Palermo - The Cathedral
The Province of Palermo stretches out in northern Sicily and looks 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 blue to the green of vegetation, along with 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 with cozy beaches; finally, Sferracavallo, an ancient fishing village, has become a haven for scuba-diving.
Against the open sea of Palermo, we 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 archaeological 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, offering 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 interior.
Besides the beauty of nature, renowned localities and marvelous artistic treasures from different eras make this territory special and unique, a popular tourist spot well-known among visitors.
From the Solunto ruins to the archaeological area of Monte Jato, from Monreale to Palermo, the entire territory is bursting with art treasures, enchanting landscapes and traces 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, including the historical villas punctuating the Bagheria area, the epicurean attractions, traditional folkloristic celebrations and relaxing holidays by the sea. Palermo and its Province are a traveler's mecca for all seasons and all demands.
Palermo is the starting point of any category of tour through the territory, facing the Gulf of Palermo and surrounded by orange and lemon groves of the Conca D’Oro Plain.
The city is truly a site to see, especially the polychromatic marble of its buildings, its Arab-style domes, its vibrant and colorful Vucciria market and the Kalsa Quarter, and its verdant settings, particularly the 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; it contains one of the most ancient mosaic cycles of Sicily, the Church of Santa Caterina with its richly-decorated interior. Then, see 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 miles from Palermo.
Monreale is one of the most renowned touristic spots of Sicily and all of Italy for its artistic legacy, represented by the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Nuova. One of the most exquisite exemplars of Norman architecture, its interior is elaborately adorned.
The small town of Bagheria, surrounded by rich vegetation, is known for the presence of several 18th-Century noble villas, especially the luxurious Villa Valguarnera and the picturesque Villa Palagonia, also called “Villa of Monsters,” due to its many sculptures in the form of monstrous characters.
Villa Cattolica, seat of the Guttuso Museum, is known for its works of art by the contemporary artist of the same name, a native of Bagheria.
The area of San Cipirello also hosts the archaeological site known as the settlement of Monte Jato: one of the most ancient cities of the island, visitors can identify the city's various development phases through the ages. Admire the superb ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite with its altar, the grand theatre and the remains of the so-called Peristilium House.
Cefalù is an equally-fantastic, offering a oft-frequented beach resort, and the fine artistic legacy of its Duomo, which dates to Norman times. Here the Mandralisca Museum boasts a wealth of art and archaeology in its collections. The surrounding territory also possesses numerous archaeological findings. On the cliffs above town are the remnants of an ancient sanctuary and numerous remains of archaic fortifications are scattered near the coast.
Close to Santa Flavia, along a rocky slope, one can admire the ruins of the ancient city of Solunto, a very interesting site due to its unusual position and the richness of its archaeological treasures.
The Isle of Ustica is a renowned touristic spot, due to its impressive coastal caves, its thick vegetation and picturesque town center.
The splendid coast, with its beaches and rocky expanses is a tempting invitation to spend a relaxing vacation by the sea, or even a high-adrenaline vacation 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 nature reserves offer an infinity of routes for walking or trekking the Madonie Highlands.
The Termini Imerese and Sclafani Bagni thermal spas 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).
Countless sagre (food fairs) and festivals are dedicated to typical products: in Gangi, a characteristic country fair is held, dedicated to the wheat stalk and evoking the customs of the Italians' peasant past. In Cerda, visitors can attend the artichoke country fair, and in Isnello that of tuma cheese and ricotta (July).
Among the most typical events, we highlight the carnival of Termini Imerese and the Estate Cefaludese, a summer celebration in Cefalù.
Easter celebrations are very particular draws here as well. 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. Each of these fairs narrates 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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