Looking for a complete Palermo Tourist Map? Our travel blog about Palermo and other cities in Sicily can help you get started.
Palermo is the capital of Sicily and a key city linking Europe to African and Middle Eastern countries. The Phoenicians founded the city in 734 B.C. Since then, it became an ethnic melting pot of various cultures and traditions. The city of Palermo served as the gateway for new settlements and invasions because of its strategic location in the Meditteranean sea.
Palermo Facts – Tourist Map
Many inhabitants and conquerors began their reigns in the city. From Greeks to Romans, Arabs, Normans, Swabians, Aragonese, and Bourbons. Palermo witnessed both timelines of wars and change. The vanquished leaving the remains of what they created and the victors growing its new power.
Several temples, palaces, castles, churches, and ancient buildings existed here and vanished. It had been a constant cycle until the end of World War II and Sicily’s union to Italy. The present Palermo holds some of the most glorious historical wonders on earth. Everyone is welcome in the ‘all port’. Tourists all over the world visit the city to have a glimpse and walk these preserved treasures — more than 240 hectares of physical accounts of Palermo’s rich past. Every wall and corner have a story to tell and secrets to reveal.
There are no more kings and queens in Italy. However, these places still exist. As part of our Palermo tourist map, here is the list of palaces and castles in Palermo. Italian ministries or private individuals managed these properties. They range from old private homes to former royal seats. Many are open for viewing. Others, they converted into museums, public and research offices.
Palazzo dei Normanni
The Royal Palace of Palermo changed owners many times. However, it is still the oldest existing royal home in Europe. It consists of a large walled site that keeps the excavated remnants of previous Carthaginian colonies. You can even see the ruins of the palace’s first building when you visit the castle. It was also the Sultan’s stately home and the centre of Palermo during the Islamic Golden Age in Sicily in the 9th century. After the Arabs, the Normans conquered the island. They transformed this building and the entire site into what we call the Palace of the Normans.
Norman Palace was the official seat of the Kings of Sicily during the Norman period. It was a major symbol of Sicily’s affluence. It adopted mixed Norman-Arab-Byzantine art and architecture. The best example is the Cappella Palatina, a real treasure which you can find inside the palace. The church is a royal Catholic chapel of striking brilliance that will leave anyone in awe. From the ceiling covered in gleaming mosaics, dome, arches, and figures, a union of customs and style.
For more Palermo Tourist Map, you can see more details through this link. Please note that it is also the location of the Sicilian Regional Assembly.
The Zisa Castle
What it’s like to vacation like kings? Located about two kilometres away from the Norman Palace is the Zisa castle. It was the summer residence of the Norman Kings. Together with eight other cultural sites in Sicily, La Zisa or ‘splendid’ is also UNESCO site. The series exhibits the protected Arab-Norman arts with marbles and mosaics decoration.
King William II commissioned the original structure of the castle. However, his son William II completed it and its succeeding owners later improved and restored the place. The castle and its massive garden was the setting for the rulers’ hunting trips. Even though surrounded by the changing city, the Zisa still maintained its splendour. The state turned it into a museum displaying Islamic arts and artefacts.
Here are our Sicily holiday rentals near the Zisa Castle
Following the footsteps of his father, William II also left his legacy in the city, the Cuba Palace of Palermo. Cuba Palace was a waterpark garden. It used to have huge fountains and trees all around. Arab style inspired the castle. It was standing in the middle of a man-made lake, connected with bridges. It was the King’s favourite place for hosting evening parties or daytime meetings. The dramatic waterworks in the garden became a relaxing haven for the King and his royal courts too.
The majestic beauty of Cuba Palace is no longer there. Only traces and ruins survived. The pond already dried u. Its scope reduced and changed to residential housings. However, Cuba Palace continues to be a great example of Sicily’s wealthy history.
For more Palermo Tourist Map, you can see more details through this link.
The Chiaramonte, the most powerful noble family in Sicily in the 13th century, owned the Chiaramonte Palace. The palace paved the way to a new kind of architecture, the Chiaramonte style. It is a mix of Norman and Gothic with curving arches and medieval vision. The politician, Lord Manfredi III inherited the palace from his grandfather. He owned it until the struggles of their family. His son, Andrea Chiaramonte was beheaded outside the palace in 1392.
The palace was the clan’s central base in Palermo. It was where the lord held court and audiences. He was one of the four ministers who governed Sicily under the control of the Aragon and Barcelona royal houses. It was during the reign of the young Maria, Queen of Sicily. After the fall of his House, the name of the castle changed to Palazzo Steri. The Spanish viceroys used it as its residence and later transformed to a prison of the Holy Inquisition. Today, it is a museum showing Sicilian artworks and heirlooms.
Accommodation in Palermo near the palace
The Abatellis Palace or Palazzo Patella is in the narrow street of the Kalsa district in Palermo. Sicilian architect Matteo Carnilivari built this gem in 1495. His works focused on blending in Norman Gothic-Catalan construction styles. Royal harbour official Francesco Abatellis originally owned the palace. However, he did not have an heir and donated the place to the church. The order then modified the palace into a women monastery.
Now open to the public as the Gallery of Art for the Sicilian region. It holds paintings from different eras and classical items including The Triumph of Death fresco and other Sicilian woodworks and religious collections.
The Palazzo Natoli was the personal abode of the then, advisor to the king of Naples, Marquis Vincenzo Natoli. He was of the ancient Sicilian aristocrat Natoli clan. The palace was a gift to his first wife Maria Natoli in 1765. However, she died before it was finished and did not relish its luxurious interior. Designed in French Rococo theatrical style from the elegant entrance hall to staircase, sculptures, furniture and frescoes. Gioacchino Martorana painted the frescoes. Palazzo Natoli was one of Palermo’s finest building.
It is now private holiday rentals where one can enjoy and stay like a noble at the Palazzo Natoli.
The influx of Chinese and Indian goods in the 18th century and European’s interest with Orientalism inspired the architecture of the Palazzina Cinese or locally called as Real Casina alla Cinese. With the stunning Monte Pellegrino as its backdrop, the mansion and its pavilions are in the 990 acres green landscape of La Favorita Park. Later on,
Ferdinand III, King of the Two Sicilies chose it as his former royal residence during the French Revolution when he escaped from Naples.
A trend at that time, the palace was and is still a breath of fresh air with its neoclassical style building. Combined with the estate fully adorned in Eastern Asia’s artistic paintings, frescoes and ornaments. The comune of Palermo maintained the palace. It is open to anyone who would like to walk through the rooms of the Bourbon family. One of the guesthouses is turned into a library museum Sicilian Ethnographic Museum Giuseppe Pitrè containing books and testaments about Sicilian culture, traditions and folklore.
Palazzo Valguarnera Gangi
In the heart of bustling Palermo, lies a hidden jewel, often overlooked but nevertheless one of 18th-century grandeur, the Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi. It is a two-floor ancestral home of the Princes of Gangi, a noble title given to the Valguarnera family in 1677. The building was passed down from generation to generation and preserved by one of the branches of the family. It is composed of Baroque style rooms, elaborate designs by talented Sicilian craftsmen and a large ballroom as featured in the novel film’ Il Gattopardo or The Leopard.
The palace is only open for private viewing or can be rented for special events.