A most wonderful place to visit is Sicily’s main city – Palermo. Here there appears to be adventure round every corner and so many wonderful things to see. Many different cultures mingle here and you can get a taste of it all while wandering through the streets of the old city.
You’ll be dazzled by Capella Palatina a impressive chapel that was designed by Roger II in 1130. It counts as Palermo’s top tourist attraction. There is a three-tiered loggis and lots of amazing gold mosaics. Walk upon marble floors and look up at a wooden muquarnas ceiling that is a masterpiece of Arabic-style honeycomb carving. Many exquisite figurines to see all glittering in gold especially of interest is the depiction of Christ the Pantocrator and Angels on the Dome. The walls of the chapel are decorated with handsome marble inlay.
The biggest attraction of the square Piazza Pretoria is the dominating fountain Fontana Pretoria. It has tiered basins all surrounded by nude nymphs, tritons and leaping river gods. This lovely fountain was designed between 1554 and 1555 by Francesco Camilliani, a Florentine sculptor originally for the Tuscan villa of Don Pedro di Toledo and was brought to Palermo in 1573. It stands before the Palazzo Pretoria or Municipal Hall.
Take a look at a wonderful Neoclassical opera house – Teatro Massimo, that took more than 20 years to build. It has become one of this city’s iconic landmarks. The final scene of the movie “The Godfather: Part III” was filmed here. Guided tours are offered in English, Spanish, French and Italian.
Get a real taste of Palermo and Sicily by taking a walk through the Marcato di Balaro. It is the city’s busiest market street. Here you can see the and hear the street life of Palermo. Take the time to taste the fresh produce, from bread to olives to cheese as well as fresh fish and meat. You can also get clothing here and other items.
A most fascinating place to visit is the Museo dell’Inquisizione or the Inquisition Museum. It is housed in the lower floors and basements of the 14th century Palazzo Chiaromonte Steri. Recently opened this museum gives visitors a chilling look at the legacy of the Inquisition in Palermo. Here you can see cells with prisoner’s graffiti. If you like you can get a guided tour in English or Spanish. There are religious themes and themes of torture depicted. You can find two works by Sicilian modern artists Renato Guttuso here. A graphic depiction of the strangulation murder of inquisitor De Cisneros by the handcuffed 22-year-old prisoner Diego La Mattina and the artist’s 1974 masterpiece of the Vucciria market.
For a look at modern art visit the Galleria d’Arte Moderna housed in a renovated 15th century palazzo that was a convent in the 17th century. There are three floors of art displaying 19th and 20th century Sicilian art. The paintings depict the scenes of Sicily among them Ultime foglie or Last Leaves, 1906 by Michele Catti and Leto’s Saline di Trapani depicting the reflective salt pools of western Sicily by Saline di Trapani.
A gem of Liberty architecture is Villa Malfitano with a formal garden of rare and exotic species of plants. The villa is lovely inside and out. Inside you can see the “Summer Room” that has walls painted to resemble a conservatory and a music room that has been draped with 15th century tapestries illustrating the Aeneid – a Latin epic poem. Villa Malfitano was built in 1886 by Joseph Whitaker, part of the entrepreneurial English business dynasty. He made his fortune in the Marsala trade in Sicily in the 19th century and he and his wife were part of Palermo’s high society.