1 – The Church of Casa Professa
The Church of Casa Professa is the most eloquent expression of the Sicilian baroque, here displayed in full opulence and splendor.
The Church, adjacent to the Jesuit mother house ( Casa Professa), was begun in the late 16th century and consacrated in 1636. Its simple façade,adorned with an 18th-century statue of “Our Lady of the Groto”, contrasts with the extremely rich decoration of the interior.
Among the many renowned artists who contributed to embellish the Church are: Ignazio Marabitti, Pietro Novelli, Vito D’Anna, Giacomo and Procopio Serpotta.
The bombing in 1943 caused heavy damage to the building: after a series of restructuring and restoration works, the monument has been returned to the city in all its glory.
Info and opening time
2 – Le stanze al Genio Museum
The name refers to the nearby Fontana del Genio of Palermo in Piazza Rivoluzione. Once through the large portal already on the stairs we will be drawn to the rich flooring and the original frescoes of the late eighteenth century palace.
What stands before you is a unique collection of over 2,300 Italian majolica tiles. They are pieces of a huge artistic puzzle that comes mainly from southern Italy, Campania and Sicily first on the list, and covering a period from the late sixteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth. These collectors will take you into another world, where art has the measurement of a small walkable square.
Visit Le stanze al Genio Museum (only in italian)
3 – Walking in Mondello
A dazzling, very clear sand is the palette of the sea, the sun and the clouds that depict countless shades from turquoise to emerald green. Colours that remain etched in the memory. A long beach with a gentle descent into the sea. From spring to autumn, it provides a safe place to swim for even those less able to swim or for children.
The sea promenade under the tall pine trees, palm trees and sporadic old Liberty style villas, will allow us put thoughts in order, chat, go jogging, or just enjoy the soothing smell of the iodine-rich sea.
The fishing village called “la piazza” waits for us to refresh ourselves with its cafés and restaurants by the sea, or seafood takeaways, sandwiches deliciously ready to eat. The bathing season is from May to September: during this period the beach is equipped with deckchairs and beach umbrellas and the characteristic multicoloured wooden cabins. Mondello abandons its solitary and reflective winter clothes and is filled with carefree voices, of sunscreen and kids on scooters. The change of season is marked by the World Festival on the beach, the famous international exhibition of water activities.
4 – An opening night at the Massimo
An opening night in the largest opera theatre in Italy, the third-largest European Theatre after the Paris Opera and the Vienna State Opera..
A symbol of the grandeur of the Liberty period when Palermo was so beautiful and elegant that it charmed and entertained the most coveted European courts. Today you can plan a visit to the city and attend a prima (opening night) of Opera, ballet, symphonic music, finding still the atmosphere of the glorious times of Florio.
5 – Puppet Theatre – UNESCO Heritage
It was the first Italian Heritage to be included among the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity – UNESCO 2008.
Throughout the island you can attend performances of the Puppet Theatre with good puppeteer artists, but the Puppet Theatre in Palermo who have turned this tradition into an icon of world art, and with the Museo Internazionale delle Marionette Antonio Pasqualino they are truly a unique attraction.
6 – Palazzo Comitini, Palazzo Sant’Elia, Palazzo delle Ferrovie and Palazzo Jung
Now let’s discover some of the historic buildings of Palermo. A walking route starting from via Maqueda, where we can find Palazzo Comitini and Palazzo Sant’Elia.
Then we take Via Roma and run across Palazzo delle Ferrovie, the former seat of The State Railways. Finally we reach Lincoln Street and Palazzo Jung.
Let’s discover the different souls of Palermo: the baroque one of Palazzo Comitini and Palazzo Sant’Elia, two eighteenth century buildings with their majestic façades. Then the Deco soul that we can recognize in the architecture of the early twentieth century as in Palazzo delle Ferrovie. And finally the Belle epoque style of Palazzo Jung and its tropical garden.
7 – Emotional Tour
A place where you would not go even if you were dead? That’s what they all say, then they go to see it. Here 8,000 bodies mummified by the Capuchins are kept belonging to noblemen, bourgeois and representatives of the clergy.
The state of preservation of the countless corpses exhibited means the cemetery of the Convent of the Capuchin Friars is known as the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, one of the most impressive places to visit in the world. A macabre spectacle that brings out the uses, customs and traditions of the society in the city of Palermo which lived from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Here is also the most beautiful mummy in the world, the little Rosalia.
8 – Palazzo Abatellis, Palazzo Mirto, Piazza Marina, Villa Garibaldi, Palazzo Steri
Palazzo Abatellis. L’ Annunciata by Antonello da Messina deserves a visit… In the ancient district known as Kalsa, Palazzo Abatellis houses the Regional Gallery Of Modern Art since the fifties. The gallery is managed by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.
The building dating back to the end of the XV century belonged to Francesco Abatellis, the Portulano Master (port master) of the Kingdom. It is a wonderful example of gothic-catalan architecture.
After the death Francesco’s wife, the palace was transformed into a monastery, Santa Maria della Pietà and it underwent several modifications to became suitable to monastic life.
After the Second World War, the building, badly damaged, was restored by the venetian architect Carlo Scarpa whose project aimed to create armony between the buildings and the works inside it.
The display was organized in different sections: the ground floor houses sculptures while the first floor paintings.The works arrangement is innovative: the use of metallic or wooden supports on coloured backgrounds made of fabric panels, venetian plaster or wood, exalts the beauty of the pictures.
In the beautiful rooms of the historical Palace we find masterpieces by Domenico and Antonello Gagini, Filippo Paladini, Antonello da Messina, Francesco Laurana… Other works by Pietro Novelli, Antoon Van Dyck, Vito D’Anna are exposed in the new wing.
Palazzo Mirto. A beautiful and noble residence, full of history.
Here we are, in the historic centre of Palermo, called Kalsa. For four centuries Palazzo Mirto has been the home of the noble family Filangeri, and later on of the Lanza Filangieri Princes of Mirto. The building dates back to the XIII century, but it has been modified over time. The rooms are carefully decorated, with furniture and carpets dating back to the 7th and 9th century: Murano chandeliers, lacquered Chinese panels, clocks, tapestries and porcelains. The somptuous, royal rooms surround a terrace decorated with a rocaille fountain. The house-museum extends over three floors: on the ground floor we find the kitchen and the stables; the first floor was used for the official celebrations and ceremonies while the second floor was reserved to the family and the closest friends.
Piazza Marina, Villa Garibaldi and Palazzo Steri. Villa Garibaldi is situated in Piazza Marina. It is located in the Kalsa district, in the very historical centre. Far from the city chaos, it offers beautiful shady corners during the hottest hours of the day. It was realized by the architect Giovan Battista Filippo Basile between 1861 and 1864 and it is dedicated to the hero Giuseppe Garibaldi to celebrate the unification of Italy. It is full of exotic plants, among which the huge Ficus macrophylla subsp. columnaris, also called Ficus magnolioide, typical of the rain forests. With its cubic 10.000 metres of leaf head, it is the greatest tree of Europe. That’s why it attracts so many people from all over the world.
In the evening the square changes its appearance. In the dozens of restaurants and bars around the square, you can taste typical dishes, drink wine, have a drink, listen to live music, popular songs or try the delicious street food. On Sunday morning there is a characteristic antique market, where you find unobtainable and special items such as vintage clothes, books and other low cost objects.
In front of the garden there is the huge Palazzo Chiaramonte, also known as Palazzo Steri, today the seat of the University Chancellor’s Office. Formerly it was the residence of the Chiaramonte’s family, then it became the centre of the Inquisition. Inside we find the famous prisoners’ graffiti, an evidence of the suffering endured in that institution. Near Palazzo Chiaramonte we can see the Church of Santa Maria della Catena, located between Piazza Marina and the ancient port of Cala. Built in the XV century, it is the symbol of Palermo’s gothic-catalan tradition.
For the more romantic (or nostalgic) equally exciting is the carriage tour, from the top of which you can see and feel the beauty of the historic centre.
9 – Palatine Chapel, just to find out how rich it was…
The Palatine Chapel is the setting which alone makes it worth visiting Palermo. Started in 1130, the year of the coronation of Ruggero II, the first king of Sicily. It was completed over a period of 13 years and consecrated according to an inscription in the dome, in 1143. In this church, defined by Maupassant “the finest religious jewel dreamed by human thought“, is implemented, translated into visual terms, the fusion of many different characters of which Sicily was formed: the European, Sicilian, Byzantine, Arabic.
The chapel is shaped like a western basilica with three naves divided by granite columns with rich gilded Corinthian capitals. With a more Western-style, though influenced by southern taste, the decorated floors and the inlays of the steps, balustrades and of the lower part of the walls, as well as, finally, the giant pulpit (small stage for the sermons), set with gold, malachite and porphyry, and the Easter candelabrum, is a veritable bestiary of marble, donated by Archbishop Ugo di Palermo at the coronation of Guglielmo, son of Ruggero II. The mosaics are the finest products of Byzantine art, unmatched in any of the churches of Constantinople. Differing from another, from the Christ Pantocrator of the dome, to the angels surrounding him and the Evangelists engrossed in their studies, which are the oldest mosaics.
The Islamic tradition is finally represented by wooden ceiling of “muqarnas” (stalactites), as the most unexpected covering for a Christian church. This is, in fact, the classic ceiling that we would expect to find in the largest and most elegant mosques but never in a church. Intricate decorations adorn the stalactites and, more unique than rare in the history of Islamic art, there are decorations comprising human figures. The Arabic artists, in fact, in the tolerant atmosphere of Norman Palermo, were convinced to take a risk with these types of figures and so, with the help of binoculars, we can distinguish today realistic scenes of daily life of dignitaries and busy maids.
10 – Street food and ancient markets
A recent ranking, compiled by the American network Virtual Tourist, placed Palermo in 5th place among the best producers of “street food” in the world.
Today the street food tour is a must along with the tour of the ancient Palermo markets, Vucciria, Ballarò, Capo and Borgo Vecchio, now the focus of Palermo’s movida or nightlife scene.
It is a quick and easy way (generally a morning tour or a tour by night) to pass through a couple of millennia of history, art, aromas, flavours and different civilizations.
In Palermo’s side street, you can find all kind of goods: among stalls filled with colorful merchandise, the Palermitans often use to eat on the street cooked food to spit with their hands. Panelle e cazzilli, pane con la milza, arancine, sfinciuni, stigghiole and polpo bollito (fritters, bread with spleen, rice croquettes, a type of pizza, grilled skevered lamb or goat
innards, and boiled octopus) are just some of the treats available here – thanks to wich Palermo has justly earned its name as one the street-food capitals of the world.
Between taste and tradition, don’t miss the Sanlorenzo market . It is located in an old citrus farm from 1940s and it was renovated combining the original structure with modern design inserts and a specific look over the reuse. Different culinary specialties in nine workshops and a selection of about 2,800 products from 250 Sicilian suppliers. You can go shopping or eat food cooked expressed by shops, according to traditional local recipes. A real market hall that collects some of the most interesting selected gastronomic realities of Sicily: the Slow Food Presidia, up to all the other products that give rise to the extraordinary biodiversity of Sicily, with its 29 products between PDO and PGI and 41 Presidia. You can choose from fried fish to the centrifuged fresh fruit and vegetables, from sfinciuni to the donkey’s mortadella. Find even tea and exotic fruits of Sicily. Also you can find events including cooking shows,tastings, lessons with chefs and wine experts, as well as concerts, shows for all ages.