Palermo

Palermo City Tour

You will meet your guide and your driver at the pier and you will start your exploration of Palermo.

Palermo is an interesting city. Narrow lanes that look the same as they did centuries ago, contrasted by wide tree lined boulevards – there is a mix of culture here from the ancient Phoenician and Byzantine through to Arab and Norman, and of course the more modern urban sprawl. These different cultures are reflected in the architecture and customs of this large city.

You will visit Palermo’s cathedral, known officially as “Santa Maria Assunta” or Saint Mary of the Assumption. Some scholars believe that a temple existed here in Roman, or possibly even Punic, times. There is no doubt that the site once had a large Byzantine Greek (Orthodox) church. Arab records mention the existence of a large “pagan” temple present on this site when they conquered Palermo in 831. This was turned into a mosque. In 1072, when the Normans wrested control of Palermo from the Saracens, Count Roger promptly saw to it that the Great Mosque was re-consecrated as a Christian church.

You will walk through Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the main street of Palermo.

Not to be missed are Quattro Canti (Four Corners), where Corso Vittorio Emanuele intersects with Via Maqueda, the latter street a famous piece of Palermitano civic planning, carved out of the surrounding neighborhood in the 16th century by the Spanish viceroy.

Architecturally, Four Corners is a melting pot of Arab-Norman splendor, Palermitan baroque, and the work of craftsmen of the Middle Ages. Each sculpted angle of the Four Corners celebrates seasons, a patron saint, or a Spanish viceroy.

Piazza Pretoria, a beautiful square with its stunning but controversial fountain is Palermo’s most famous. The fountain was called Fontana della Vergogna, or “fountain of shame,” by outraged churchgoers. Originally intended for a Tuscan villa, the fountain is bedecked with nude statues and mythological monsters. This was the first landmark churchgoers saw as they left services at San Giuseppe dei Teatini, the church directly to the west.

Chiesa della Martorana, with its handsome Norman bell tower, is a very intriguing church. It is the loveliest Greek church remaining in Sicily. It was founded in 1143 by George of Antioch, called Roger II’s “Emir of Emirs.”

The bell tower is the only part of the building that has a distinctively Norman appearance, with its Gothic lines and mullioned windows. Were it not for the bell tower, Saint John’s could easily be mistaken for a mosque.

Free time after the tour before returning to the port.

 

Solunto & Bagheria

You will meet your driver and guide at the port and depart to Bagheria by AC deluxe coach.

In the 19th century, Bagheria, a town east of Palermo, was still the country retreat of the aristocracy, and several mansions and villas remain. Some have fallen to decay, and the few that are better preserved are not open to the public. An exception is Villa Palagonia, conveniently located in the town proper. Built in 1705 by the Prince of Palagonia, the villa was later expanded and restored. The 62 stone sculptures that embellish the villa depict mythological monsters and whimsical creatures worth seeing. The figures might not be particularly exceptional today, but for the era of their construction they were a sight to behold.

After the visit of Villa Palagonia you will proceed to Solunto.

Located 17 kilometers east of Palermo, overlooking the coast, just outside Santa Flavia, Solunto is situated on the slopes of Mount Catalfamo, not far from Bagheria.

This town was built on the site of a Phoenician village called Kfra, founded around 700 BC but expanded by the Greeks, who conquered it in 396 BC.

By 254 BC, during the First Punic War, it had fallen into Roman hands, and most of the construction visible at Solunto is distinctly Roman. During the 3rd century AD, the town was abandoned for reasons unknown to us.

The ruins of Solunto were rediscovered in the 16th century and excavations have continued since then.

The Greek city was built on a grid plan. The Romans enlarged the wide main street they called decumanus, referred to today as the “Via dell’Agora,” the Greek “agora” referring to a marketplace or other large square.

Solunto has no complete structures; all that remains of most of the buildings here are floors and the lower portions of some walls and columns. However, a few of the dwellings and public buildings are well enough preserved to provide us with a tangible idea of their construction and purpose. Portions of a few mosaics and paintings are still visible, and the peristyle of one of the houses suggests its former grandeur. There is even a small odeum (theatre) and a meeting chamber.

 

Palermo and Monreale

Sicilian Wines

Erice & Segesta

Cefalù Walking Tour

Mysteries of Palermo

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