The city of Palermo (listed in UNESCO world heritage sites) is an outstanding evidence of the multi-cultural soul of Sicily: its monuments, ancient buildings, historical neighborhoods and traditions tell the long and fascinating story of the whole island, from the Prehistory to the glamorous “Liberty” era at the end of the Nineteenth century. Elegant villas and gardens, colorful markets displaying the freshest fruits and vegetables or fish, amazing Norman and Arabic architecture and mosaics, typical narrow streets in the city center and their atmosphere under the amber lights of the evening, delicious local food… A thrilling experience indeed, that’s why we worked to find the best villas in Sicily with swimming-pool in the city and its surroundings.
The most interesting monuments and sights are located in the historical center. Palermo is rich in beautiful Baroque churches, often hidden within the labyrinth of streets adjacent to via Maqueda, via Roma and via Vittorio Emanuele. The Cathedral is a marvelous mix of different architectural styles – Norman, Arab, Romanesque, Byzantine; inside, the ancient tombs of some of the most important sovereigns of the city (such as Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor) can be observed. Next to the Cathedral, the Palazzo dei Normanni houses the jaw-dropping Palatine Chapel, with its shiny Byzantine mosaics. Via Vittorio Emanuele, the most ancient street in Palermo, connects the Norman Palace with Porta Felice, an old monumental gate built to welcome visitors coming from the sea; the street crosses via Maqueda in “Piazza Vigliena”, where the beautiful “Quattro Canti” (Four corners) are located – four prospects rich in statues and baroque decors, built in the Seventeenth Century. Next to Piazza Vigliena lies another very famous square, “Piazza Pretoria”, where a monumental fountain from the Sixteenth Century is set; the colourful byzantine mosaics of the Church of Santa Maria Dell’Ammiraglio, definitely worth a visit, are just a few steps from this marvelous square.
The city was the hometown of a great Liberty (Art Nouveau) architect, Ernesto Basile: plenty of refined buildings of Palermo have been designed by this great artist or inspired by his works of art, from the Teatro Massimo (the biggest lyric theater in Italy and one of the biggest in Europe) to the beautiful Villino Florio. Via Libertà, the most glamorous street of the city, is cluttered with fascinating Liberty villas, just like the seaside resort of Mondello, about 20 minutes from the city center, once the most renowned summer retreat for the local aristocracy.
The best way to experience the unique atmosphere of Palermo is to wander through its historical districts. Local markets such as Capo, Ballarò and Vucciria are a melting pot of different cultures and popular traditions, as well as the best places to taste local street food, recently recognized as one of the best in the world: bread with “panelle” (fried squares of chickpeas flour), “sfincione” (typical Palermitan pizza) and “arancine” (rice balls with meat or butter) are just the most famous from a long list of traditional (and often a little whimsical) on-the-go delicacies. The district of “Kalsa”, the most ancient neighborhood of the city, is particularly picturesque and evocative: narrow alleys sided by low houses or ancient tiny churches (like the Magione church, a beautiful Medieval church close to Via Roma and the railway station) and palaces, little squares with centuries-old statues or lovely bars and cafés. The atmosphere is filled with the scent of flowers and markets, as well as with the flavors coming from kitchens, bakeries and “friggitorie”, but the area is also rich in high-level fine restaurants, wineries and pubs.
The must-see suburbs include Monreale, on top of a hill overlooking the whole “Conca d’oro” (Golden valley) where the city was built by the Phoenicians: this tiny village houses an impressive Duomo with fascinating mosaics, and the panorama is really breath-taking; the above-mentioned Mondello seaside resort is perfect for a day at the white-sandy beach or for a taste of local fresh fish (don’t miss the local specialty – octopus!). If you are staying in one of our villas in Palermo, you will be just a few minutes away from this architectural masterpiece.