Palermo is a city extremely rich in monuments, located mostly in the historic center but also in the rest of the city. A series of buildings and places of various kinds that outline the city in all its essence, representing it with their historical and artistic importance. Considering the wealth that the Sicilian capital can boast from this point of view, it is difficult to choose some monuments over others. However, it is inevitable that some are of greater impact, when a visitor chooses what to do during his stay in Palermo.
Palazzo dei Normanni
Speaking of the important monuments of Palermo it is impossible not to mention the Norman Palace, also called the Royal Palace. It is the oldest royal residence in Europe, home to the kings of the Kingdom of Sicily and imperial seat during the reign of Frederick II and Conrad IV. It is currently the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly and, since 3 July 2015, is part of the World Heritage Site. With its historical importance it is not only one of the most visited buildings in Palermo, but in the entire Sicilian region.
As well as the Norman Palace, the Cathedral of Palermo is part of the World Heritage Site. It is the main place of worship in the city and its history has gone hand in hand with that of Palermo. In fact, over the years it was first an early Christian basilica, then a mosque during the long period of Arab domination and later became a church again with the advent of the Normans. Various traces of the styles that have characterized it have remained, making it one of the emblems of the Sicilian capital. Inside there are the royal tombs, including the sarcophagus of Frederick II and the tomb of Santa Rosalia (patron saint of the city).
The Massimo Theater, the largest opera house in Italy and third largest in Europe after the Opera National in Paris and the Vienna State Opera, also belongs to the city’s elite. The actual theater is surrounded by representative rooms, galleries and monumental stairways, making it a real architectural complex. It is located in an area located between the ancient core of the city and its expansion to the north, as if to enshrine a continuity between the two urban areas.
Chiesa della Martorana
Built in 1143 by Admiral Giorgio d’Antiochia, the Martorana Church is one of the most important and beautiful religious buildings of the Byzantine era in Italy. It has a style halfway between Arab and Norman, with some Baroque additions that arrived in the 1600s. Its name is due to Eloisa Martorana, noblewoman who founded the Benedictine monastery to which the church was sold by Alfonso of Aragon in 1433.
Duomo di Monreale
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Nuova, otherwise known as the Cathedral of Monreale, is one of the stops on the Arab-Norman itinerary of Palermo which became part of the World Heritage Site in 2015. Its style recalls the Byzantine era with the mosaics that decorate the interior of the church, but it also has some Baroque details (especially on the portico that precedes the entrance). The altar and the organ, on the other hand, are from the 1700s and 1900s respectively, making the Cathedral a sort of container from various historical periods.
Catacombe dei Cappuccini
Certainly the most famous place of worship dedicated to the dead in Palermo. Present in the basement of the Capuchin convent (located in the Cuban city quarter), the catacombs have attracted a large number of tourists for centuries because of the numerous corpses on display. It is a practice started by the Capuchin friars, who have begun to mummify the corpses to allow their relatives to continue to meet them as if they were alive.
In addition to important historical, architectural and religious buildings, Palermo also hosts important fountains such as the Fontana Pretoria. It is located in the square of the same name and is also known as the Fountain of Shame, due to the nudity of the statues that decorate it. Completed in 1554 and intended to embellish the garden of Don Luigi di Toledo in Florence, in 1573 it was sold to the Senate of Palermo to pay off the debts accumulated by the important Spanish family.
Castello della Zisa
Built under the reign of William II around 1167, this palace was the favorite summer residence of kings and their court. Its name derives from the Arabic “al-Aziz”, which means splendid. Over the years it has undergone various transformations, including the Baroque style additions in 1635. Inside it houses the Museum of Islamic Art.
Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti
Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti One of the absolute symbols of Palermo cannot be missing from this list, built in the Norman era under the reign of Roger II and then radically restored in 1882 by Giuseppe Patricolo. Among the most important medieval buildings in Palermo, in 1869 it was declared a national monument.
Bridge of the Ammiraglio
In an ideal top 10 of the monuments of Palermo, the Ponte dell’Ammiraglio, built between 1130 and 1140 by Giorgio d’Antiochia (admiral of King Roger) deserves to be mentioned. It is located on the place where the Oreto river flowed, before being diverted, representing an element of great importance for the viability of that period, that is when Palermo was reachable only from the sea. Among the monuments that became part of the World Heritage Site in 2015.