Palermo - The Cathedral
The Palermo Province stretches out in the northern part of Sicily looking out over the Tyrrhenian sea, with a tract of splendid coast opening out into the Carini Gulf, Palermo and Termini Imerese.
The seafront is fascinating for its fantastic colors, ranging from intense sea blue to the green of vegetation, and the constrasting dark hues of rocks against white beaches of finest sand.
Mondello stands out as the beach most frequented by local people, whereas Cefalù is a monumental city but with cozy beaches; finally, Sferracavallo, an ancient fishing village, has become a haven for scuba diving.
Against the open sea of Palermo, you can distinguish the skyline of Ustica Island, made up of the remains of a group of former volcanoes, rich in naturalistic beauty with coves, caves, and archeological findings.
The terrain here is prevalently mountainous and includes the Madonie range that extends toward the Pollina and Imera Valleys, part of which runs into the coast. This environment is protected by the Madonie Regional Park, which offers spectacular panoramas and a great variety of landscapes, from the rough rocky mountains and cliffs diving straight down into the sea, up to the hilly expanse of the hinterland.
Besides the beauty of nature, renowned localities and marvelous artistic treasures of different eras make this territory unique and special, a popular tourist spot well-known among visitors.
From the Solunto ruins to the archeological area of Monte Jato, from Monreale to Palermo, the entire territory is full of art treasures, enchanting landscapes and attractive remains of ancient civilization.
Palermo shines in the center of the Gulf bearing its name, a city with a rich past that in ancient times was the melting pot of European and Arab civilization.
The province is full of highlights, from the historical villas punctuating the Bagheria area more epicurean attractions, and from the traditional folkloristic celebrations to relaxing holidays by the sea. Palermo and all its territory is a traveler's mecca for all seasons and all demands.
Palermo is the starting point of a touristic itinerary through the territory, which faces the Gulf of Palermo and is surrounded by orange and lemon groves of the Conca D’Oro.
The city is truly a site to see, especially the polychromatic marble of its buildings, its Arabian-like domes, its vibrant and colorful Vucciria market or the Kalsa Quarter and its lush green, like Parco della Favorita, Villa Giulia and the Garibaldi Gardens.
In Palermo's historic center, splendid monuments testify to its illustrious past, examples of which are the Palazzo dei Normanni with the Palatina chapel featuring ancient mosaics. The Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti is surmounted by five red domes; meanwhile, the majestic Cathedral contains works of art, and in particular, the “Royal and Imperial Tombs.”
Worthy of note are the Church of San Domenico, one of Palermo’s main baroque monuments, and the Oratories of the Holy Rosary of San Domenico and of Santa Zita, famous for their rich stuccowork and interiors.
Special mention must be made of the Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, which contains one of the most ancient mosaic cycles of Sicily, the Church of Santa Caterina with its richly-decorated interior and the divine and very old Church of the Magione, founded in the 12th century.
Finally, visitors will want to see these public buildings: the Zisa, a magnificent Arab-Norman construction, Palazzo Chiaromonte or Steri, a splendid example of 1300s Sicilian architecture, and the Neoclassical Teatro Massimo.
Another spot to add to the itinerary is Monreale, located in a panoramic position with respect to the Conca D’Oro, just a few kilometers from Palermo.
Monreale is one of the most renowned touristic spots of Sicily and all of Italy because of its artistic heritage, represented by the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Nuova. One of the most exquisite samples of Norman architecture, it is elaborately adorned with art and decoration on the inside.
The small town of Bagheria, surrounded by rich vegetation, is known for the presence of several noble 18th century villas, especially the luxurious Villa Valguarnera and the picturesque Villa Palagonia, also called “villa of monsters” due to the many sculptures it contains in the form of monstrous characters.
Villa Cattolica, seat of the Guttuso Museum, is known for the works of art by the contemporary artist of the same name, a native of Bagheria.
The San Cipirello territory also hosts the archeological site known as the settlement of Monte Jato: one of the most ancient cities of the island, visitors can identify differing development phases of the city through the ages. One can admire the superb ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite with its altar. There is also a great theater and the remains of the so-called Peristilium House.
Cefalù is a fantastic city to visit as well, offering a frequented beach resort, and the fine artistic legacy of its Duomo, which dates to Norman times, and the Mandralisca Museum, with its rich art and archeological collections. The surrounding territory conserves numerous archeological findings. On the cliffs above the town, you cam find the remains of an ancient sanctuary and, on the coast, numerous remains of archaic fortifications.
Close to Santa Flavia, along a rocky slope you can admire the ruins of the ancient city of Solunto, a very interesting site due to its unusual position and the richness of its archeological treasures.
The Isle of Ustica is a renowned tourist spot because of its impressive coastal caves, its thick vegetation and a picturesque town center.
The splendid coast with its beaches and rocky expanse is a tempting invitation to spend a relaxing holiday by the sea, or even for the more adventurous, with opportunities to sail and practice a variety of water sports.
Some parts of the coast and the island of Ustica are ideal for scuba diving and boat excursions to some of its awe-inspiring caves.
The protected areas and natural reserves propose an infinity of routes for walking or trekking on the Madonie highlands.
The spas Termini Imerese and Sclafani Bagni offer treatments and therapies for regeneration, beauty and wellness.
The local calendar is punctuated by events like the Feast of Santa Rosalia in Palermo (July) or the Targa Florio International Rally of Sicily (July).
There are countless country fairs and festivals dedicated to typical products: in Gangi a characteristic country fair is held, dedicated to the wheat stalk which evokes the customs of country life of the past. In Cerda we have the artichoke country fair, and in Isnello that of the “tuma” and cottage cheese (July).
Among the most typical events, we highlight the carnival of Termini Imerese and the ”Estate Cefaludese” in Cefalù.
Easter celebrations are particularly attractive. The Holy Week rites in Piana degli Albanesi trace Greek-Orthodox traditions, whereas “Holy Representations” are held in Mondello and Prizzi. On Easter Sunday the “Abballu di li diavoli” (dance of the devils) is held. All of these fairs narrate the allegorical battle between winter and spring, between darkness and light.
Countless tasty food delicacies and high-quality wines are what this land has to offer.
Typical starters are the arancini and the pani ca’ meusa, a roll of bread stuffed with veal entrails.
Other unforgettable dishes include the pasta with sardines; baked aneletti al forno and sfinciuni tuna; the cchi mascolini pasta; spaghetti alla carrettiera, a fish soup typical of Ustica; and fish broth with attuateddi pasta.
Fish-based dishes stand out among the second courses: beccafico sardines, tuna with onions, tuna with ragù sauce, and hakes cooked the Palermo way.
Lamb and mutton meat are the specialties of the Madonie area.
As for desserts, the spectrum is wide: martorana fruits, cassate, cannoli and mostaccioli.
Outstanding wines? In particular, Corvo di Casteldaccia and Partinico.
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