A short walk from the Royal Palace and the Cathedral stands the historic Palace Conte Federico, one of the oldest and most important buildings in Palermo. Located between Via dei Biscottari and Piazza Conte Federico within the primitive walls of the city, is a place full of charm in which a mysterious atmosphere lingers: from the Punic walls, to the Casket Tower and the Masonic Ballroom, the palace is one of the most beautiful testimonies of Palermo’s aristocratic life.
The Jewish community, already existed since Roman times, was one of the largest in Sicily. According to some historical sources, in 1172 there were already eight thousand Semites residents in Palermo, many of them, rich and influential, were employed in the silk and fishing industry and possessed entire buildings. They were also active as money lenders and especially famous as doctors, although at certain times had been forbidden to them to exercise this profession towards Christians.
The cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale near Palermo, the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Etna, the Villa Romana del Casale, the baroque towns of Val di Noto, the Aeolian Islands, Siracusa and the rock-cut Necropolis of Pantalica, as wells as the Mediterranean diet and the Opera dei Pupi, have all been granted UNESCO World Heritage status, making Sicily itself World Heritage Site.
Within the Arab district of the Kalsa, Santa Maria degli Angeli’s Church, better known as “Gancia“, that is hospice for poor people and strangers, is an architectural complex dating back to 1490 and built by the Franciscan monks. Over the centuries it had undergone numerous changes modifying its aspect, especially inside.
Flanked by plane trees and embellished with numerous noble Art Nouveau villas, Viale della Libertà can be considered today one of the most important and prestigious roads in the city. Named after the fall of the Bourbon rule, it stretches for two kilometers and a half including a time an open countryside area destined to citrus groves.
In 1798 King Ferdinand of Bourbon, driven from Naples by the Neapolitan Revolution, took refuge with the royal family and its court in Palermo. Fond of hunting and nature, he chose as his private residence a small building in oriental style inside the Royal Park of Favorita, hunting reserve and place of delight of the Bourbon court. But this estate was not exclusively dedicated to leisure of the king and nobility, but the king himself wanted to plant extensive cultivation of citrus and other trees to devote himself to farming experiments.
Piana dei Colli is a wide plain in the north of the city, delimitated by the slopes of Mount Pellegrino. Around XVIII century in Palermo it spread the custom between the noble and aristocratic families to build sumptuous holiday residences in this area much cooler than the city center.
Chiaramonte Palace, best known as Steri, (from the Latin Hosterium = fortified palace), is located in the medieval district of Marina Square. Characterized by mullioned windows surmounted by arches and decorated with multicolored geometric patterns, it was the residence of the noble Chiaramonte family in 1300. From the early ‘600 was the seat of the Holy Inquisition with the torture chambers and prison cells where they were imprisoned all those who were accused of heresy or witchcraft.
Place of mystery and intrigue, the luxurious Grand Hotel des Palmes, symbol of the Belle Époque, is linked to the Whitaker family’s history who wanted to build it in 1874 as a private residence. Connected by a secret passage to the Anglican Church and nestled in a lush and green garden of palm trees that stretched down to the sea (hence the pretentious French name linked to the aristocratic atmosphere of that period), in the early twentieth century it was transformed by the great architect Ernesto Basile in one of the most luxurious hotels in Palermo, just when the city was recognized as one of the great European capitals.
Inside the Royal Palace, one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites included in the Arab-Norman itinerary, as well as the famous Palatine Chapel, there are several halls belonging to the royal family that deserve particular attention. Among these the Pompeian and the Chinese Halls, considered unique in their genre especially after the highly accurate work of restoration that have brought to light their precious frescoes.