Are you looking for a destination for summer holidays featuring a wide choice of beaches, a prestigious ancient history and a charming architectural style?
A trip to Palermo will surprise you, because this city, in the past one of the largest in the Mediterranean, reveals its attractions in the historic center and in the surroundings. Just a few days ago it has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage list, in reference to the Arab-Norman Palermo and the cathedrals of Monreale and Cefalù.
We suggest an itinerary to follow on the occasion of your stay in the capital of Sicily.
The most beautiful churches of Palermo in Arab-Norman style
The Palace of the Normans is the oldest royal residence in Europe and was built during the Islamic domination of Sicily (lasting from 827 to 1091). Following the Normans reign and transformed the original Arabic palace in a complex structure, realizing even the Palatine Chapel, a three-aisled basilica in Byzantine-Norman style.
Today the Palace of the Normans is also home to the Sicilian Regional Parliament and the local Astronomical Observatory.
The church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti dates back to the VI century and was first converted into a mosque then became a Christian church by the will of the King Roger II, finally restored in 1880 with the intent to bring out the Arab details, as seen from the domes color red.
The church is located near the Palace of the Normans, so is ideal second stopover of our journey.
The church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio is commonly known as Church of Martorana and demonstrates the role held by the Byzantine style and Christian Orthodox religious culture in Palermo.
Exiles from Albania, in fact, took refuge here from the persecution of the Turks, leaving significant traces of their culture in the style of painting and in religious ritual.
The variety of artistic works held at this church is an example of how this city has always been a melting pot of cultures and a model of coexistence between peoples and religions.
Inside the church of San Cataldo, the Christian temple built in the XII century, you can notice the marble floors decorated with mosaics that recall the Arab style.
The church is located at Piazza Bellini, near the Martorana.
The main church of Palermo is the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, and is the most successful expression of very different styles, such as the Norman Moorish, Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical.
Let be inspired by this stately building and take the opportunity of your stay to join the evening visits at cathedral rooftops, a pretext to admire the city from above and take memorable photographs.
For information, visit the cathedral website: www.cattedrale.palermo.it.
The palace of the Zisa, originally a royal residence, now houses a museum of Islamic art and a garden, recently renovated.
Zisa, in Arabic, means “beautiful” and you too will agree after having walked the halls of the castle and discovering the beauty of musciarabia, carved wooden screens, and even of everyday objects (from bowls to candlesticks).
The district Zisa is named after this building and also includes a park and a villa in art nouveau style.
The ponte dell’Ammiraglio has witnessed some important episodes in history, because it was built to connect the town to the gardens beyond the river Oreto and in 1860, during the Expedition of the Thousand, here happened the battle between Garibaldi and the Bourbon troops.
This bridge, dated back to the Norman age, now offers a very different view from the original, because the river that flowed under the bridge was diverted and now there is a garden surrounded by tree-lined streets and fat plants.
The cathedral of Cefalù is an essential step of this route, due especially to its cloister, a masterpiece dated back to the Middle Age. Cefalù is 70 km far from Palermo and is recommended for its beaches and because it is part of the Madonie Park, one of the most beautiful nature reserves in the region.
The cathedral also boasts a complex history since the project was modified several times and the church was never completed finally.
The Cathedral of Monreale is the last stage and encloses many of the features of the path to the Arab-Norman trail in Palermo.
The Byzantine mosaics that decorate the interior will amaze and surprise by the attention to detail and the skill with which were designed in the XII century.
The cloister is undoubtedly the most sublime place from the architectural point of view, the highest result of Byzantine art, however, it remained unchanged over time.
Thrilling Tour at the Capuchin Catacombs
Palermo is a charming town, where even a gruesome place becomes a tourist stop, by virtue of the uniqueness of the location: it’s the Capuchin Catacombs, a place visited by curious travelers since the XVII century.
In these underground tunnels are exposed thousands of corpses embalmed and the scenario that you are in front won’t leave you indifferent.
The mummy that impresses most visitors is that of a child dead in 1920 that seems to be intact, earning the nickname of Sleeping Beauty.
Start a journey into the past of a city like Palermo is an experience to be suggested to those who think they already know Sicily and who would like to learn more about the role that other civilizations have had in the development of the Sicilian capital, land of centuries-old rituals, enchanting beauties and breathtaking masterpieces.