Palermo Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Palermo

Palermo is one of the most famous and well visited cities in Italy. Located in the north of the Sicilian Isle and directly on the shore of the Mediterranean, the city is magnificently designed and constructed. Here you will find a plethora of architectural masterpieces such as old churches, governmental buildings, and various monuments. Follow this orientation walk to explore the best attractions of Palermo.
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Palermo Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Palermo Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Palermo (See other walking tours in Palermo)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: Lilly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Porta Nuova (New Gate)
  • Palazzo dei Normanni (Royal Palace of Palermo)
  • Cathedral of Palermo
  • Palazzo Conte Federico (Count Federic Palace)
  • Mercato di Ballarò (Ballarò Market)
  • Chiesa del Gesù (Jesus Church)
  • La Martorana (Martorana Chapel)
  • Piazza Pretoria (Pretoria Square)
  • Fontanna della Vergogna (Fountain of Shame)
  • Quattro Canti (Four Songs Square)
  • Mercato della Vucciria (Vucciria Market)
  • Chiesa San Domenico (San Domenico Church)
  • Teatro Massimo (Massimo Theatre)
Porta Nuova (New Gate)

1) Porta Nuova (New Gate)

Porta Nuove (The New Gate) was erected in the late 14th century by Viceroy Marcantonio. The main idea of the gate was to commemorate the victory of Charles V over the Turkish army. The original gate was destroyed in 1667, but then rebuilt in the second half of the 15th century. Regardless of the fact that it has been reconstructed, Porta Nuova still preserves the neoclassic forms of the ancient triumphal arches.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Palazzo dei Normanni (Royal Palace of Palermo)

2) Palazzo dei Normanni (Royal Palace of Palermo) (must see)

The Palazzo dei Normanni, or Royal Palace of Palermo, was the seat of the Kings of Sicily during the Norman domination and served afterwards as the main seat of power for the subsequent rulers of Sicily. Today it is the seat of the regional parliament of Sicily.

The palace stands in what is the highest point of the ancient centre of the city, just above the first Punic settlements, whose remains can still be found in the basement. The first building, the Qasr (in Arabic, castle or palace) is believed to have been started in the 9th century by the Emir of Palermo. Parts of this early building are still visible in the foundations and in the basements, where typical arabian vaults are present.

After the Normans conquered Sicily in 1072 (just 6 years after they conquered England) and established Palermo as the capital of the new Kingdom of Sicily, the palace was chosen as the main residence of the kings. The palace contains the Cappella Palatina, by far the best example of the so-called Arab-Norman-Byzantine style that prevailed in the 12th-century Sicily. The wonderful mosaics, the wooden roof, elaborately fretted and painted, and the marble incrustation of the lower part of the walls and the floor are very fine. Of the palace itself the greater part was rebuilt and added in Catalan times, but there are some other parts of Roger's work left, specially the hall called Sala Normanna.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Cathedral of Palermo

3) Cathedral of Palermo (must see)

The Cathedral of Palermo is an architectural complex, characterized by the presence of different styles, due to a long history of additions, alterations and restorations, the last of which occurred in the 18th century. The church was erected in 1185 by Walter Ophamil (or Walter of the Mill), the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo and King William II's minister, on the area of an earlier Byzantine basilica. The upper orders of the corner towers were built between the 14th and the 15th centuries, while in the early Renaissance period the southern porch was added.

The present neoclassical appearance dates from the work carried out over the two decades 1781 to 1801, and supervised by Ferdinando Fuga. The main façade of the church is on the Western side, on the current Via Bonello, and has the appearance set in the 14th and 15th centuries. It is flanked by two towers and has a Gothic portal surmounted by a niche with a precious 15th century Madonna. The interior has a Latin cross plan, with a nave and two aisles divided by pilasters. In the first two chapels of the right aisle are the tomb of emperors and royal figures moved here in the 18th century from their original sites. The Sacrament chapel, at the end of the left aisles, is decorated with precious stones and lapislazuli. To the right, in the presbytery, is the chapel of Saint Rosalia, patron of Palermo, closed by a richly ornamental bronze gate, with relics and a 17th century silver urn which is object of particular devotion.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Palazzo Conte Federico (Count Federic Palace)

4) Palazzo Conte Federico (Count Federic Palace) (must see)

Palazzo Conte Federico is one of the oldest and most prestigious buildings in Palermo. Its tower Arab-Norman of the twelfth century is placed on the wall of the old Punic city and is decorated with two double lancet windows, a Norman and an Aragonese, and the ancient coats of arms of the city of Palermo, one of the Swabians and the other Aragonese . This tower, called Torre Busuemi or Torre di Scrigno, incorporates an ancient gateway to the city, Porta Busuemi (from the Arabic Bab el Soudan : Porta dei Negri).

The residence belongs to the Federico counts who acquired it in the mid- 17th century with Gaspare Federico and Balsamo, Count of San Giorgio, who bought the large hospice of Porta Busuemi from the Olivetan Fathers of Santa Maria dello Spasimo . The reconfiguration of the building in today's forms is due to the Count of San Giorgio Gaspare Federico and Balsamo, while his heir, Count Nicolò Federico and Opezzinga, later commissioned many of the precious decorations that enrich the palace.

From the internal courtyard, finely decorated in stone carving by Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia in 1750 , and through a spectacular red marble staircase, you enter the main floor, with the numerous halls that reflect the different eras through which the history of the building passed.

In the various halls, furnished with original furniture and paintings by distinguished artists of the time, you can admire the painted wooden coffered ceilings of the fifteenth century , the eighteenth - century frescoes by Vito D'Anna and Gaspare Serenari and various collections of weapons and ancient ceramics . Among the various areas of the palace it is worth mentioning the dance gallery where a grand piano stands on the stage that Wagner played in 1882 while he was staying in Palermo.

The historic building is still inhabited today by Count Alessandro Federico.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Mercato di Ballarò (Ballarò Market)

5) Mercato di Ballarò (Ballarò Market)

Mercato di Ballarò is the oldest market of the City as well as one of the largest. The popular market is the first in Palermo to sell fresh goods and naturally grown products. The voices of the vendors crying out for customers never cease, nor does the fantastic variety of items.
Chiesa del Gesù (Jesus Church)

6) Chiesa del Gesù (Jesus Church) (must see)

The Church of the Gesu, or Casa Professa, is one of the most important Baroque churches in Palermo and the interior of Sicily. The Jesuits arrive in Palermo in 1549 and in the late 16th century began building a church adjacent to their mother house, to plans by the Jesuit architect Giovanni Tristano. At first it was formed of a single nave with large transepts and several side chapels but at the start of the 17th century, to make the church more grandiose as was typical of Jesuit architecture, Natale Masuccio revised the plan by removing the chapels' dividing walls to add two side naves to the central one. The church was finally dedicated in 1636.

During the Second World War a bomb fell on the church's dome, causing it to collapse, taking with it most of the surrounding walls and most of the wall paintings in the chancel and transepts. These frescoes were replaced during two years' restoration work, after which the church reopened on 24 February 2009 with a solemn mass presided over by Paolo Romeo, archbishop of Palermo, and attended by several Jesuits and civil and military officials.
Sight description based on wikipedia
La Martorana (Martorana Chapel)

7) La Martorana (Martorana Chapel) (must see)

La Martorana or Santa Maria dell' Ammiraglio is a chapel located in Piazza Bellini. It was built in 1143 and is known for its amazing gold Byzantium mosaics. This is probably one of the most beautiful churches in Palermo, having an exterior that displays Norman architecture, Gothic towers and Baroque facades.
Piazza Pretoria (Pretoria Square)

8) Piazza Pretoria (Pretoria Square)

Piazza Pretoria, also known as square of Shame, is at the limits of the district of Kalsa, near the corner of Cassaro with Via Maqueda, just a few meters from the Quattro Canti, the exact center of the historic city of Palermo.

In 1573 the Senate of Palermo bought a fountain initially intended for the Palace of San Clemente in Florence, with the intention of placing it in the square.

To make way for the monumental achievement, designed for an open place, several homes were demolished and the fountain was re-adapted to the site with the addition of new parts. In 1581 the works of accommodation of the fountain on the square.

The large central fountain is the focal point for sixteen nude statues of nymphs, humans, mermaids and satyrs. Since eighteenth century in 1860, the fountain was considered the representation of corrupt municipalities, and Palermo nicknamed the square with the nudity of the statues, the Square of Shame (Piazza della vergogna.) This may have also been reflecting the prevailing influence of the Spanish Inquisition during that time.

At the center of the square is the Fontana Pretoria (1554), by Francesco Camilliani, occupying a large part of the extension that strongly characterizes the Plan Praetorian. Three of the four sides are enclosed by buildings: the Praetorian Palace (the town hall) built in fourteenth century and renovated in nineteenth century, the Church of St. Catherine (end of sixteenth century), and two baronial palaces: Palazzo Bonocore and Palazzo Bordonaro. The fourth side of the square with a staircase descends to Via Maqueda.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Fontanna della Vergogna (Fountain of Shame)

9) Fontanna della Vergogna (Fountain of Shame) (must see)

Fontanna della Vergogna or the "Fountain of shame" is also known as Fontata Pretoria. The fountain was built by Francesco Camilliani in the city of Florence in 1554, but was transferred in Palermo in 1574. The fountain is decorated with statues of gods and goddesses, animal heads, nymphs, and monsters. Fontanna della Vergogna is also wonderfully illuminated at night.
Quattro Canti (Four Songs Square)

10) Quattro Canti (Four Songs Square) (must see)

Quattro Canti, officially known as Piazza Vigliena, is a Baroque square in Palermo, Sicily, southern Italy. It was laid out on the orders of the Viceroy the Duke of Maqueda between 1608-1620 by Giulio Lasso at the crossing of the two principal streets in Palermo, the Via Maqueda and the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. The piazza is octagonal four sides being the streets, and the remaining four sides are Baroque buildings the near identical facades of which contain fountains with statues of the four seasons, the four Spanish kings of Sicily, and of the patronesses of Palermo, (Cristina, Ninfa, Olivia, and Agata). The facades onto the interchange are curved, and rise to four floors; the fountains rise to the height of the second floor, the third and fourth floors contain the statues in niches. At the time the piazza was built, it was one of the first major examples of town planning in Europe.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Mercato della Vucciria (Vucciria Market)

11) Mercato della Vucciria (Vucciria Market)

Mercato della Vucciria (The Vucciria Market) is one the largest and oldest open door markets in the city. During the Roman era, merchants also used the market to trade slaves. Today, it sells a wide variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish.
Chiesa San Domenico (San Domenico Church)

12) Chiesa San Domenico (San Domenico Church)

The Church of San Domenico is the second most important church in Palermo after the Cathedral. The church is located in a square of the same name in the old district of La Loggia. The church was built in 1458 and incorporates baroque style characteristics.
Teatro Massimo (Massimo Theatre)

13) Teatro Massimo (Massimo Theatre) (must see)

The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele is an opera house and opera company located on the Piazza Verdi. It was dedicated to King Victor Emanuel II. It is the biggest in Italy, and one of the largest of Europe, renowned for its perfect acoustics. For many years there had been talk of building a big new theatre in Palermo, worthy of the second biggest city in southern Italy (after Naples) and designed to promote the image of the city following the recent national unity.

The opera house was designed and overseen by the very genial Italian architect Giovan Battista Filippo Basile and, following his death in 1891, construction was then overseen by his highly artistic son, Architect Ernesto Basile. The whole construction, from the foundations all the way up to the theatre's attic structures, including all the external decorations of the same building, were completed under Architect Giovanni Rutelli's technical and constructive direction.

The Teatro Massimo is the largest theatre in Italy (and the third largest opera house in Europe). Basile was inspired by ancient and classical Sicilian architecture and, thus, the exterior was designed in the high neoclassical style incorporating elements of the Greek temples at Selinunte and Agrigento. Realized in the late-Renaissance style, the auditorium was planned for 3,000 people, but, in its current format, it seats 1,350, with 7 tiers of boxes rising up around an inclined stage, and shaped in the typical horseshoe style.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Palermo, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Palermo

Create Your Own Walk in Palermo

Creating your own self-guided walk in Palermo is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
The Palaces of Palermo

The Palaces of Palermo

The palaces of Palermo were and still are a fine manifestation of the historical life of the Palermo region. Amazingly, some of these great palaces still stand while have struggled to retain their original form from centuries earlier. The story of each palace is a terrific visual behind Palermo's rich cultural heritage.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Historical Religious Buildings

Historical Religious Buildings

Religion has always played an important role in the lives of the Italian people. Thus, it is little wonder that the great city of Palermo features a plethora of churches, cathedrals, and temples. Here is the first part of Palermo's religious buildings walking tour.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles