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—  Comune  —
Comune di Palermo
A collage of Palermo

Coat of arms
Palermo is located in Italy
Location of Palermo in Italy
Coordinates: 38°07′N 13°22′E / 38.117°N 13.367°E / 38.117; 13.367
Country Italy
Region Sicily
Province Palermo (PA)
Founded 734 BC
 - Mayor Diego Cammarata
 - Total 158.9 km2 (61.4 sq mi)
Elevation 14 m (46 ft)
Population (30 April 2009)
 - Total 657,935
 Density 4,140.6/km2 (10,724/sq mi)
 - Demonym Palermitani
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 - Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 90100
Dialing code 091
Patron saint Saint Rosalia
Saint day 15 July
Website Official website

Palermo About this sound listen (Italian pronunciation: [paˈlɛrmo], Sicilian: Palermu, Latin: Panormus, from Greek: Πάνορμος, Panormos) is a historic city in Southern Italy, the capital of the autonomous region Sicily and the Province of Palermo. The city is noted for its rich 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 north west of the island of Sicily, right by the Gulf of Palermo in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The city was founded by the Phoenicians, but named by the Ancient Greeks as Panormus meaning all-port. Palermo became part of the Roman Republic and eventually part of the Byzantine Empire, for over a thousand years. For a brief period it was under Arab rule during the Emirate of Sicily where it first became a capital. Following the Norman reconquest, Palermo would become capital of a new kingdom from 1130 to 1816, the Kingdom of Sicily. Eventually it would be united with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification of 1860.

The population of the 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 itself has a population of around 670 thousand people, the inhabitants are known as Palermitans or poetically panormiti, the languages spoken by its inhabitants are the Italian language and the Sicilian dialect.

Palermo is Sicily's cultural, economic and touristic capital. It is a city rich in history, culture, art, music and food, and 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.[1] Palermo is the main Sicily's industrial and commercial center: the main industrial sectors include tourism, services, commerce and agriculture.[2] Palermo currently has an international airport, and a significant underground economy.[citation needed]

The religion of Roman Catholicism is highly important in Palermitan culture, the patron saint of the city is Saint Rosalia, her feast day on July 15 is perhaps the biggest social event in the city. The area attracts significant amounts of tourists each year and is widely known for its colourful fruit, vegetable and fish market at the heart of Palermo known as the Vucciria.[3]



Ancient era

Ancient Sicani cave art at Addaura.

Evidence for human settlement in the area now known as Palermo goes back to the Pleistocene Epoch, around 8000 BC.[4] This evidence is present in the form of cave drawings at nearby Addaura crafted by the Sicani, who according to Thucydides arrived from the Iberian Peninsula (perhaps Catalonia).[5][6] During 734 BC the Phoenicians, a sea trading peoples from the north of ancient Canaan built a small settlement on the natural habour of Palermo, some sources suggest they named the settlement "Ziz."[7] The Greeks, who were the most dominant culture on the island of Sicily due to the powerful city state of Syracuse to the east, instead called the settlement Panormus. Its Greek name means "all-port" and it was named as so because of its fine natural harbour.[7] Palermo was then passed on to the Phoenician's descendants and successors, in the form of the Carthaginians.[8]

During this period it was a centre of commerce; however a power struggle between the Greeks and the Carthaginians broke out in the form of the Sicilian Wars, causing unrest. It was from Palermo that Hamilcar's fleet which was defeated at the Battle of Himera was launched.[8] Palermo eventually became a Greek colony when Pyrrhus of Epirus gained it during the Pyrrhic War period in 276 BC.[9] However as the Romans flooded into Sicily during the First Punic War, the city became under Roman rule only three decades later. The Romans made sure that, in the words of Roman consul M. Valerian to the Roman Senate; "no Carthaginian remains in Sicily". This period was quite a calm time for Palermo, which was growing into an important Roman trade centre, also during this period Christianity first began to be practised in Palermo.[9][10]

The Middle Ages

As the Roman Empire was falling apart, Palermo fell under the control of several Germanic tribes; first were the Vandals in 440 AD under the rule of their king Geiseric. The Vandals had already invaded other parts of Western Europe establishing themselves as a significant force.[11] However, they soon lost these newly acquired possessions to another East Germanic tribe in the form of the Goths.[11] The Ostrogothic conquest under Theodoric the Great began in 488; although the Goths were Germanic, Theodoric sought to revive Roman culture and government instead.[12] 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 General Belisarius who was commissioned by Eastern Emperor Justinian I who solidified his rule in the following years.[13][14]

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

After the Byzantines were betrayed by admiral Euphemius, who fled to Tunisia and begged the Aghlabid leader Ziyadat Allah to help him there was a Muslim conquest of Sicily, putting in place the Emirate of Sicily.[15] The Arab rulers allowed the natives freedom of religion on the condition that they paid a tax. Although their rule was short in time, it was then that Palermo (Balharm during Arab rule) displaced Syracuse as the prime city of Sicily; it was said to have competed with Córdoba and Cairo in terms of importance and splendor.[16] The Arabs also introduced many agricultural items which remain a mainstay of Sicilian cuisine.[11] After dynasty related quarrels however, there was a Christian reconquest in the form of the Normans from the Duchy of Normandy, descendants of the Vikings; the family who returned the city to Christianity were called the Hautevilles.[15] Palermo was conquered in 831 by Arabs from North Africa and became the capital of the Arabian Emirate of Sicily until 1072 where it was back under Christian rule due largely to the efforts of Robert Guiscard and his army, who is regarded as a hero by the natives.[17] For more than two hundred years Palermo, was the capital of a flourishing Islamic civilisation in Sicily.[18] By 1050, Palermo had a population of 350,000, making it one of the largest cities in Europe, second only to Islamic Spain's capital Cordoba, which had a population of 450,000.[19]

It was under Roger II of Sicily that his holdings of Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula were promoted, from the County of Sicily into the Kingdom of Sicily; the kingdom was ruled from Palermo as its capital, with the king's court held at Palazzo dei Normanni. Much construction was undertaken during this period, such as the building of the Palermo Cathedral. The Kingdom of Sicily became one of the wealthiest states in Europe, as wealthy as the fellow Norman state, the Kingdom of England.[20] Though the city's population had dropped to 150,000, it became the largest city in Europe, due to the larger decline in Cordoba's population.[19]

Sicily in 1194 fell under the control of the Holy Roman Empire. Palermo was the preferred city of the Emperor Frederick II. Muslims of Palermo were migrated and expelled during Holy Roman rule. After an interval of Angevin rule (1266–1282), Sicily came under the house of Aragon. By 1330, Palermo's population had declined to 51,000.[19] From 1479, it was ruled by the Kingdom of Spain until 1713 and between 1717–1718. Palermo was also managed by Savoy between 1713–1717 and 1718–1720 and Austria between 1720–1734.

Two Sicilies

After the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), Sicily was handed over to the Savoia, but in 1734 it was again a Bourbon possession. Charles III chose Palermo for his coronation as King of Sicily. Charles had new houses built for the increased population, while trade and industry grew as well. However, 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 event following the French Revolution in 1798. His son Alberto died on the way to Palermo and is buried in the city.

From 1820 to 1848 all Sicily was shaken by upheavals, which culminated on January 12, 1848, with the popular insurrection led by Giuseppe La Masa, the first one in Europe that year. A parliament and constitution were proclaimed. The first president was Ruggero Settimo. The Bourbons soon reconquered Palermo (May 1849), which remained under their rule until the appearance of Giuseppe Garibaldi.

This famous general entered Palermo with his troops (the “Thousands”) on May 27, 1860. After the plebiscite later that year Palermo and the whole of Sicily became part of the new Kingdom of Italy (1861).

Italian Unification and today

From that year onwards, Palermo followed the history of Italy as the administrative centre of Sicily. A certain economic and industrial growth was spurred by the Florio family. In the early 20th century Palermo expanded outside the old city walls, mostly to the north along the new boulevard, the Via della Libertà. This road would soon boast a huge number of villas in the Art Nouveau style or Stile Liberty as it is known in Italy. Many of these were built by the famous architect Ernesto Basile. The Grand Hotel Villa Igeia, built by Ernesto Basile for the Florio family, is a good example of Palermitan Stile Liberty. The Teatro Massimo was built in the same period by Basile and his son and was opened in 1897.

During World War II, Palermo was untouched until the Allies began to advance up Italy after 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. Six decades later the city centre has still not been fully rebuilt, and hollow walls and devastated buildings are commonplace.

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. Palermo's future seemed to look bright again. Unfortunately, many opportunities were lost in the coming decades, due to incompetence, incapacity, corruption and abuse of power.

The main topic of the contemporary age is the struggle against Mafia and bandits like Salvatore Giuliano, who controlled the neighbouring area of Montelepri. The Italian State had to share effective control, economic as well as the administrative, of the territory with the Mafiosi families.

The so-called "Sack of Palermo" is one of the major visible faces of this problem. The term is used today to indicate the heavy building speculations that filled the city with poor buildings. The reduced importance of agriculture in the Sicilian economy had led to a massive migration to the cities, especially Palermo, which swelled in size. Instead of rebuilding the city centre the town was thrown into a frantic expansion towards the north, where practically a new town was built. The regulatory plan for the expansion was largely ignored. 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. The Mafia played a huge role in this process, which was an important element in the Mafia's transition from a mostly rural phenomenon into a modern criminal organisation. The Mafia took advantage of corrupt city officials (a former mayor of Palermo, Vito Ciancimino, has been condemned for his bribery with Mafiosi) and protection coming from the Italian central government itself.

Many civil servants lost their life in the struggle against the criminal organisations of Palermo and Sicily. These include the Carabinieri general Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, the region’s president Piersanti Mattarella, Don Giuliani, a priest who had fought for the young people living in the suburbs, and courageous magistrates such as Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Today, Palermo is a city still struggling to recover from the devastation of World War II and the damage caused by decades of uncontrolled urban growth. The historic city centre is still partly in ruins, the traffic is horrific, and poverty is widespread. Being the city in which the Italian Mafia historically had its main interests, it has also been the place of several recent well-publicized murders. Situated on one of the most beautiful promontories of the Mediterranean, Palermo is anyway an important trading and business centre and the seat of a University frequented by many students coming from Islamic countries, as its relationships with Muslim world were never ceased.

Palermo is connected to the mainland through an international airport and an increasing number of maritime links. However, land connections remain poor. This and other reasons have until now thwarted the development of tourism. This has been identified as the main resource to exploit for the city's recovery, the marvellous legacy of three millennia of history and folklore.



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.[21]


Palermo experiences a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Koppen climate classification: Csa). Winters are mild and wet, while Summers are warm to hot, and dry. Palermo is one of the warmest cities in the Mediterranean, with an average annual ambient air temperature of 18.5 °C (65.3 °F). It receives approximately 2530 hours of sunshine per year.

Climate data for Palermo
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 14.8
Daily mean °C (°F) 11
Average low °C (°F) 8.2
Precipitation cm (inches) 7.16
Avg. precipitation days 9.7 10.0 8.7 6.1 3.2 1.6 0.8 1.6 4.1 8.3 9.4 10.8 74.3
Source: World Meteorological Organization (UN)[22]

Main sights

Panoramic view of Palermo from Monte Pellegrino.

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


  • Palermo Cathedral is an the city's cathedral and main church. It is characterized by the presence of different styles, due to a long history of additions, alterations and restorations, the last of which occurred in the 18th century. The cathedral is located at Corso Vittorio Emanuele, corner of Via Matteo Bonello, Palermo.
  • San Giovanni dei Lebbrosi
  • San Giovanni degli Eremiti (St. John of the Hermits) is a church in near the Palazzo dei Normanni. The church is notable for its brilliant red domes, which show clearly the persistence of Arab influences in Sicily at the time of its reconstruction in the 12th century. 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, with four orders of arcaded loggias, is instead a typical example of Gothic architecture.
  • Chiesa della Martorana also known as Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (Saint Mary of the Admiral), is also a church in Palermo. The church is annexed to the next-door church of San Cataldo and overlooks the Piazza Bellini in central Palermo. The original church was built in the form of a compact cross-in-square ("Greek cross plan"), a common south Italian and Sicilian variation on the standard middle Byzantine church type. The three apses in the east adjoin directly on the naos, instead of being separated by an additional bay, as was usual in contemporary Byzantine architecture in the Balkans and Asia Minor.[23] In the first century of its existence the church was expanded in three distinct phases; first through the addition of a narthex to house the tombs of George of Antioch and his wife; next through the addition of a forehall; and finally through the construction of a centrally-aligned campanile at the west. The campanile, which is richly decorated with three orders of arches and lodges with mullioned windows, still serves as the main entrance to the church. Significant later additions to the church include the Baroque façade which today faces onto the piazza. In the late 19th century, historically-minded restorers attempted to retain the church to its original state, although many elements of the Baroque modifications remain.[24]
  • San Cataldo is a church building, on the central Piazza Bellini. It is a notable example of Norman architecture. The church is annexed to that of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio.
  • Santa Maria della Gancia
  • Santa Maria della Catena is another church in the city. It was built in 1490-1520, designed by Matteo Carnilivari. Tha name derives from the presence, on one of the walls, of a chain (Italian: catena) which closed the Cala port.
  • San Giuseppe dei Teatini is a Baroque church in Palermo. It is located near the Quattro Canti, and is considered one of the most outstanding examples of the Sicilian Baroque in Palermo.
  • Oratorio di San Lorenzo
  • Oratorio del Rosario
  • Santa Teresa alla Kalsa, that derives its name from Al-Khalisa, an Arab term meaning elected. The church, constructed in 1686–1706 over the former emir's residence, is one of the most outstanding 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. For this temple Raphael painted his famous Sicilia's Spasimo, now in the Museo del Prado of Madrid. The church today is a fascinating air-open ruin, which occasionally houses exhibitions and musical shows.
  • the Church of the Jesus (Chiesa del Gesù) was built by the Jesuits in the centre of the city from 1564, over a pre-existing convent of Basilian monks. The edifice was further enlarged starting from 1591, becoming one of the most relevant examples of Sicilian Baroque, though retaining some severe late Renaissance fashion. The church was heavily damaged after the 1943 bombings, which destroyed most of the frescoes. The interior has a Latin cross plan with a nave and two aisles, characterized by a particularly rich decoration of marbles, tarsias and stuccoes, especially in the St. Anne's Chapel. At the right is the Casa Professa, with a 1685 portal and a precious 18th century cloister. The Church of the Jesus is home to the Municipal Library, placede here in 1775.
  • The church of St. Francis of Assisi, erected in what was once the market district of the city. It was built between 1255 and 1277 in the site of two pre-existing churches and was largely renovated in the 15th, 16th, 18th and 19th centuries, the latter after an earthquake. After the 1943 bombings, the church was restored to its Mediaeval 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 and Giacomo Gagini and Francesco Laurana, plus a noteworthy wooden choir dating from the 16th century. Of note are also the allegorical statues by Giacomo Serpotta (1723), also author of the stucco decoration.
  • The church of the Magione (officially church of the Holy Trinity), an ancient example of Norman architecture. The church was founded in 1191 by Matteo d'Ajello, who donated it to the Cistercian monks.

Palaces and museums

Palazzo dei Normanni, seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly.
The baroque Fontana Pretoria in the Piazza Pretoria.
  • Palazzo dei Normanni, one of the most beautiful Italian palaces and a notable example of Norman architecture, probably built over an Arab fortress. It houses the famous Cappella Palatina.
  • Zisa (1160) and Cuba, magnificent castles/houses used by the kings of Palermo for hunting. Similar buildings were common in northern Africa, but today these two are the only ones remaining. The Zisa houses the Islamic museum. The Cuba was once encircled by water.
  • Palazzo Chiaramonte
  • Palazzo Abatellis, with the Regional Gallery. It was 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 exposition in the museum has been designed by the architect Carlo Scarpa.
  • The Museo Archeologico Regionale is one the main museums of Italy: it includes numerous remains from Etruscan, Carthaginian, Roman and Hellenistic civilizations. It houses all the decorative parts from the Sicilian temples of Segesta and Selinunte.

Opera houses

Teatro Massimo opera house.
Politeama theatre.
  • The Teatro Massimo ("Greatest Theatre") was opened in 1897. Closed for renovation from 1974 until 1997, it is now carefully restored and has an active schedule. Enrico Caruso sang in a performance of La Gioconda during the opening season, returning for Rigoletto at the very end of his career. It is the largest theater in Italy and the third largest in Europe (8000 sm) .
  • The Teatro Politeama was built between 1867 and 1874.


  • 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 facades so that the square gets 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.

Other sights

Palermo Botanical Garden: the Winter Garden greenhouses.
The Quattro Canti under Christmas time.

The cathedral has a heliometer (solar "observatory") of 1690, one of a number[25] 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 N/S. 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 sun-rise, 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, founded in 1785, is the largest in Italy with a surface of 10 ha.

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

Close to the city is the 600 m-high Monte Pellegrino, offering a panorama of the city, its surrounding mountains and the sea.


Historical populations
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 2007, there were 666,552 people residing in Palermo (in which 1 million live in the greater Palermo area), of whom 47.6% were male and 52.4% were female. Minors (children ages 18 and younger) totalled 21.64 percent of the population compared to pensioners who number 16.54 percent. This compares with the Italian average of 18.06 percent (minors) and 19.94 percent (pensioners). The average age of Palermo resident is 37 compared to the Italian average of 42. In the five years between 2002 and 2007, the population of Palermo declined by 2.92 percent, while Italy as a whole grew by 3.56 percent. The reason for Palermo's decline is a population flight to the suburbs, and Northern Italy.[26][27] The current birth rate of Palermo is 10.75 births per 1,000 inhabitants compared to the Italian average of 9.45 births.

As of 2006, 97.79% of the population was of Sicilian/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%.[28]


Palermo has its own football team, U.S. Città di Palermo, playing in Italian Serie A and in UEFA Cup first round of the 2007–2008 season. The chairman is Maurizio Zamparini and the coach is Delio Rossi. The Targa Florio was an open road endurance car race held near Palermo. Founded in 1906, it used to be one of the oldest sports car racing events until it was discontinued in 1977 due to safety concerns but has since run as a rallying event.

Palermo was home to the grand depart of the 2008 Giro d'Italia. The initial stage was a 28.5 km long TTT (Team Time Trial) held on May 10.

Internazionali Femminili di Palermo is a WTA Tour Tier IV tournament in Palermo.


Being Sicily's administrative capital, Palermo is home to much of the region's main economic, financial, touristic and commercial life. The city currently hosts an international airport,[29] and Palermo's economic growth over the years has brought to the opening of many new businesses and entrepreneurial opportunities. The economy mainly relies on tourism and services, but also commerce, shipbuilding, trade and agriculture.[2] The city, however, still has high unemployment levels, high corruption and a significant black market empire (Palermo being the home of the Sicilian Mafia). Even though the city still suffers from widespread corruption, inefficient bureaucracy and organized crime (Mafia), Palermo's crime level has gone down dramatically, unemployment has been decreasing and many new, profitable, strategies (especially regarding tourism) have been introduced, making the city safer and better to live in.[2]

Patron saints

The patron saint of Palermo is Santa Rosalia, who is still widely venerated. On 14 July, people in Palermo celebrate the Festino, the most important religious event of the year. The Festino is a procession in the main street of Palermo to remember the miracle attributed to Santa Rosalia who, it is believed, freed the city from the Black Death in 1624. The cave where the bones of Santa Rosalia were discovered is on Monte Pellegrino (see above): when her relics were carried around the city three times, the plague was lifted. There is a Santuario marking the spot and can be reached via a scenic bus ride from the city below.

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 Ninfa and Saint Olivia.

Saint Lucy is also honoured with a peculiar celebration, during which 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 through the intercession of St Lucia. A ship full of grain mysteriously arrived in the city's harbour and the population was so hungry that they did not waste time in making flour but ate the grain as it had arrived.


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

The airport can also be reached by trains departing from the railway station of Palermo Centrale, Palermo Notarbartolo and Palermo Francia.

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

Palermo has a metro system called the Metropolitana di Palermo with 2 lines. There are also plans for a 3 line light rail system (LRT).[30]

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Palermo is twinned with:

See also



  • 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. 


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ "In Palermo, Life Vibrates in a Fading Market". 8 January 2008. 
  4. ^ "Sicilian Peoples: The Sicanians". Best of Sicily. 7 October 2007. 
  5. ^ "Sicily: Encyclopedia II – Sicily – History". Experience Festival. 7 October 2007. 
  6. ^ "Aapologetico de la literatura española contra los opiniones". Ensayo historico. 7 October 2007. 
  7. ^ a b "History of Palermo". 7 October 2007. 
  8. ^ a b "Destiny of a King's Capital". 7 October 2007. 
  9. ^ a b "Panormos Info". 7 October 2007. 
  10. ^ "Early & Medieval History". 7 October 2007. 
  11. ^ a b c Privitera, Joseph. Sicily: An Illustrated History. Hippocrene Books. ISBN 978-0781809092. 
  12. ^ "Theodoric". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 October2007. 
  13. ^ Hearder, Harry. Italy: A Short History. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521337199. 
  14. ^ "The Greek and Byzantine Roots of Palermo". 7 October 2007. 
  15. ^ a b "Brief history of Sicily" (PDF). 7 October 2007. 
  16. ^ Of Italy, Touring Club. Authentic Sicily. Touring Editore. ISBN 8836534031. 
  17. ^ Appleton, The World in the Middle Ages, 100.
  18. ^ Joseph Strayer, Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Scribner, 1987, t.9, p.352
  19. ^ a b c 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] 
  20. ^ John Julius, Norwich. The Normans in Sicily: The Normans in the South 1016–1130 and the Kingdom in the Sun 1130–1194. Penguin Global. ISBN 978-0140152128. 
  21. ^ "Quartieri". 8 January 2008. 
  22. ^ "Weather Information for Palermo". 
  23. ^ Kitzinger, Mosaics, 29-30.
  24. ^ Kitzinger, Mosaics, 42ff.
  25. ^ A paper from University of Bologna describing Heliometers in Italian Cathedrals
  26. ^ "Statistiche demografiche ISTAT". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  27. ^ "Statistiche demografiche ISTAT". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ "Gdańsk Official Website: 'Miasta partnerskie'" (in Polish & English). © 2009 Urząd Miejski w Gdańsku.,62,733.html. Retrieved 2009-07-11. 
  32. ^ "Tbilisi Municipal Portal – Sister Cities". © 2009 - Tbilisi City Hall. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : Italy : Sicily : Palermo

Palermo [1] [2] is the capital of the main Italian island of Sicily, located on the north coast of the island.



Capital of Sicily, founded by Phoenicians under the name of "Ziz" (= Flower, but the meaning is still doubtful), later renamed by Greeks "Panormos" which means "all port", it has reached its golden age during the arab domination (IX-XI centuries A.C.) when became one of the most prosperous cities in the Mediterranean and Europe, known as "city of delights" for its marvelous lavish gardens, as well as for magnificient mosques and palaces. After being conquered by the Normans (1060-1080 A.C.) most of palaces, mosques were destroyed, but the new rulers exploited the cosmopolitan environment of Palermo and the artists, architects, masters from different cultural roots giving the birth to a unique architectural style, the so-called "Arab-Norman Style of Sicily" which is an original mixture of arabesque decorations, romanic architecture and bizantine mosaics. After being home to one of the most famous Emperors of Middle Ages, Frederik II fo Swabi, named "Stupor Mundi" by contemporaneans, Palermo began its decadence under the influence of several dominations (French, Aragonians, Spanish, Borbons from Naples. In the mid of XIX century, during the so-called "Italian Risorgimento" Palermo was one the leading revolutionary cities in Italy, strongly contributing to the success of the "Mille" (literally "one thousand") patriots' expedition leaded by the famous italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi which ended with the reunification of Italy under the Savoy dinasty from Turin (1860). Nowadays Palermo faces several problems affecting its economic developement, mainly because of the presence of the very powerful criminal organization known worldwide as "Mafia" or "Cosa Nostra". The city economy is based on local government institutions, port, shipbuilding industry, mechanical industry. It is also seat to some importan sicilian winemaking companies (like Tasca d'Almerita, Duca di Salaparuta, Corvo, Planeta, etc.) whose popularity in the world is growing.

Get in

By plane

Palermo International Airport is located some 32 km west of the city at Punta Raisi and has flights incoming from other Italian centres and major European cities on a regular basis. Half hourly shuttle buses provide inexpensive transport into the city centre (5 euros). There are 1-2 trains per hour, 50 minutes, €8 (destination Punta Raisi). The usual taxi and car rental services are also available at the airport.

By ferry

Ferries steam between the port of Palermo and the following Italian ports on a regular basis: Genoa, Civitàvecchia, Naples Malta (Valletta) and Cagliari (Sardinia).

By Train

Through trains from Rome and Naples via the train ferry across the Messina straits.

Get around

On foot

Although Palermo is a fair-sized city, most of the interesting sites around the centre can easily be reached on foot.

San Catoldo Church in the centre.
San Catoldo Church in the centre.

By bus

Get a 24 hour ticket for €4. Many buses run on Via Roma. To ge to Pl Indipenza take bus 109 from the station.

  • Il Proverbio, Via Discesa 24, tel: +39091 6173267. Close to station and Quattro Canti. Great sicilian food. most dishes are €4-6.
  • Al Chioschetto. Pz. Indipendenza Di Fronte N. 31. Close to the new gate. Excellent fresh panini and salads. They keep all the ingredients in a cooled glass counter, makes the panini from scratch when you order, using only freshly cut pieces of meat.
  • Antica Focacceria S. Francesco, Via A Paternostro, 58 (In the small piazza in front front of S. Francecso church), [3]. A deservedly popular top quality restaurant serving fine Sicilian food in the open air. Bookings recommended at weekends. Main courses €15, Fast Food €5.  edit
  • Le pergamene, piazza marina 48, 091 6166142.  edit
  • Isola Saporita [4], Corso Vittorio Emanuele 504. opposite the cathedral., tel: +390916527506. Good selection of wine, oil, marmelade, sauces, etc.
  • The "Pizzo free" shops are a group of shopkeepeers that refuse to pay the racket to the Mafia. The palermitan consumers sustain them by going shopping in their stores. You can find the list here: [5]


Palermo unlike Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan and, to some extent, Naples, is not ranking among the must-see-cities of Italy. Nevertheless for the varieties of its monuments, witnessing its long and rich history, the number of other cultural and naturalistic attractions,it can offer a very interesting experience to the visitors interested in exploring it.

Mosaic in Monreale Cathedral
Mosaic in Monreale Cathedral
  • The Official site of the museums in Palermo, [6].  edit
  • the Cathedral - honey-coloured and Catalan influenced Virtual Tour Cathedral. Frederick II, Barbarossa's son, died in 1250 and is buried here, far from his ancestral home above Hohenstaufen, Germany. Frederick's sarcophagus is of porphyry dyed with imperial purple.
  • the Quattro Canti - the symbolic crossroads at the old centre of the city and the nearby small, but pretty La Martorana church with byzantine mosaics inside.
  • the Museo Archeologico
    The Orpheus mosaic
    The Orpheus mosaic
  • the Catacombe dei Cappuccini, open daily 9am-12 noon and 3pm-5pm, donation on entry - the catacombs of the Capuchin convent located on the Piazza Cappuccini, just west of the city centre, contain over 8000 mummified ex-residents from Palermo and its surrounding villages, some merely clothed skeletons, other remarkably well-preserved and lifelike. Well worth a visit, interesting, if slightly morbid. Children may either find it exciting or terrifying and it must be the responsibility of their parents to think carefully before taking them.
  • the Palazzo dei Normanni. Inside, don't miss the mosaics in the Cappella Palatina and the old Royal Apartments
  • the 'street markets', especially near the Piazza del Carmine and Vucciria.
  • Monreale - a village/suburb 8 km west of Palermo, sitting on the hill with a great view back towards the city and the sea. Be sure to visit the Duomo (Cathedral) and it's cloisters too.
  • the Piazza Pretoria, including the Fontana Pretoria
  • The Gesu Church is one of the most architecturally important highly decorated in Palermo. Constructed between 1564–1633, it's late date of completion resulted in an abundant use of polychrome marbles on both floors and walls. This form of decoration, which gradually evolved in Sicily from the beginning of the 17th century, was to mark the beginning of the Sicilian Baroque period, which was to give Sicily almost an architectural national identity.
Gesu Church
Gesu Church
  • San Giovanni degli Eremiti. Via dei Bernadetti. Tel: +39 91 6515019. Old church ruin and nice garden. The €6 admission ensures that the lovely garden is quiet and peaceful. Open mo-sa 9am-7pm.
  • Cappella Palatina, Piazza Indipendenza, Tel: +39 091 7054317.Chapel with mosaics.It's one of the artistic gems of Palermo, magnificent mosaics and arabian-style decorations, among the most beautiful in the world. Open mo-fr 9-11. 45am and 3-4.45pm. Sa 9-11.45am. Su 9-9.45am, 12-12.45pm.
  • The Zisa and the Cuba, arabic-norman royal palaces. The Zisa is in Piazza Zisa; the Cuba in Corso Calatafimi. Virtual tour La Zisa
  • Giorgio's House Palermo, Via Mongitore, 0039 3472214823, [7]. The only Bed and Breakfast(In the heart of the Historical center of Palermo)in the world where you can get (if you wish) for free: Pick up, By Night Tours (3/4 times per week), Trekking Tours (April-May / October-December) Day Trips (5/6 times per month) to Cefalù, Erice, Etna, Beaches, Zingaro etc etc., English/Italian Conversation meetings (1/2 times per week)  edit
  • Florio Park Hotel, Contrada Magaggiari. The Florio Park Hotel is a first category hotel complex located by the sea on a beautiful golden and sandy beach. Inside a 4 hectares park , the hotel has 17 pavilions (1 or 2 floors),surrounded with a luxuriant vegetation, that gather 204 rooms and 6 suites. In the central building you'll find the reception desk and the wide and elegant hall, the restaurant , the excursions office, the American bar, the bazaar the TV room.  edit
  • Bed and Breakfast Panormus, Via Roma, 72 - 90133 Palermo, 0039-0916175826 (, fax: 091-6175826), [8]. Three stars in historical center of Palermo Near to the central station and well linked to boat port and airport of Palermo Falcone-Borsellino Good service/price ratio. B & B Panormus is in a beautiful liberty palace built in 1915. Moreover, Panormus is near (few minutes by feet) to the most important attractives of Palermo (4 Canti, Massimo theater, Cathedral, Pretoria plaza...), typical market called Vucciria and commercial places. TV color, airconditioned, hair dryer, heat, freezer, reserved bathroom( outside your room, not to ruin the original "liberty" ceilings and pavements). Info about monuments, museums, concerts, typical restaurants. Car parking is near.  edit
  • Hotel Casa Giuditta, Via Savona 10 - Piazza Kalsa, [9]. Located in the historical city center of Palermo, opposite the sea. Offers rooms and self-catering apartments with 17th century style decorations. Fully furnished with all mod cons: a/c, washing machines, kitchen with oven, freezer, dishwasher, satellite TV. Children welcome.  edit
  • Saint Thorn Guest Club, Via Spina Santa 210, Capo Gallo, near Mondello. Located inside the 'Capo Gallo' nature reserve in the hills outside Palermo, offering stunning views across Mondello's beach. Free parking in the nearby private street, or inside the villa for €5; swimming pool; free internet. All rooms have en suite baths, TV, hair dryer, a/c, fridge, own outside access. Two rooms have kitchenette, with minimum stay of 5 days. Downtown Palermo is about 15 mins by bus/car, Mondello 10 mins, airport 20 mins.  edit
  • Le Casette, Via Torretta 7, Sferracavallo, nr Mondello. A group of 1 and 2-bedroom self-catering apartments, on Sferracavallo's seafront close to Palermo. Simple but comfortable studios have an outdoor yard, for relaxing during the day and romantic dinners by night. Sferracavallo has good public transport connections to Palermo, and is close to the Capo Gallo nature reserve. A good base for visits to Isola delle Femmine, San Vito Lo Capo, up to Erice, Mozia, Marsala, Selinunte, Segesta. Le Casette is 30 meters from the sea and 2 km from Mondello, the famous resort area of the Palermo city coast.  edit
  • Al Giardino Dell'Alloro, Vicolo San Carlo 8, Palermo (On the Via Alloro in the historic center, 1 block from Piazza San Francesco), +39.091.6176904 (), [10]. Excellent central location on a quiet street. €35-45 per person.  edit
  • Hotel Gallery House, Via Mariano Stabile 136, 90139, Ph. +39.091.6124758 Fax +39.091.6124779. [11]. In the heart of Palermo, Hotel Gallery House offers elegant classy rooms for business or pleasure visits.
  • Hotel Italy. Via Roma 62, 4. floor, 100 meter from the train station. Tel: +39091 6230656, email: Good clean rooms with new bathrooms, AC, TV, and balcony with clotheslines. €60, no breakfast.
  • Hotel Conchiglia D'Oro,Viale Cloe, 9, 90151 Palermo Ph. +39 091.450359, Fax: +39 091.450359 [12]. In Mondello, between Villas and gardens, unwind from the summer chaos, Hotel Conchiglia d’Oro welcomes guests in a sober environment enriched with comfort and service for an excellent stay. Check the web for more infos.
  • Hotel Joli,Via Michele Amari, 11, 90139 Palermo Ph. +39 091.6111765, Fax: +39 091.6111766 [13]. Hotel Joli is a true jewel as far as hospitality is concerned, where rooms adorned with frescoes and the finest decor as well as the most modern services and comfort, provide the traveler the most delightful of stays.
  • Villa Cefalà,Via SS 113, 48, 90017 Santa Flavia - Palermo Tel. +39 091.931545, Fax: +39 091.941616 [15]. The Villa Cefalà farm holiday offers charming rooms in a period residence thirty minutes from Palermo overlooking the sea on Sicily's northern coast.
  • NH Jolly Palermo, Foro Italico, 90133, +39 091 6165090 [16]. The NH Jolly Palermo has 237 spacious rooms and a congress centre with 2 meeting rooms, all equipped with natural light, located on the picturesque Gulf of the city and enjoys breathtaking views across the sea.
  • Excelsior Palace Hotel, Via Marchese Ugo, 3, 90141 Palermo Ph. 0039 091 7909, Fax: 0039 091 342139 [http://]. One of the oldest and most renowned luxury hotels in Palermo. 4 star, near the harbour and the English Garden.
  • Grand Hotel et Des Palmes Palermo, Via Roma 398, 90139 Palermo Ph. 0039 091 6028111, Fax: 0039 091 331545 [17]. Large and luxurious 4 star in the centre of Palermo, with exquisite interior design and high quality service. Also one of the oldest and best known in the city. Richard Wagner stayed here from November, 1881 until 20 March, 1882. It was at this hotel that he completed Parsifal on 13 January, 1882.
  • Quintocanto Hotel e Spa, Corso Vittorio Emanuele 310 - 90100 Palermo, +39 091.348426 (, fax: +39 091.7302738), [18]. (38.11536821035723,13.360941410064697) edit
  • Hotel Residenza D’Aragona, Via Ottavio D'Aragona, 25, 90139 Palermo Ph. +39 091.6622222, Fax: +39 091.6622273 [19]. Elegant and opulent, filled with modern comforts and impeccable services, the rooms at Hotel Residenza D'Aragona are the best for those who are traveling for business or pleasure to Palermo: in the historical center, near the grandiose Politeama and Massimo theaters. Single from 80€ Double from 120€.
  • Hotel Villa Igiea Palermo, Salita Belmonte 43, Palermo Ph 0039 091 631 2111, Fax: 0039 091 547 654 [http://]. Stunning 5 star Villa and hotel complex in the hills overlooking Palermo and the bay – the ultimate luxury paradise holiday accommodation. Also offering health spa, tennis courts and a fantastic Greek swimming pool that overlooks the sea from on high!


Palermo's main APT Tourist Office is located at Piazza Castelnuovo 35, open Mo-Fr 8am-8pm and Sa 8 am-2pm. English spoken. A branch of the tourist office also exists at the airport. Get a free map from one of the blue information booths.

  • Internet Shop. Via Napoli N, 32. Tel: +39 091 584146. 13 computers, E2.5/hour. Wireless internet.
  • Mediapoint Via Maqueda 221, tel:+39 091 6113332. close to 4CANTI, 4c/min. Picture backup in CD or DVD, memory cards available.
  • Aboriginal Internet Cafe, Via S. Spinuzza 51, close to Teatro Massimo, Tel: +39 091 6622229, [21]. Also serves beer and drinks with obscene names.

Stay safe

Beware of pickpockets and motorcycle-riding snatch thieves targeting handbags, wallets and mobile phones.

Women should not walk alone at night in the historical centre of Palermo and travellers could be wary of La Kalsa, the neighborhood between Via Roma and the water, at night. The area is being renewed and gentrified, but is probably still one of the riskier places to be at night.

Vehicle theft is a major problem in Palermo, so the use of private, secure car parks is to be preferred.

Avoid going outside the city center, but to Mondello (beach and clubs), Sferracavallo (great restaurants), Monreale.

Get out

Palermo is the main hub for buses and trains in Sicily. The main station - Stazione Centrale is near the centre. Most of the long-distance buses leave from just round the corner. The shuttle to the airport leaves every half hour on the half hour until 11pm from the eastern side of the square in front of the train station.

By train

Regular, quite fast trains to: Messina & Milazzo (for the Aeolian Islands)(more and quicker than the busses to these two), Trapani and Enna. Less frequent to other destinations.

By bus

Regular, fast buses to Catania, Taormina, Trapani, Enna, Agrigento, and Syracuse. Loads of other places served too.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PALERMO (Greek, Ilavopyos; Latin, Panhormus, Panormus), a city of Sicily, capital of a province of the same name, in the kingdom of Italy, and the see of an archbishop. Pop. (1906), town 264,036, commune 323,747. The city stands in the N.W. of the island, on a small bay looking E., the coast forming the chord of a semicircle of mountains which hem in the campagna of Palermo, called the Conca d'Oro. The most striking point is the mountain of Hiercte, now called Pellegrino (from the grotto of Santa Rosalia, a favourite place of pilgrimage) at the N. of this semicircle; at the S.E. is the promontory of Zaffarano, on which stood Soluntum.

A neolithic settlement and necropolis were discovered in 1897 at the foot of Monte Pellegrino, on the N.E. side (E. Salinas in Notizie degli Scavi, 1907, 307). Palermo has been commonly thought to be an original Phoenician settlement of unknown date (though its true Phoenician name is unknown), but Holm (Archivio storio siciliano, 1880, iv. 421) has suggested that the settlement was originally Greek.' There is no record of any Greek colonies in that part of Sicily, and Panormus certainly was Phoenician as far back as history can carry us. According to Thucydides (vi. 2), as the Greeks colonized the E. of the island, the Phoenicians withdrew to the N.W., and concentrated themselves at Panormus, Motye, and Soluntum. Like the other Phoenician colonies in the west, Panormus came under the power of Carthage, and became the head of the Carthaginian dominion in Sicily. As such it became the centre of that strife between Europe and Africa, between Aryan and Semitic man, in its later stages between Christendom and Islam, which forms the great interest of Sicilian history. As the Semitic head of Sicily, it stands opposed to Syracuse, the Greek head. Under the Carthaginian it was the head of the Semitic part of Sicily; when, under the Saracen all Sicily came under Semitic rule, it was the chief seat of that rule. It was thrice won for Europe, by Greek, Roman and Norman conquerors - in 276 B.C. by the Epirot king Pyrrhus, in 254 B.C. by the Roman consuls Aulus Atilius and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio, and in A.D. 1071 by Robert Guiscard and his brother Roger, the first count of Sicily. After the conquest by Pyrrhus the city was soon recovered by Carthage, but this first Greek occupation was the beginning of a connexion with western Greece and its islands which was revived under various forms in later times. After the Roman conquest an attempt to recover the city for Carthage was made in 250 B.e., which led only to a great Roman victory (see Punic Wars). Later, in the First Punic War, Hamilcar Barca was encamped for three years on Hiercte or Pellegrino, but the Roman possession of the city was not disturbed. Panormus received the privileges of autonomy and immunity from taxation. It seems probable that at the end of the republic the coinage for the west of Sicily was struck here (Mommsen, Rom. Miinzwesen, 665). A colony was sent here by Augustus, and the place remained of considerable importance, though inferior to Catana. A fortunate chance has preserved to us a large number of the inscriptions set up in the Forum (Mommsen, Corpus inscr. lat. x. 752). The town was taken by the Vandal Genseric in A.D. 440. It afterwards became a part of the EastGothic dominion, and was recovered for the empire by Belisarius in 535. It again remained a Roman possession for exactly three hundred years, till it was taken by the Saracens in 835. Panormus now became the Moslem capital. In 1062 the Pisan fleet broke through the chain of the harbour and carried off much spoil, which was spent on the building of the great church of Pisa. After the Norman conquest the city remained for a short time in the hands of the dukes of Apulia. But in 1093 half the city was ceded to Count Roger, and in 1122 the rest was ceded to the second Roger. When he took the kingly title in 1130 it became "Prima sedes, corona regis, et regni caput." 1 The coins bearing the name of mm are no longer assigned to Panormus; but certain coins with the name y'S (Ziz; about 410 B. c.) belong to it.

During the Norman reigns Palermo was the main centre of Sicilian history, especially during the disturbances in the reign of William the Bad (1154-1166). The emperor Henry VI. entered Palermo in 1194, and it was the chief scene of his cruelties. In 1198 his son Frederick, afterwards emperor, was crowned there. After his death Palermo was for a moment a commonwealth. It passed under the dominion of Charles of Anjou in 1266. In the next year, when the greater part of Sicily revolted on behalf of Conradin, Palermo was one of the few towns which was held for Charles; but the famous Vespers of 1282 put an end to the Angevin dominion. From that time Palermo shared in the many changes of the Sicilian kingdom. In 1535 Charles V. landed there on his return from Tunis. The last kings crowned at Palermo were Victor Amadeus of Savoy, in 1713, and Charles III. of Bourbon, in 1735. The loss of Naples by the Bourbons in 1798, and again in 1806, made Palermo once more the seat of a separate Sicilian kingdom. The city rose against Bourbon rule in 1820 and in 1848.1860 came the final deliverance, at the hands of Garibaldi; but with it came also the yet fuller loss of the position of Palermo as the capital of a kingdom of Sicily.


The original city was built on a tongue of land between two inlets of the sea. There is no doubt that the present main street, the Cassaro (Roman castrum, Arabic Kasr), Via Marmorea or Via Toledo (Via Vittorio Emmanuele), represents the line of the ancient town, with water on each side of it. Another peninsula with one side to the open sea, meeting as it were the main city at right angles, formed in Polybius's time the Neapolis, or new town, in Saracen times Khalesa, a name which still survives in that of Calsa. But the two ancient harbours have been dried up; the two peninsulas have met; the long street has been extended to the present coast-line; a small inlet, called the Cala, alone represents the old haven. The city kept its ancient shape till after the time of the Norman kings. The old state of things fully explains the name Ilavopyos.

There are not many early remains in Palermo. The Phoenician and Greek antiquities in the museum do not belong to the city itself. The earliest existing buildings date from the time of the Norman kings, whose palaces and churches were built in the Saracenic and Byzantine styles prevalent in the island. Of Saracen works actually belonging to the time of Saracen occupation there are no whole buildings remaining, but many inscriptions and a good many columns, often inscribed with passages from the Koran, which have been used up again in later buildings, specially in the porch of the metropolitan church. This last was built by Archbishop Walter (fl. 1170) - an Englishman sent by Henry II. of England as tutor to William II. of Sicily - and consecrated in 1185, on the site of an ancient basilica, which on the Saracen conquest became a mosque, and on the Norman conquest became a church again, first of the Greek and then of the Latin rite. What remains of Walter's building is a rich example of the Christian-Saracen style, disfigured, unfortunately, by the addition of a totally unsuitable dome by Ferinando Fuga in 1781-1801. This church contains the tombs of the emperor. Frederick II. and his parents - massive sarcophagi of red porphyry with canopies above them - and also the royal throne, higher than that of the archbishop: for the king of Sicily, as hereditary legate of the see of Rome, was the higher ecclesiastical officer of the two. But far the best example of the style is the chapel of the king's palace (cappella palatina), at the west end of the city. This is earlier than Walter's church, being the work of King Roger in 1143. The wonderful mosaics, the wooden roof, elaborately fretted and painted, and the marble incrustation of the lower part of the walls and the floor are very fine. Of the palace itself the greater part was rebuilt and added in Spanish times, but there are some other parts of Roger's work left, specially the hall called Sala Normanna.

Alongside of the churches of this Christian-Saracen type, there is another class which follows the Byzantine type. Of these the most perfect is the very small church of San Cataldo. But the best, much altered, but now largely restored to its former state, is the adjoining church of La Martorana, the work of George of Antioch, King Roger's admiral. This is rich with mosaics, among them the portraits of the king and the founder. Both these and the royal chapel have several small cupolas, and there is a still greater display in that way in the church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, which it is hard to believe never was a mosque. It is the only church in Palermo with a bell-tower, itself crowned with a cupola.

Most of these buildings are witnesses in different ways to the peculiar position of Palermo in the 12th century as the "city of the threefold tongue," Greek, Arabic, and Latin. King Roger's sundial in the palace is commemorated in all three, and it is to be noticed that the three inscriptions do not translate one another. In private inscriptions a fourth tongue, the Hebrew, is also often found. For in Palermo under the Norman kings Christians of both rites, Mahommedans and Jews were all allowed to flourish after their several fashions. In Saracen times there was a Slavonic quarter on the southern side of the city, and there is still a colony of United Greeks, or more strictly Albanians.

The series of Christian-Saracen buildings is continued in the country houses of the kings which surround the city, La Favara and Mimnerno, the works of Roger, and the better known Ziza and Cuba, the works severally of William the Bad and William the Good. The Saracenic architecture and Arabic inscriptions of these buildings have often caused them to be taken for works of the ancient ameers; but the inscriptions of Scale, :;37,000.


1. Museum T. Palazzo Chiaralnonte 2. Cathedral 8. S. Maria delta Catena 3. PalazzoReale Quattro Cantoni 4. La Martorana Politeama Garibaldi 5. San Cataldo Teatro Massimo 6. San Giovanni Uniuersity degli Eremiti Piazza Vittoria T alde ? N1 Efi?,;TE??^

Monte Pellegrino Arenella quasanta Harbour Cast 1 ammare orta Felice lie themselves prove their date. All these buildings are the genuine work of Sicilian art, the art which had grown up in the island through the presence of the two most civilized races of the age, the Greek and the Saracen. Later in the r 2th century the Cistercians brought in a type of church which, without any great change of mere style, has a very different effect, a high choir taking in some sort the place of the cupola. The greatest example of this is the neighbouring metropolitan church of Monreale; more closely connected with Palermo is the church of San Spirito, outside the city on the south side, the scene of the Vespers.

Domestic and civil buildings from the 12th century to the 15th abound in Palermo, and they present several types of genuine national art, quite unlike anything in Italy. Of palaces the finest is perhaps the massive Palazzo Chiaramonte, now used as the courts of justice, erected subsequently to 1307. One of the halls has interesting paintings of1377-1380on its wooden ceiling; and in the upper storey of the court is a splendid three-light Gothic window. The later houses employ a very flat arch, the use of which goes on in some of the houses and smaller churches of the Renaissance. S. Maria della Catena may be taken as an especially good example. But the general aspect of the streets is later still, dating from mere Spanish times. Still many of the houses are stately in their way, with remarkable heavy balconies. The most striking point in the city is the central space at the crossing of the main streets, called the Quattro Cantoni. Two of the four are formed by the ancient Via Marmorea, but the Via Macqueda, which supplies the other two, was cut through a mass of small streets in Spanish times.

The city walls are now to a great extent removed. Of the gates only two remain, the Porta Nuova and the Porta Felice; both are fine examples of the baroque style, the former was erected in 1584 to commemorate the return of Charles V. fifty years earlier, the latter in 1582. Outside the walls new quarters have sprung up of recent years, and the Teatro Massimo and the Politeama Garibaldi; the former (begun by G. B. Basile and completed by his son in 1897) has room for 3200 spectators and is the largest in Italy.

The museum of Palermo, the richest in the island, has been transferred from the university to the former monastery of the Filippini. Among the most important are the objects from prehistoric tombs and the architectural fragments from Selinus, including several metopes with reliefs, which are of great importance as illustrating the development of Greek sculpture. None of the numerous Greek vases and terra-cottas is quite of the first class, though the collection is important. The bronzes are few, but include the famous ram from Syracuse. There is also the Casuccini collections of Etruscan sarcophagi, sepulchral urns and pottery. Almost the only classical antiquities from Palermo itself are Latin inscriptions of the imperial period, and two large coloured mosaics with figures found in the Piazza Vittoria in front of the royal palace in 1869: in 1906 excavations in the same square led to the discovery of a large private house, apparently of the 2nd or 3rd century A.D., to which these mosaics no doubt belonged. Of greater local interest are the medieval and Renaissance sculptures from Palermo itself, a large picture gallery, and an extensive collection of Sicilian majolica, &c.

The university, founded in 1779, rose to importance in recent years (from 300 students in 1872 to 1495 in 1897), but has slightly lost in numbers since. The city wears a prosperous and busy appearance. The Marina, or esplanade at the south of the town, affords a fine sea front with a view of the bay; near it are beautiful public gardens. In the immediate neighbourhood of the city are the oldest church in or near Palermo, the Lepers' church, founded by the first conqueror or deliverer, Count Roger, and the bridge over the forsaken stream of the Oreto, built in King Roger's day by the admiral George. There are also some later medieval houses and towers of some importance. These all lie on to the south of the city, towards the hill called Monte Griffone (Griffon-Greek), and the Giant's Cave, which has furnished rich stores for the palaeontologist. On the other side, towards Pellegrino, is the new harbour of Palermo,. round which a new quarter has sprung up, including a yard capable of building ships up to 475 ft. in length, and a dry dock for vessels up to 563 ft.

The steamship traffic at Palermo in 1906 amounted to 2035 vessels, with a total tonnage of 2,403,851 tons. Palermo is one of the two headquarters (the other being Genoa) of the Navigazione Generale Italiana, the chief Italian steamship company. The principal imports were 36,567 tons of timber (a large increase on the normal figures), 21,401 1 tons of wheat and 151,360 tons of coal; while the chief exports were 116,400 gallons of wine, 37,835 tons of sumach and 122,023 tons of oranges and lemons. Finding most of its valuable rates hypothecated to the meeting of old debts, the municipality of Palermo has embarked upon municipal ownership and trading in various directions.

The plain of Palermo is very fertile, and well watered by springs and streams, of the latter of which the Oreto is the chief. It is planted with orange and lemon groves, the products of which are largely exported, and with many palm-trees, the fruit of which, however, does not attain maturity. It also contains many villas of the wealthy inhabitants of Palermo, among the most beautiful of which is La Favorita, at the foot of Monte Pellegrino on the west, belonging to the Crown.


Besides works dealing with Sicily generally, the established local work on Palermo is Descrizione di Palermo antico, by Salvatore Morso (2nd ed., Palermo, 1827). Modern research and criticism have been applied in Die mittelrilterliche Kunst in Palermo, by Anton Springer (Bonn, 1869); Historische Topographie von Panormus, by Julius Schubring (Lubeck, 1870); Studii di stories palermitana, by Adolf Holm (Palermo, 1880). See also "The Normans in Palermo," in the third series of Historical Essays, by E. A. Freeman (London, 1879). The description of Palermo in the second volume of Gselfel's guide-book, Unter-Italien and Sicilien (Leipzig), leaves nothing to wish for. Various articles in the Archivio storico siciliano and the series of Documenti per servire alla storia della Sicilia, both published by the Societa siciliana per la storia patria, may also be consulted. (E. A. F.; T. As.)

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Proper noun

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  1. A province of Sicily, Italy.
  2. The capital city of the province of Palermo and of Sicily.
  3. A district of Buenos Aires, Argentina.




Proper noun


  1. Palermo


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Proper noun

Palermo f.

  1. Palermo (province)
  2. Palermo (city)

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Palermo is a Italian city, the capital of Sicily, with 720,000 inhabitants and more than 1,000,000 in the metropolitan area. The city was Islamic, Norman, and from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

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