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Syracuse Free Walking Tour

Every Tuesday & Friday afternoon (summer months and Christmas period)

Etna day trip from Syracuse

Palermo, Sicily's largest town, is a place full of history and monuments. To visit the town and discover its beauties would take at least 3 days, but often we do not have so much time when we are on holiday. In this article we collect some suggestions for the visit of Palermo and we try to list the absolute "highlights" of the town which it's possible to see spending few hours, half day or a full day for the visit. There are many other monuments, not listed in this article which will find place in an other page dedicated to Palermo

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 If you need a free  tourist map of Palermo, you can find some examples indicating the main monuments, to download and to print in our section "Maps of Palermo" that is always updated with new materials. Now have a look at the main monuments of Palermo:

Palermo in 2 hours

Norman royal palace and palace chapel (Palazzo dei Normanni and Cappella Palatina)

If you only have few hours to visit Palermo, choose to see the Norman palace in the heart of the historical centre. The name of the building remembers that it was the residence of the Norman kings of Sicily. It's architecture is impressive and today it's the seat of the Sicilian autonomous parliament. Inside the palace is located the palace chapel, built by Roger II the Norman and full of marvelous, golden byzantine mosaics representing religious themes. These mosaics belong to the most beautiful of the whole Mediterranean area.

Opening hours: Mon to Sat from 8.15 am to 5.40 pm, Sun and holidays 8.15 am to 1 pm. Full price ticket: € 8,50. The palace chapel is closed during the holy mass. Updated infos about openings and tickets are available on the website of the Fondazione Federico II.

Palermo in half day

If you have half day to visit Palermo, after the Norman palace you can have a look to some of the other monuments of the old town center. Near to the Norman palace is the church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti.

 San Giovanni degli Eremiti church

This church, built in the twelfth century, is an architectural symbol of Palermo. Thanks to its red domes it's one of the best expression of the arab-norman style which remembers the inteweaving of different cultures in Sicily. It was part of a Benedictine monastery of Norman age. The cloister is decorated with small columns and ogival arches. The garden is lovely and contains typical Mediterranean plants.

Opening hours: every day from 9 am to 7 pm. Full price ticket: € 6, reduced € 3. Info: Assessorato Beni Culturali

Cathedral

The building of the cathedral of Palermo began in the year 1184 and the works soon became a real artistic battle against the near cathedral of Monreale. The façade is adorned by towers, spires and ogival arches in arab-norman style. The church contains the imperial and royal tombs of Frederick II, the empress Constance of Aragon, Henry VI and other rulers of Sicily. Very intersting is also the visit to the treasury of the cathedral among which it's possible to admire a wonderful golden tiara with pearls and precious stones of Constance of Aragon.

Opening times: March to October, Workdays 9 am - 5.30 pm | Holidays 9 am - 1.30 pm and 4 pm - 7 pm. November to February, workdays 9 am - 1.30 pm | Holidays 9 am -1.30 pm and 4 pm -7 pm. Tickets are required for the imperial tombs, the crypt and the treasury. Full ticket: € 7 (reduced € 5), Information about openings and tickets: Cathedral website

 

Palermo in a full day

If you have the full day free to visit Palermo. you can continue our itinerary walking through the roads of the old town centre to discover the colors and sounds of this Sicilian town. Walking along corso Vittorio Emanuele you can have a look at some nice corners like the quattro canti or the fontana pretoria or you can visit the Kalsa or the typical market Vucciria. A little out of the way but very interesting for their peculiarity are the catacombs of the Capuchins, visited by a lot of tourists due to their fame derived by a lot of books and documentaries about them.

Monastery and crypt of Capuchins

The catacombs of Capuchins were used from the 16th to the 19th century and are recent, compared to other sicilian underground cemeteries. Their fame derives from the 8000 mummies, dressed in their best clothes which lie or are hung along the walls of the underground catacombs. Certainly, the catacombs of Capuchins are the most gruesome Sicilian monument but it also an unique opportunity to discover this ancient funeral tradition.

Opening hours: Every day 9 am - 12.30 pm and 3 pm - 5.30 pm (from the end of October to the end of March, closed on Sunday afternoon). Tickets: € 3 - Taking photographs is not permitted inside the catacombs. Info: Provincia di Palermo

  

La Martorana (or Santa Maria dell'ammiraglio)

This church was built in the 12th century by George of Antioch, an admiral of Roger II. The building was often modified during the centuries but it maintains an eclectic arab-norman style and inside are preserved magnificent byzantine mosaics which remember those of the palace chapel. Near the Martorana it's also possible to have a look to the nice San Cataldo church..

Tickets: € 2 Information about openings and tickets: Diocesi di Palermo:

 

The stucco works of Serpotta: oratorio di Santa Cita, San Lorenzo and San Domenico

Up to now we have admired. most of all, arab-norman style buildings and ancient byzantine mosaics but also the baroque churches of Palermo are worth a visit. From the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 17th century, in Palermo worked the master Giacomo Serpotta which made incredible stucco sculptures to decorate the interior of many churches. You can have a look to these beautiful works in the oratorio di Santa Cita, in San Lorenzo and in San Domenico. In the last mentioned you can also admire paintings by Pietro Novelli, Luca Giordano and Antonie van Dyck.

 Full ticket for three oratories: € 5. Entrance free for the churches. Photographs are not allowed. Info: www.santacita.it 

Archaeological museum "Salinas"

This museum is one of the most important archaeological museums of Sicily. It's located near the Santa Cita church. The collection contains materials from prehistoric, Greek and Roman age. Very important are the marble and bronze sculptures and the Greek red and black figures  ceramics. Don't miss the room which displays the materials of the Greek Sicilian colony of Selinunte with its incredible sculpures from the ancient temples.

CLOSED FOR RESTORATION WORKS - Info: Museum Website

Regional gallery of Palazzo Abatellis

The museum is located in an ancient monastery of the 15th century. The gallery displays paintings and sculptures from whole Sicily from the 14th to the 16th century. Some of the most famous masterpieces of the museum are the Virgin of Annunciation by Antonello da Messina, the marble bust of Eleonor of Aragon by Francesco Laurana and the Malvagna triptych by  Jan Gossaert.

Full price ticket: € 8 (reduced € 4). Updated opening hours are published on the Website of the Museum Abatellis

 This was a small list of the most famous monuments of Palermo but more days are required for a complete visit of the town and to discover its colors, lifestyle and also its famous gastronomy. Other important monuments of Palermo are the Teatro Massimo, the Palazzo Steri, the Zisa, the botanic garden and the traditional sicilian puppets shows. The location of these monuments is a little out of the way among the monuments listed in this article. It's also very interesting visiting the surroundings with the cathedral of Monreale, Cefalù and the temple of Segesta.

Note: We always try to publish updated information about ticket prices and opening hours but in Sicily there are often sudden variations. For this reason we suggest to control these informations on the official websites or to phone at the ticket office.

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Photo credits

S.Leggio/Sicilystockphoto.com. Foto con licenza creative commons: Cappella Palatina (acidonucleico/Flickr), San Giovanni degli eremiti (dalbera/Flickr), Cattedrale (minifig/Flickr), Catacombe dei cappuccini (giovy.it/Flickr), Museo Salinas (A.Baldassarri/Flickr), Martorana (kristobalite/Flickr). La foto dell'Annunciata è del Yorck Project ed è sotto licenza GNU

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