If you visit Sicily, chances are you are going to spend a few days in Palermo. This beautiful city, rich in culture and history and buzzing with ideas and growing enterprises, offers all the perks of an urban regional capital, with the extra comforts of a seaside town. Here’s a few tips to work into your business travel schedule, without affecting your budget.
1. Explore the Quattro Canti
Quattro Canti, literally four corners, somewhat surprisingly, is the name used to identify an octagonal square. Technically, the decorated. eigth-sided complex of Piazza Villena, is located at the crossing of the two main streets, that divide the whole city into four areas. Here you will be standing at the very heart of Palermo. Four of the octagon’s sides can be traced along the street crossings, while the remaining four are actual building facades. Each facade is decorated with sculptures on each story (and these are the actual Quattro Canti). These sculptures were built over the second decade of the XVII century and each represent different elements both natural and spiritual. The ones on the ground floor are fountains, representing the four rivers of the old town, on the first floor the four seasons are represented by mythical allegories between Doric columns. On the second floor, the statues of the four Spanish kings of Sicily are displayed between Ionic columns. The top floor hosts the four saint patrons of Palermo (Agatha, Ninfa, Oliva and Crhistina), between Corinthian columns. You can lose yourself in contemplation of this magnificent architectural complex for hours.
2. Visit the Sanctuary
Palermo has a unique skyline, as distinctive as Rome’s or Florence’s, if less often recognised by tourists on postcards and Instagram photos. The most characteristic feature in it is the shape of Mount Pellegrino, on the northern shore of the gulf. The mountain itself is a destination worth exploring: it hosts a natural reserve and it is the ideal place in which to admire the many and different wonders of the Mediterranean landscape. On top of the mountain you will find the Santa Rosalia sanctuary, much loved by locals and tourists alike. The Sanctuary clings to the side of Mount Pellegrino, with its baroque exterior providing a stark contrast with the harsh rocks of the mountain. The reason for peculiar location is that the church was built around a grotto, in which the saint is said to have died. According to a local legend, her bones were discovered in the early XVII century and, as soon as they were unearthed, the plague epidemic that had ravaged the city of Palermo was over.
3. Admire the Praetorian Fountain
If the heat is getting the better of you, you might want to find refreshment in the proximity of a beautiful fountain. The massive and elegantly carved Praetorian Fountain is located in the square by the same name and it will strike you as starkly different in style and design from the rest of the architecture in Palermo. This is due to the fact that it was originally designed to sit in a square in Florence, where its harmonic Renaissance style would have been much less conspicuous. The fountain was transported to Palermo in the late XVI Century, which, considering the technology of the time, was a remarkable feat. This fountain is an unusual architectural complex in itself, developing around a central basin and expanding into a circular structure with bridges, lawns and statues representing Olympian deities and local rivers.
4. Visit the Palermo Cathedral
Cathedrals feature in most of our guides: trough the centuries, the best artists, architects and painters in Italy have done some of their most remarkable work within religious structures or for religious patrons. The spot on which the Cathedral of Palermo is built has been occupied by places of worship since the III Century b.C. and, in Roman times, was the seat of one of the earliest Christian temples. During the byzantine era, under the Arab domination of Sicily, it was converted into a mosque, which was later conquered by the Normans and rebuilt and restored, only to be conquered again by the Spanish, as they took control of the island. The current church dates back to the VII Century, which makes it one of the oldest Churches in existence. The current gothic structure was completed in the XII Century.