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June 21, 2021

Bagheria: the City of Villas

The city of Palermo, in addition to having undoubted charm and beauty, also boasts places to visit in its vicinity. Among these Bagheria, a town in the Sicilian capital known as the City of Villas but also famous for other types of buildings and enchanting naturalistic places.

A bit of history

According to many scholars, the name Bagheria comes from the Phoenician term Bayharia. The first building structures date back to the 15th century, but the actual birth of the city is closely linked to the Branciforti (a noble Sicilian family who settled in this area and over the years created the plan of today’s municipality of Palermo).

The expansion of the city made it a holiday resort increasingly desired by the aristocratic families of Palermo and, in 1826, it became an autonomous municipality thanks to a royal decree signed by Francis I.

What to see in the "City of the Ville"

Bagheria – as already mentioned – hosts numerous palaces and villas, with the Butera Palace which is certainly the best known and the most symbolically important. It is a building built in 1658 at the behest of Giuseppe Branciforti – prince of Pietraperzia and Leonforte – as a home away from the Palermo court. Its style is neoclassical, while inside it has a series of decorations by the Italian painter Giuseppe Velasco and a specially made spiral staircase that connects the lower floor to the upper one. In addition, on the front door there is an epigraph addressed to the sovereign of Palermo (written on the orders of Branciforti who aimed to become a regent of the court of Palermo, but with disappointing results).

Two other buildings that are interesting to visit are Villa Cattolica and Villa Palagonia. The first was built in 1736 by order of the prince of Cattolica Eraclea, and then is currently the home of an art museum dedicated to the painter Renato Guttuso and other artists belonging to his era (such as Gennaro Calì and Domenico Quattrociocchi). All these works are located on the upper floor, while on the lower floor there is a museum dedicated to Sicilian carts (with pieces of considerable historical interest). Villa Patagonia, on the other hand, dates back to 1700 and is also known as the villa of monsters due to the monstrous-looking statues present both inside and outside the building.

In Bagheria there is also no shortage of churches to visit for their beauty and historical importance. Above all, the Madrice Church and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The first dates back to the eighteenth century, is dedicated to the Nativity of Mary and over the years has become the most important religious building in the city. An external part that does not catch the eye is counterbalanced by an interior decorated with frescoes and historical artifacts. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is also from 1700 and, in a hypothetical ranking, occupies the second place among the religious buildings of the city. Although it has undergone various changes over time, it largely retains its neo-Gothic style.

Typical dishes you can eat in Bagheria

The typical dishes of this area are both from land and sea. As in all of Sicily, arancini are among the most renowned local foods. There are also dishes from the land (walled meat, cutlets in vinegar and fennel meatballs) and seafood (among others, mussels au gratin and swordfish rolls).

Among the restaurants in Bagheria, the most famous for eating dishes with local ingredients is “I Pupi”. Also worth mentioning are “Bitta Ristro” (for fish dishes and Mediterranean cuisine) and “Fratelli Piombino Restauratori”, with recipes from the area but also more international dishes.

What to do during your visit

In addition to admiring the historical and artistic beauties of Bagheria, it is possible to carry out many other activities in the Palermo municipality. First of all, for a relaxing walk in the city we recommend Corso Umberto I. This is the main pedestrian street of Bagheria, where many bars and shops are concentrated in order to satisfy various needs of visitors.

There are also many naturalistic possibilities, such as the Spiaggia dei Francesi: a mostly rocky stretch of coast with crystal clear waters and surrounded by vegetation. It is said to have this name due to the high attendance in the past by transalpine tourists. The Spiaggia dei Francesi is located near Capo Zafferano, a small promontory that directly overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea. An area full of caves and with several spectacular views including the Arco Azzurro, used for several commercials. Finally, near Bagheria there is also the Scoglio della Formica, famous because it was the cause of many shipwrecks during the Phoenicians and Romans. An area populated by various animal and plant species, attracting for this reason diving and snorkelling enthusiasts.

Remaining instead in Bagheria, the Pietro Piraino toy and wax museum is certainly curious, exhibiting about 2000 toys dating back to periods ranging from 1700 to 1900. These are toys created with different materials and from various countries. In addition, 200 wax sculptures are exhibited, made by Sicilian and Neapolitan artists of the 1700s and 1800s.

How to come in Bagheria

Starting from Palermo, Bagheria can be reached by car via the Messina-Palermo motorway. The kilometers to travel are about 18 and it usually takes 25 minutes. Another possibility is represented by the train, with the Palermo-Bagheria route starting from the central station of the Sicilian capital. Finally, Bagheria is about 42 kilometers from Punta Raisi Airport (from which shuttles leave to reach the Palermo municipality).

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