Once regarded as Europe's grandest, most beautiful city, Palermo is still quite impressive. The Four Corners of Palermo, where each 17th-century Spanish Baroque facade is adorned with a statue, is one of the city's most memorable sights. The Fontana Pretoria, often called the Fountain of Shame because of its nude Florentine figures, is also worth noting. Tour the famous Norman Cathedral and Capuchin catacombs. A day trip to Monreale to see the famous 12th-century cathedral is also recommended.


This is the biggest island in the Mediterranean, separated from the Italian peninsula by the strait of Messina. It has important mountain groups: Peloritani, Nebrodi, Madonie, Iblei. The coasts offers a landscape of beauty almost everywhere; groups of smaller islands are scattered round the coast (the Eolie or Lipari, Ustica, the Egadi. the isle of Pantelleria and the Pelagie). The Etna, rising in the center of a volcanic area of Sicily, is the highest active volcano in Europe (3,323 mt). The isles of Stromboli and Vulcano also are active volcanoes.




SICILY :  Provinces: Palermo, Messina, Siracusa




Founded during the last quarter of  VII c. BC by Phoenician merchants, Palermo only appeared in the history in 480 BC when the Carthaginians, in war against the allied Greek towns, took refuge for few days in the port of the Sicilian town before starting the siege of Himera.  Sacked by the Syracusan Hermocrates in 409 BC, Palermo then established a strong alliance with Carthage, which was very useful for the African colony during the war against Dionysius the Elder (beginning of IV c. BC), Agathocles (end of IV c. BC) and Pirrus (282-278 BC). 

During the First Punic War, which opposed Carthage to Rome with the aim of conquering the whole Sicily, the strategic position of Palermo in the center of the conflict forced the Roman to concentrate most of their strengths upon the Punic town, which felt in their hands in 254 BC. 


If our information about the town of Palermo and the other Punic colonies in general are very poor, it totally depends by the Greek and Latin literature, which were very hostile towards the Punic world.  In fact, after the destruction of Carthage of 146 BC, The Roman Senate gave all the libraries of the town to its principal allied in Africa. Today they have totally disappeared, depriving us of direct and detailed information about the several Punic colonies.



Historical Palermo sits compactly around one central crossroads, the Quattro Canti, which is at the core of four distinct quarters. The Albergheria and the Capo quarter, the latter beyond the cathedral, lie roughly west of Via Maqueda; the Vucciria and old harbour of La Cala and the La Kalsa, lie to the east, closest to the water. In these areas you'll find virtually all the surviving ancient monuments and buildings of the city: the hybrid Norman-Arab-Baroque Cattedrale-S.Maria Assunta and nearby Palazzo dei Normanni (Royal Palace), with its superb, mosaic-decorated chapel, the Cappella Palatina; the glorious Norman churches of La Martorana and San Giovanni degli Eremeti; the Baroque opulence of San Giuseppe dei Teatini. Located in the center of Palermo, near Via Libertà.and Piazza Croci, Villa Trabia is one of the few aristocratic homes open to the public.

This estate, which is now owned by the City of Palermo, houses civic offices and a public library. The palace is set in a beautiful wooded park open to the public most days. Built for the Prince of Trabia (Lanza family) in the eighteenth century, Villa Trabia provides a glimpse of the lifestyle of the Palermitan aristocracy of that era. Just outside Palermo you may visit the La Favorita and La Zisa villas and the Capuchin Convent, with its catacombs.




Punic Harbour of Palermo





Palermo’s origins date back to the period between the 8th and the 6th century B.C., when the Phoenicians colonized the area that was previously inhabited by Sicans, Cretans and the Elimi.  After being contested for a long period between Rome and Carthage during the Punic wars, the city of Paleopolis was placed under Roman rule (254 B.C.).  After several attacks by various barbaric populations, the city then became a part of the Byzantine Empire, which governed it for about three centuries, until 831.

The Arabs took over from the Byzantines and under their rule, Palermo enjoyed a period of splendor and prosperity. Art and economics were developed immensely, the first thanks to the influence of Arab culture and the latter through intense trading with the main Italian ports. Palermo increased its prestige by building mosques, luxurious palaces and wonderful gardens.

The Arabs ruled until 1072 when the Normans succeeded in gaining possession of the city after a long siege, and thus began a new era during which the population spread out throughout the island. Under Norman rule, Palermo was allowed a fair amount of autonomy, while in the city, palaces and monuments that were the symbols of this crossroads of culture, such as the Cappella Palatina (Palatine Chapel) and the Cathedral - Duomo in Monreale were built.

Palermo passed into the hands of the Swabians and Frederick II after the Normans: in this period, art and literature were developed even further, culminating in the setting up of the Sicilian School of Poets.

Under the French king, Charles of Anjou, Palermo lost a great deal of its autonomy, but the people rebelled, and started up the war of the Sicilian Vespers (1282) that continued for twenty years and which was intended to throw out the French from the island.

Spanish dominion (1400 - 1700) saw the beginning of a peaceful period for this much contested city that had been in the hands of various countries over the centuries. Palermo was once again the capital and the town’s buildings and monuments were renewed. Various religious orders, which were increasingly powerful, set up a large number of churches and convents. This was a period of pomp and opulence for the clergy and the aristocracy, but was also one of poverty and pestilence for the people, whose rebellions were often put down without the sparing of blood.

After a brief interval under the Sabaudo family Dynasty (1713 - 1718) and then under the Austrians (1718 - 1735), Palermo and Sicily were once again returned to the Spanish, and became the Autonomous State of the Kingdom of Naples.  When the Bourbon family decreed that the autonomy granted should be repealed, the whole of Sicily rose up (1820 and 1848) and finally in 1860, when Garibaldi and the thousand landed at Marsala, Palermo won its freedom, and then annexed itself to the Kingdom of Italy in 1870.




Palermo fishermen


A splendid Baroque City at the slopes of the Etna, from the eighteenth century on, Catania has been considered the second most important city of Sicily. Subjected to the Etna Vulcan, this town has been damaged by lava flows and earthquakes on several occasions. The city has two Roman amphitheatres, one which was built on a pre-existent Greek one and the other which is a completely Roman structure.

Visit the Ursino Castle, built on the orders of Emperor Frederick II von Hohenstaufen in the first half of the thirteenth century, and now a museum open to the public. The oldest part of the Duomo (Cathedral) dates back to 1092; it hosts the tombs of Frederick III of Aragona, who ruled from 1296-1337, and the one of Constance, wife of Frederick IV of Aragona. Most of Catania’s wide streets and palazzi were built during the eighteenth century, a characteristic is the gray, volcanic stone used in the buildings. 


This was the period in which noble families from across eastern Sicily, used to build palazzo in Catania, beginning a subtle social and economical rivalry with Palermo. The two most famous citizens are S.Agata, the martyr patroness of the city and Vincenzo Bellini, the opera composer. Stroll through Via dei Cruciferi and visit the churches of S.Benedetto, S.Giuliano and S.Niccolò.



Il Porto di Palermo

Informazioni di carattere generale
General information

Autorità Portuale di Palermo
Via piano dell'ucciardone, 4
90139 Palermo
Tel : 0039 91 6277111 - Fax : 0039 91 6374291




Carte nautiche


38° 08' N 13° 22' E

n.255 piano nautico del porto;
n.256 golfo di palermo

n. 255 Chartplan of the port
n.256 The Gulf of Palermo

Mite. La temperatura media annuale
e' di circa 17 gradi.

Mild. The annual average temperature is
about 17 degrees centigrade.




The actual configuration of Palermo is not representative of the ancient one, which attributed it the name of "Panormos". In fact a long sedimentary process made the two rivers which delimitated the town disappear. They were the Papireto to the West and the Kemonia to the East. The last one flew into the sea with an estuary, creating an immence natural port sheltered from bad weather and attacks. The Diodorus Siculos information, according to which 3000 Carthaginian warships and merchantships refuged for three days in the port of Palermo to repair the damages suffered during a crossing in the Mediterranean Sea, shows us that this port could contain an enormous number of ships, with the possibility of repairing them in a short time. 

Nowadays the touristic port of the Cala represents the only visible testimony of the ancient estuary. 
As concerns the limits of the town, they can be traced thanks to the studies of the fortifications which started from the today's Via Schioppettieri to reach the Norman Palace passing through  the Rua dei Formaggi  and the Via dei Biscottari.  From there they continued towards the Porta Santa Agata alla Guilla, running alongside the actual military area and continuing in the streets Celso and Calderai.  This area approximately corresponded to the "Cassaro", upper part of the historical centre.




Densità dell'acqua di mare
Sea water density





Ora media di Greenwich più un'ora
(da Ottobre a marzo);
Ora media di Grenwich più due ore
(da marzo a ottobre);

GMT plus one hour (from October
to March);
GMT plus two hours (from March
to October);


La distanza dall'aereoporto di Punta
Raisi è di circa 25 Km. Il collegamento
è assicurato con servizi regolari di

The Punta Raisi Airport is about 25 Kmtrs
.far from the port. It is served by regular
bus service.





Until Roman times, this was the most powerful and magnificent city in all Sicily. Today, it is an impressive and intriguing sight, with a mixture of late Baroque architecture - vivid yet damaged by the passage of time, and the reconstruction of the city following the terrible earthquake of 1693 - and ancient classical architecture. It is situated in an exquisite landscape of sea, rocks and Mediterranean vegetation. Siracusa may be divided in several areas.

The most ancient part of town is the island of Ortigia, linked to the mainland by the Ponte Nuovo. Have a stroll and look at the Fonte Aretusa, related to the myth of the goddess Diana’s nymph. Don’t miss the beautiful Baroque Duomo with its ornate chapels, carved Doric columns, frescoes and statues. The other Baroque buildings, on the same square, include the striking Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco whith a lovely courtyard, the Palazzo del Senato and the Church of Santa Lucia alla Badia (S.Lucy is the patron saint of this town). 


Visit the Linear Theatre and the churches of S. Maria delle Colonne, S.Giovanni, S.Pietro, Palazzo Mergulese-Montalto. Palazzo Bellomo hosts an Art gallery ( Entombment of St. Lucy by Caravaggio, Annunciation by Antonello da Messina), and the imposing Maniace Castle with its Swabian architecture don’t has to be missed. Via della Maestranza is one of the oldest and interesting streets of Ortigia, literally stuffed with Baroque buildings: look out for Palazzo Interland Pizzuti, Palazzo Impellizzeri, Palazzo Bonanno, Palazzo Romeo Bufardeci, S.Francesco all’Immacolata. We also recommend a walk through Mastrarua, another old street, Via Mirabella and Corso Matteotti, full of shops. Also interesting: the Church of S.Spirito and the Belvedere S.Giacomo which offers a spectacular view.

In the archaeological area on the mainland part of town, called Parco Archeologico della Neapolis, you may visit the Ear of Dionysius (situated in the Latomia del Paradiso, a garden with orange and palm trees), the ancient Greek theatre, the Roman amphitheatre and the Tomb of Archimedes. In the Regional Archaeological Museum Paolo Orsi you may view many interesting finds dating back to Sicilian prehistory.

In the areas of Tyche and Akradina: visit the Papyrus Museum, the S.Giovanni Catacombs, the Crypt of S.Marciano, the Basilica of S.Giovanni Evangelista and S.Lucia extra moenia. Also worth: a walk to the Eurialo Castle, on the north side ot town.

A favourite excursion is a boat trip starting at the Fonte Ciane, at about 8 km out of town; it will get you to the spot, where, according to Ovid, the Rape of Proserpina took place.
Noto: Defined as “Stone garden", Noto was entirely built with a soft stone that, owing to the effect of sun rays, has gradually acquired a beautiful honey shade.




Palermo painting


Two great earthquakes hit this city, in 1783 and 1908, and during WWII it was heavily bombed.

Visit the Museo Regionale with Byzantine and Norman works as well as works by Messina’s famous artists, Antonello da Messina and Girolamo Aliprandi. Also interesting the Mannerist building - Monte di Pietà and the church Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani. A short way from the Duomo, this church was built in the 12th century during the Norman rule and remodelled later on by the Catalans. The apse is a fine specimen of the Norman composite style, that combines Roman, Moorish and Byzantine features. The Duomo has been rebuilt in Norman style, after the earthquake of 1908. From the inside you may access the Treasury, which displays a fine collection of religious objects and vestments, reliquaries, candlesticks, chalices and a fine 1600’s monstrance, containing a host.

The astronomical clock on the bell-tower to the left of the cathedral has a mechanism dating from 1933.Don’t miss a look at it on midday! It consists of several layers, each with a different display endowed with a separate movement. At the bottom, a two-horse chariot sets the day of the week; above, the central figure of Death looks at the four ages of man that pass before him. At the third stage, the Sanctuary of Montalto sets the scene for a group of figures which, according to the time of year, represent the Nativity, Epiphany, Resurrection and Pentecost. At the top, the tableau enacts a scene relating to a local legend whereby the Madonna delivers a letter to the ambassodors of Messina in which she thanks and agrees to protect the inhabitants of the town who were converted to Christianity by St. Paul the Apostle.

The female bell-strikers are the local heroines Dina and Clarenza, during the period of resistance against the Angevins (1282).. The southern side of the bell-tower shows a perpetual calendar, the astronomical cycle marked by the signs of the zodiac, and the different phases of the moon. When the clock strikes midday, all the mechanical figures come to life. On the Piazza del Duomo you may admire the Fontana di Orione with allegoric statues of four rivers.

For excursions in the area:

Ganzirri and Torre Faro, two characteristic, pictoresque fishing villages full of life. Or the medieval hill village of Savoca which boasts interesting churches like the Convento dei Capuccini, the 15th century Chiesa di San Michele with fine Gothic-Renaissance portals, and the Chiesa Madre. From Casalvecchio you’ll have a panoramic view over the Ionian coastline and may visit the Chiesa Madre, decorated with Taormina marble.

Tindari: Piazzale Belvedere, Greek theatre and Basilica at the archaeological site.



Palermo marina




A volcanic archipelago on Sicily’s North-Eastern Tyrrhenian coast with the islands of Lipari ( the largest one), Salina (a green island with many wineyards), Filicudi, Alicudi, Stromboli (with an active volcano), Panarea (a jet-set island) and Vulcano (famous for its fango baths). The Greeks who colonized the islands around 580BC named them after the god of the winds Aeolus. These beautiful spots offer an enchanting landscape, great beaches with white sand, castles, thermal resorts and medieval structures and are a main tourist resort in Summer.

On Lipari the volcanic phenomenon can be observed in the island's thermal springs (up to 600), in its solfataras and in its 12 volcanic systems converging towards the 602 metres of Monte Chirica. This elevated and craggy island has spectacular beaches and breathtaking ragged coasts.

Panarea - The main village, Contrada San Pietro, consists of a group of white houses clustered along the eastern side of the island. The built-up area is crowned with olive trees and protected by huge walls. The other two villages north and south of San Pietro are Dittella and Drauto.We recommend a boat tour to the nearby small islands of Basiluzzo, Dattilo and Lisca Bianca, to the Scoglio Bottaro (with its underwater "fumaroles").

Salina - More than 400 different types of plants grow here. It is also the island with the highest peaks such as the three volcanoes that originated e.g Monte Fossa delle Felci (962 m), which is partially covered by one of the most beautiful strawberry tree woods of the entire Mediterranean.

Vulcano - famous for the baths in the warm waters of its submarine springs. This 21 km2, 500 metre high (Monte Aria) isle is the Aeolian island closest to the Sicilian coast. Its name is a clear description of its geography: a land of lava and fumarole, yellow sulphur rocks and black sands all worth a visit.

Stromboli - This 924 metre high lava mountain (Serra Vancori) which drops abruptly down to 2000 metres below sea-level is Europe's biggest active volcano after Etna. During the night, the glittering "sciara" of fire (the red-hot flow descending towards the sea) can be seen from the boats and from Panarea. During the day, the smoke of the peak joins the steam raising up from the water that cools down the red-hot lava detritus which have plunged into the water after sliding down the slope of the coast. The white houses of the little village create a unique contrast with the black lava background dotted with dark-green bushes.




Italian island cruise ship





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