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Travel and Tourism Information
The historical centre of Palermo mainly consists of four quarters: the Albergheria and the Capo quarter, beyond the cathedral, and west of Via Maqueda; the Vucciria and old harbour of La Cala and the La Kalsa, on the east. The Cathedral of Maria Santissima Assunta is a Norman-Arab-Baroque hybrid. Built between 1179 and 1185 on the site of a large mosque; it boasts a Catalan-Gothic porch, a Baroque dome, a decorated apse and Arabic inscriptions on columns.
Nearby there is the Palazzo dei Normanni; built by the Arabs it was later on converted into a royal palace by the Norman king Roger II. On the first floor is the Cappella Palatina, Basilica in form with wooden ceilings, the Royal throne, a crypt and a mosaic Christ Pantocrator who dominates the dome. The marble candelabrum is the oldest Romanesque work of art in Sicily.
Other interesting churches are: San Giovanni degli Eremiti, the richly decorated baroque San Giuseppe dei Teatini, the Martorana church or santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio, the Chiesa del Gesų ( facade was the setting for the film Il Gattopardo), Chiesa del Carmine ( majolica dome), Sant'Orsola, San Cataldo, S.Caterina, the medieval S.Francesco d'Assisi with sculptures by Serpotta and Gagini, San Domenico, the Oratorio del Rosario di Santa Zita, Santo Spirito and San Giovanni dei Lebbrosi ( in the centre of a garden with palms)
Have a look at Piazza della Vittoria and Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Palermo's main street, knwn as Cassaro. Quattro Canti, at the crossroads of C.so Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda is considered the meeting point of the town's society.Interesting sights are the Fontana Pretoria, the norman style Magione ( mansio of the Teutonic knights), the Mercato della Vucciria ( Palermo's most famous market), Palazzo Abatellis, the Teatro Massimo ( one of the largest in Europe), the Neo-Classical Teatro Politeama.
Villa Trabia is one of the few aristocratic homes open to the public. This estate, which is now owned by the City of Palermo, houses civic offices and a public library. The palace is set in a beautiful wooded park open to the public most days. Worth a visit also La Cuba, a Fatimid building of 1180 and the Botanical Garden. Established in 1785 it is home to an enormous variety of plants.
Just outside the historical Palermo you may visit the La Favorita villa, the Castello della Zisa (built between 1165 and 1167) and the Capuchin Convent, with its crypt (it hosts mummified bodies or skeletons of the nobility or prelates of Palermo).