All one has to do is to walk through the winding streets of this incredible city, in order to see evidence of its amazing history. Since its founding, in 734 BC, Palermo has been under the rule of much of the world’s greatest powers. For a while, the city belonged to Carthage. Then, it was part of the Roman Empire. Both, the Greeks and the Arabs, moved in later. Evidence of all of this is right before your eyes, as you begin to explore the city. The past is part and parcel of today’s Palermo, and of the people who call the city their home. As I began to explore, I found myself in awe of it all, even when what I was looking at, had obviously seen better days.Our first stop was going to be the Zisa — a palace built in 1165 by the then ruler, Guglielmo I, and after his death, by his son — Guglielmo II. I had read about this building, and it was on the top of my “to do” list in Palermo. I highly recommend taking the time to visit it. The ticket office is in a small building behind the palace, so one must go there, before heading inside. As you do so, you will pass Roman ruins, which were uncovered when the building and the site were undergoing restoration.Stepping inside of this building is like entering another time. The highlight of the visit is, of course, the Hall of the Fountain, which is where the rulers would receive their visitors. The water fountain is now dry, but it doesn’t take much imagination to be able to picture what it must have been like “back in the days”!The palace was built on top of a hill, facing the sea, so that the structure might capture the breezes that came in off of the water. There was a series of ponds in front, in a garden, which provided moisture for the air.Next to the palace, at the corner of Via Normanni and Via Whitaker, is the lovely Chiesa della Santissima Trinita alla Zisa, or the Cappella Palatina della Zisa. The caretaker of the church explained to Susan and I that the pods, which we saw hanging from the tree in front of the church, were actually filled with a silky material, and when they burst, became the lovely yellow flowers which were covering the tree. The caretaker then told us about another building that he thought we might like to see, and it was literally a five-minute walk away. He pointed us in the right direction, and off we went.On the way, we passed a nursery school. Then, we found ourselves standing in front of Villino Florio all’Olivuzza.The Florio Family (more about them later) bought the property between 1893 and 1898. The following year, they hired Ernesto Basile, to build a house there for Vincenzo Florio, a sixteen-year-old sculptor, for him to use as his residence and to entertain his friends. In my opinion, this is also a MUST-SEE, when in Palermo. The Villino is open for visits Tuesday through Saturday, as well as the first Sunday of every month, from the hours of 9:00 through 13:00. Visits are guided, but it is not necessary to wait for allotted times — in other words, as soon as we entered, a woman came over to us and asked us if we would like to tour the home. The visit is free of charge, and the building is really quite beautiful!As part of the tour, you are taken up to the roof area.We decided to meander, and make our way back towards the center of town. Evidence of past wars is easy to see, when walking the streets of this city. In an odd way, it seems to add to the beauty of it all. As we walked, we passed this wonderful workshop. The artist does frescoes and wall treatments for hire. We admired his work, and moved on!
Next up: More of Day 2, including visits to the Mercato di Ballaro, and the stunning Complesso di Casa Professa!
Note: This blog is written in English and Spanish, and the author takes no responsibility for the quality of any other translations which may appear.