Palermo, Italy

December 19, 2007
by findingDulcinea Staff
Palermo was founded on Sicily’s northwestern coast by Phoenician tradesmen in the 8th century bce. Later, the island came to be ruled by Romans, Normans, Arabs, and the Bourbon kingdom of Naples. Palermo's power and influence increased when the region of  Sicily became an autonomous region of Italy in 1947. However, this autonomy has been affected by organized crime, the Mafia, who remain a force to be reckoned with in the city.

History and Traditions

View detailed maps of Palermo to become familiar with its location, which is near the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The Palermo Duomo was a former Muslim mosque. View spectacular images of the cathedral and learn about its Muslim origin.
The Admiral’s Bridge utilized Norman knowledge of hydraulics and arches to construct a bridge that has lasted nearly 900 years. The information about the bridge is located at the bottom of this site’s page. As you’re scrolling down, don’t miss the other entries describing the best of Sicily.
The tiny town and cathedral complex of Monreale is located about an hour outside of Palermo. Legend has it that the third Norman king of Sicily, William II, awoke early at daybreak and told his ministers he had dreamt that the Virgin Mary asked him to build her a church using the money that his father had stolen from the state.

For Grown-Ups Only

The Zisa or “Pleasure Palace” was a medieval structure built in the Arab Norman style. Don’t miss Zisa’s unique air-conditioning system: a pool was built in the courtyard and as breezes passed over the water, air was cooled and sucked into the building through vents.
The Catacombs of the Cappuccini monks contained a natural preservative that helped to mummify the dead. Sicilians (from nobles to maids) were buried here in the 19th century. Many 19th-century Sicilians are still in good condition--with eyes, hair, and even clothing fairly intact. This site is in Italian, but has very good (if a bit gruesome!) images.

Life, Sicilian Style

Take a break from wintry weather and the everyday grind by viewing some colorful photos of Palermo.
Visit this guide to eating and drinking in Palermo to discover traditional Sicilian cuisine: seafood, pizza, and pastries like cannoli.
Visit the Food Network for a yummy Cassata or “party cake” recipe. Cassata is a rich cake made with candied fruits and ricotta cheese.
The Mafia is inextricably tied to the Palermo region of Sicily. Learn more about the history of organized crime and the role it plays in southern Italy.

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