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Palermo with its 667,000 inhabitants is the administrative capital city of the Sicilian Region and of the homonymous province. Its millennium history, has given it a remarkable artistic and architectonic heritage which varies from the Punic Walls ruins, to several houses in liberty style, to Arab-Norman style residential houses, to baroque churches and Neoclassical theatres. For cultural, artistic and economic reasons, Palermo has been among the major cities in the Mediterranean area, and nowadays is one of Sicily’s main destinations.
In IX century A.C., with the Arab invasion, the city, also known as “the paradise land”, became very beautiful. The “Ziza” and “Maredolce” castles and the “Parco della Favorita” park are evidence of this period. The extensive economic and cultural development took place during the Norman and Suevian period. Significant changes were also made to the city under the Aragonese rule.
Palermo city centre consists of what used to be the city centre inside the sixteenth-century walls, and it’s divided into two streets which create a sort of cross, also known as “La croce barocca” (The baroque cross).
Nowadays the city centre of Palermo is divided into four (administrative) districts: (Loggia-Castellammare, Tribunali-Kalsa, Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale) and Monte di Pietà-Capo) linked up to the two historical arteries of the city: the “ Cassaro” and “via Maqueda”, a perpendicular street to the former that, at its junction, creates the “Quattro Canti di Città “ square.
Among the various monuments to be visited, a special mention must be given to the ones related to the Norman and Arab period: in the Norman Palace, currently the seat of the Sicilian Parliament, there is the “San Giovanni degli Eremiti” church, with its typical red cupolas, nowadays this is one of the city symbols; we must also mention the “Martorana” church, with its rich mosaic decorations. Near the “Martorana” church we can find the “San Cataldo” church, a Norman building dating back to 1160.
Another very important building is the new Modern Art Gallery “Sant’Anna”, which keeps a convent of Baroque origins.
In order to savour the aromas and taste of the typical culinary specialities in Palermo and Sicily, don’t forget to visit the renowned “Vucciaria” market.
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