01/2010 - Italy, Palermo and surroundings

4-day trip to Italy visiting Palermo (Vigliena Square or Quattro Canti, San Giuseppe dei Teatini, Maqueda Street, Pretoria Square, Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio o Martorana Church, Church of San Cataldo, Cathedral, Gardens of Villa Bonanno, Palace of the Normans, Palatine Chapel, St. John of the Hermits, Ballarò market, Vucciria market, Monte di Pietà (prawn shop), Seralcadio district, Il Capo market, Teatro Massimo, Castelnuovo square, Politeama Garibaldi theatre, Church of the Catena, Palazzo Chiaramonte (o Steri), Garibaldi garden, Palace of Zisa), Monreale ( San Martino church , Monreale cathedral, the cloister), Segesta, Erice, Selinunte

For us, people of the North, …. the best month to visit Palermo is January. We can experience an early spring, whereas for Palermitans (Palermo inhabitants ), however, it is the middle of winter . And, in fact, it was with surprise that we looked at them all dressed with scarves and woolen caps .

We started the visit of Palermo from Piazza Vigliena (Vigliena Square), commonly known as “Quattro Canti”. Quite close there is the beautiful baroque church of San Giuseppe dei Teatini. Leaving the church and crossing Maqueda Street, we reached the beautiful Piazza Pretoria (Pretoria Square) dominated by the homonymous fountain.

Nearby there is the beautiful church of Santa Maria dell’ Ammiraglio, commonly known as the “Martorana” with its elegant bell tower; the interior is enriched with wonderful mosaics .

Beside the Church of San Cataldo stands out with its three red domes and inside you can admire an original mosaic floor.

The large square in front makes the beautiful Cathedral even more majestic and the door, that overlooks it, has a very spectacular shape. The interior is enriched by imperial and royal tombs.

The gardens of Villa Bonanno, in front of the “Palazzo dei Normanni” (Palace of the Normans) are splendid. The palace is of Arabic origin and is not allowed to take pictures of the rooms . It would have been very interesting to document its beautiful Arabic rooms.

The Palatine Chapel is considered the most wonderful monument of the Norman period . There is a mosaic floor and rich marbles which decorate the walls whereas the ceiling is in Arabic style. Being January, in the Chapel it was exposed a magnificent glass crib executed by Murano artists , named ” Enchanted Crib”

Not far we visited the beautiful church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti (St. John of the Hermits) with its nice cloister and a beautiful garden . The roof is topped by five red domes .
Going back towards the city center, we walked along the streets full of stands of the Ballarò Market .
This market has substituted the classic “Vucciria” market .

The “Monte di Pietà” (pawn shop) , also known by the name of Seralcadio , is a historical district of Palermo. Nowadays it is instead known by the name “Il Capo” as the homonymous and historical market.
Then we found the Teatro Massimo (Greatest Theatre). One of the most famous opera houses in Italy.
Not far, there is Castelnuovo Square dominated by Politeama Garibaldi Theatre, surmounted by an imposing bronze chariot.
We went near the sea-shore to admire the beautiful Church of the Catena (Chain) . The name of the church derives from the chain that was used to close the old port.
The Chiaramonte (or Steri ) Palace is one of the finest examples of Sicilian medieval palace; I show its interior.
It must be mentioned, exhibited in a hall of the palace, the famous painting by Renato Guttuso : Vucciria .
I also want to show, in the opposite Garibaldi garden, the amazing centenarian magnolia.

Not far from the town center there is the Zisa , an ancient Muslim palace, built by the Norman kings . It is decorated with lovely niches with a central fountain richly decorated.

I have been quite surprised by the names given to take- away food shops.
I took pictures of the shop signs and I propose them to my readers .

Although we had been warned about the unruly way of parking, we were shocked to see the cars parked anywhere and everywhere.
Moreover, in our long wandering around the city, I was surprised by several curious things!
I photographed them and I present them in this photo gallery.

Monreale is dominated by the Church of St. Martin where is present the greatest majolica in the world.
The Cathedral of Monreale is especially known for the interior enriched with mosaics of great beauty while in the central apse we found an imposing Christ Pantocrator who dominates the scene.

Next to the cathedral there is the cloister with a beautiful fountain and numerous small columns; each column is unique and embellished with mosaics and rich capitals .
From the near lookout point, we enjoyed a magnificent view of Palermo Conca d’oro situated below .

We took advantage of those magnificent sunny days to visit the most important sites which could be reached and visited in a day’s journey: Segesta , Erice, Selinunte.

The solitary archaeological site of Segesta is very impressive even for the beautiful views of the countryside below .
The Temple, in excellent conditions, dominates with its elegance over a hill. Depending on the position of the sun, the temple changes its colour from pale pink to deep red .
High, on Mount Barbaro, there is a theatre dating back to the second century BC.
The theatre is not well preserved, but it is beautiful the view which we could admire of the Gulf of Castellammare.

The Mount Erice, with its 750 meters height, dominates all around offering magnificent views of Trapani, the Egadi Islands and the beautiful sea .
The town is very charming as well as its medieval monuments .

The archeological site of Selinunte is one of the most important in Sicily. It contains the ruins of a Greek city of the sixth century BC. It is possible to visit the oriental temples and the Acropolis.
Among the various temples , there are three that you can visit: one has huge dimensions (more than a football field ), the second is smaller and is badly preserved , whereas the third is very nice (in Doric style).
Our early spring came to an end.
We went back to Venice and found the usual cold, humidity, and Venetian fog (“caligo”).