Palermo Travel Guide

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cupole arabo-normanne di san giovanni degli eremiti

cupole arabo-normanne di san giovanni degli eremiti


Palermo is the capital of Sicily and its largest city - stupendously sited in its own wide bay underneath the limestone bulk of Monte Pellegrino. Originally a Phoenician, then a Carthaginian colony, this remarkable city was long considered a prize worth capturing. After the first Punic war it passed from the Carthaginian hands to the Romans (254 - 253 B.C.) and later became a colony under the reign of Augustus.

Under the Arab domination it obtains great splendour: it becomes an emirate and will hold around 300 mosques. As an Arab reporter of the time describes, from the interior rise one could admire the red domes among the green of the Conca d’Oro. Finally Palermo became Norman in 1072 with a conquest by Ruggero d’Altavilla. Ruggero II raises it as capital of the Sicilian Reign and Federico II Houhenstaufen crowns it Capital of the Mediterranean Culture, creating the first Sicilian school. Palermo became the greatest city in Europe, famed for the wealth of its court and peerless as a centre of learning.

In the hands of the Angevin’s it passes through a phase of decline, due to the transfer of the Reign’s Capital to Naples. For the misgovernment, the population revolts: War of the Vespers (Easter 1282). In the course of its history, Palermo always searched for independence and the role as Capital. In fact, this is revealed in the attempt of the Neapolitan Republic to impose the Bourbonist Constitution (1812). On the 27th of May 1860, the city hands itself over to garibaldi.

The long history of the city assures that there is a lot to see, although the city as a whole, as well as some of the sights, are in need of repair.

Nowadays Palermo is a fast, brash and exciting city. The mix of arabic and viking influences is one of the strangest and unexpected surprises the city has to offer. Buildings dating from the 11th and 12th century, the heyday of Medieval Sicily, offer this peculiar quality. The most noteworthy and an absolute must is the Palazzo dei Normanni

Other interesting sights include the Quattro Canti, a nice example of Baroque architecture and the Catacombs. From the 16th to the last century local noblemen and clergy were mummified here. Very impressive are the Monastery and Cathedral of Monreale in the nearby village of Monreale (a couple of kilometers out of the city-center).


July 04, 2007 change by lpx

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