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Palermo is a wonderful city, full of monuments, churches and works of art, characterized by various architectural styles, which well represent the unique history of Sicily and its dominations. Due to their characteristic Arab-Norman style, some monuments of Palermo are world heritage sites according to UNESCO. Among these are the Norman Palace, the Palatine Chapel, the Cathedral of Palermo, the Palazzo della Zisa and the churches of San Giovanni degli Eremiti and San Cataldo. To this list are added the Cathedral of Monreale and the Cathedral of Cefalù, small towns also in the province of Palermo.
The Norman Palace, or simply the Royal Palace, is the oldest royal residence in Europe and is the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. Here is the wonderful Palatine Chapel, which contributes to making it one of the most visited monuments in Sicily. The latter, dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle, was built in 1130 at the behest of Roger II of Sicily. It is a basilica with three naves, famous for the Byzantine mosaics that fresco it. The largest and most famous of all is the "Christ Pantocrator", a decorative motif also present in the Martorana church. The wooden ceiling with engravings and carvings that refer to the long Arab domination of the city is also very beautiful.
In addition to the Norman Palace, there are other wonderful palaces, some of these are: Palazzo Gangi, Palazzo Chiaramonte Steri, Palazzo Mirto and the Palazzo della Zisa.
Near the Norman Palace, there is the Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti is a medieval church of Arab-Norman architecture, easily recognizable from the outside for its deep red domes. Characteristic like the church, are also the cloister and its gardens, with a unique style that makes the visit particularly relaxing and welcoming.
The Church of San Cataldo, also in the historic center, has a similar style with red domes.
The Cathedral of Palermo, dedicated to the Virgin Mary of the Assumption , it represents the history of Sicily and its dominations well, with its extraordinary mix of different architectural styles. Initially built as a Christian church in the 17th century and transformed into a mosque in the 19th century by the Saracens, the church was finally converted to Christian worship in 1100 by the Normans.
The main facade between two turrets has a large fifteenth-century portico in Catalan Gothic style, the dome is late Baroque while the oldest part is represented by the apse with splendid Arab-Norman decorations.
The Quattro Canti intersection represents the intersection of the 2 main streets of Palermo, Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda which leads to the Teatro Massimo.
Here you can admire these 4 perfectly symmetrical facades. They have all been built following the same model: at the base, there is a fountain that represents the seasons; on the first level there are the statues of the kings of Palermo while on the last level, there are the representations of the 4 patron saints of Palermo: Agata, Cristina, Ninfa and Oliva.
Another beautiful fountain is located in Piazza Pretoria, not far away. This is the Pretoria fountain, which was built in 1554 by Francesco Camilliani in Florence, but in 1581 it was moved to Piazza Pretoria in Palermo.
The Massimo Theater was inaugurated in 1897, it is the largest opera house in Italy and the third largest in Europe. This soon became one of the most famous theaters in Italy, thanks to the quality of the theatrical performances and operas that take place here.
The Regional Archaeological Museum of Palermo is located near the Teatro Massimo, inside an ancient palace. Divided into three floors, it houses a large collection of works from the Etruscan, Roman, Egyptian and Greek eras, some of which come from the temple of Selinunte, also in Sicily, in the province of Trapani.
The Foro Italico is a large public garden that is located almost on the seashore. There is also a promenade in which to take a walk and some trees under which to enjoy some shade.
The Botanical Garden of Palermo is located a few steps from the Foro Italico, in Via Lincoln. The botanical garden is home to several species of both Mediterranean and exotic trees and plants, many fruit trees such as oranges, lemons and greenhouses. The gigantic ficus with intertwined branches is the most famous tree in the whole garden.
Monreale is a town in the metropolitan area of Palermo, about 10 km from the historic center. Despite the distance, this place deserves to be seen especially for its beautiful and sumptuous Cathedral of Monreale, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Nuova. Built in the 12th century, this cathedral is most famous for its characteristic golden mosaics, such as the well-known depiction of"Christ Pantocrator" in the apse. Together with the Cathedral of Cefalù and the Arab-Norman works of Palermo, it has been included in the list of world heritage sites by UNESCO.
If it is hot and you want a swim in the sea, Mondello beach is the most popular with Palermo and is located 12 km from the historic center. In warm Sicily it is possible to swim even in spring and autumn!