the Corso Vittorio Emanuele road (of which we have talked so much), leaving the Church of S. María de Catena aside and passing through Porta Felice and turn a little to the right (in the direction of our march ), you find yourself a perfect place to sit and with all the tranquility of the world, have a cappuccino and browse the local newspapers.
Right in front, is the Tyrrhenian Sea, where Carthaginians, Phoenicians (hence its name: Panormos, which means port), Arabs sailed (there were so many buildings that were built, that a traveler came to call Palermo the second Medina ), Normans and Spanish. I turn to my right, leaving the sea on my left. The place invites me to relax a little more and rest, regardless of the weather. The promenade is lined with benches decorated with multicolored polka dots. Some of them even keep a kind of pillow, which invites you to recline and rest even more. The truth is that everything is calm here.
Retracing what I have walked, I head towards La Cala and the Port. I walk north, bordering the sea, leaving Porta Felice and the Church of S. María de Catena on my left. It is the view that appears in the following photograph. You can see the moored boats and Monte Pellegrino further in the background. Here the panorama is already different. Cars travel at a very high speed. The beeps of the same, the sirens of the ambulances are more frequent, even than in the Cuatro Esquinas, the center of the historical and baroque Palermo. Here I witnessed two traffic accidents (a good bump between two cars and also between a car and a moped). Here, in addition to scaring traffic, if you go a little deeper into the port neighborhood, modern constructions of dubious taste coexist with old and popular constructions, which still make visible the damage 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 go to the nice train station and ask for the train schedule to go to Palermo. And they tell you that a part by bus (to Piraineto) and the rest by train, to Palermo. You sit in the small station bar, a lively gathering takes place at the tables next to them and they encourage you to come closer. The person in charge of the premises is very friendly. Railroad employees come, other travelers… 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 a very beautiful sunset occurs), Villagrazia de Casini,… and Piraineto.
As the arrival in Palermo, at its Central Station, was near, a comment that the people who had made the journey from Trapani together made me, that I was very careful with my backpack and pockets, since thefts and jerks there are frequent. Well, it seemed to me to be a fairly clean train station, with left-luggage service and some functional ticket vending machines, with the possibility of doing the whole process, in Spanish. Well, in this section. I came a little tired from the trip, which was long, and I decide to take a taxi. I tell him: In Baia del Corrallo, where I had my accommodation reserved, the taxi driver talks to other colleagues who were at the same stop, near the station and says: "35 euros." As well. The truth is that the experience is curious, why? Well, because of the speed it could reach, because of avoiding passers-by in pedestrian crossings; because the traffic lights and the "stops" were indicative and ... because he had the radio on (Inter was playing, of which he was a "fan"), the taxi station sounded quite loud and he was talking, loudly, on the mobile phone . And he was explaining to me, the incidents of the three. Well, at the end of the journey, he gave me a brochure, with a "Benvenuti a Palermo", where he offered the possibility of taking a tour of the city by taxi, with an approximate duration of 3 hours and a price of € 120,00. And also, it indicated the possibility of doing it by horse carriage, 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 pay for the journey. Taxis are usually taken at their stops (next to the main monuments) or by phone. As for buses, they are practical and tend to circulate on the main roads through reserved spaces, frequently invaded by mopeds and cars. The price of each ticket is € 0,85 and is purchased at the “tabacheries”. It is valid for 90 minutes, from boarding the bus, from the first validation. It has a sanction of € 52,00, "per biglietto non convalidato". Also, they sell tickets for a whole day.
For a particular issue of mine, I stayed at the Baia del Corrallo (12 km from the Port of Palermo). At that time, they were the local festivals, in honor of San Cosme and San Damián. The place is very nice and the place is quiet.
An anecdote from a person I know, who lives in Baia de Corrallo. He went from Erasmus to Valencia, the year that Italy won the soccer world championship. And he told me that the two times he cried the most in his life were there. The first, when he arrived, because in no way did he want to stay and the second, when it was time 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 you their rooms, more or less adapted and cozy, they have a good number of beds. How to choose? Well, we can leave the area. Or better, where not to stay. We could eliminate the area of the Train Station, the port and those next to the Vucciria Market. And recommended, because the areas near monuments, such as the Teatro Máximo and Cuatro Esquinas. So whatever you want to visit, you will have it one step away. On the internet and / or in printed guides (there are several that give you extensive information), I think it is an easy task.
There are a series of tourist information places, scattered around the city, at points such as Parliament Square (very close to the Palace of the Normans), Bellini Square (near the church of S. Cataldo and the Fontana Pretoria), the Central Railway Station, via Cavour (next to the Massimo Theater), Port (Vía del Mare, on the Piave Pier), R. Settimo Square (next to the Politeama Garibaldi Theater). Also in Sferracavallo (Via Torretta). The opening hours to the public are as follows: From 9:00 a.m. to 13:00 p.m. and from 15:00 p.m. to 19:00 p.m., Monday to Saturday.
We attach a map of the city of Palermo. And let's try to place in it, at the top, the Cathedral, San Juan de los Ermitaños, the Palace of the Normans and the New Gate. In the lower one, the Church of S. María de Catena, Puerta Feliz and La Cala. 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, it can be said that there are all the spaces of interest that we have talked about. 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 visiting the monumental and artistic areas of the city of Palermo. I had "designed" from me before 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 route, with the Plaza Villena (Cuatro Esquinas), the 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 Vías R. Settimo, Maqueda (and its parallel Vía Roma, with modern commercial establishments). These are at least five days of visit and sitting down to eat, have a beer or a cappuccino, in places where you can see the city go by in front of you and observe its chaotic traffic, people passing through the pedestrian crossings, observing the null respect of the motorist or motorist for the pedestrian. I did not go to Monreale, relatively close to the city center (A city bus can bring you closer). Perhaps it is worth going back another time. During 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 a whole morning to it and then sit on a nearby terrace and review the abundant material that the museum reception people kindly provide me. Also, visit the Martorana twice… Going around the Cove and the Port, with their establishments a little different from the city center, is distracted. I also had a good time with a pleasant temperature and I was able to enjoy the sun. I passed by and fell in love with the city of Palermo and its people ...
Palermo is the capital of Sicily and in 1787, JW Goethe wrote: "Italy without Sicily produces no image in the soul, here is the key to everything."
On the penultimate 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 go home. With Terravision (www.terravision.eu), a bus company, with a stop at the Plaza de la Estación de Ferrocarril, on the corner of Via Roma, they left for the Birgi airport (close to Trapani, as I said). An exclusive service for company passengers Ryanair. To be taken to the airport, in addition to the ticket (at the price of € 12,00 the trip Palermo - Birgi Airport), they asked you boarding pass.
And so, without further mishap, the return, having spent some unforgettable days and wanting to return. With a question: How much left me to see ?.