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Palermo, the astonishing city – part 1

Aerial view of Palermo

Palermo, the capital of Sicily, certainly could not be missing from our destinations. So we booked our last-minute vacation.

Palermo, a city of a thousand contrasts

Oh yes, we have to say it. Palermo is very chaotic (by the way, be careful when crossing the streets because Palermitans are lightning fast behind the wheel! 🏎️), but also quiet if you find the right spots; beautiful but dirty. It is, in fact, easy to find, within a few minutes of each other, monuments of incredible beauty and streets and buildings in decay.

In short, Palermo is a continuous discovery, and we want to take you on this journey to introduce you to its unique and surprising cultural heritage. Don’t forget that the city has undergone various dominations, each of which has left traces of its passage: from the Romans to the Byzantines, from the Suevians to the French, and from the Spanish to the Austrians.

Palermo is also the fifth largest city in Italy, and its historic center hosts more than 500 monuments and seven theaters. We were aware of the infinity of things to see, but we must be honest. We have not drawn up a travel program because we like to go adventuring 😁 Let’s get started!

The Cathedral

We wanted to see the Cathedral right away. Unfortunately, restoration work was underway, but that didn’t stop us from being breathless at the sight of this majestic building. It is the most evident expression of the Arab, Norman, and Byzantine dominations.

Panoramic view of Palermo Cathedral
Panoramic view of Palermo Cathedral, photo by wikimedia

Inside are the royal tombs of Frederick II of Swabia and Roger II. The Cathedral also houses the silver urn of Santa Rosalia (patroness of the city), which is carried in procession on 15 July. We must admit, though, that the interior didn’t impress us as much as the facade…

Urn of Santa Rosalia
The silver urn of Santa Rosalia

In 2015 the Cathedral was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, as were the Cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale.

The Norman Palace and the Palatine Chapel

When we are on vacation, we rarely take any means of transportation. We believe that only by moving on foot can we enjoy the place and grasp the details, the scents, and the colors. And so it was when leaving the Cathedral, we crossed Piazza della Vittoria. Villa Bonanno is here. It is a large public garden with palm trees and prickly pears, ruins from the Roman era, and statues of celebrated Palermo figures. We would have liked to have stayed a little longer surrounded by that stillness, but the Norman Palace was waiting for us!

Once the residence of the Norman kings, it is today the Sicilian Parliament’s domicile.

The Norman Palace
Norman Palace or Royal Palace, the Sicilian Parliament’s domicile

In this case, it was not the exterior of the building that struck us, but the interior, i.e. the Palatine Chapel, also a Unesco heritage site. You have to visit it. Gold decorations, a mosaic floor, and a Christ Pantocrator (also in mosaic) in the dome.

The Palatine Chapel
The wonderful Palatine Chapel at the Norman Palace

We were struck by such splendor, and we are sure that a visit to the Palatine Chapel will have the same effect on you too.

Casa Professa, the church you don’t expect

Without us realizing it, it was already lunchtime. We had a sandwich on the go and then again on the road through the streets of Palermo. Destination: Ballarò market. We were almost there when a small group of people caught our attention.

With them, in front of a church, was a tour guide. It was the Chiesa del Gesù or Casa Professa, with an extremely simple facade, which we probably wouldn’t have noticed if we hadn’t seen those tourists. We go in. And you know what? If we hadn’t done it, we would have made a big mistake because, contrary to the outside, the inside is beautiful, with marble and gilded frescoes. It is almost impossible to take your eyes off the sculptures that inhabit the walls of the entire perimeter.

Casa Professa
Chiesa del Gesù, also known as Casa Professa

Casa Professa is without a doubt the most significant example of Baroque art in Palermo, and we advise you to include it as an essential stop on your trip 📌

Here ends the first part of the story of our experience in Palermo.

Talk to you soon!

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