Top Historic Sights in Palermo, Italy

Explore the historic highlights of Palermo

San Giuseppe dei Teatini Church

San Giuseppe dei Teatini is considered one of the most outstanding examples of the Sicilian Baroque in Palermo. The church was built at the beginning of the 17th century by Giacomo Besio, a Genoese member of the Theatines order. It has a majestic though simple façade. In the centre niche is housed a statue of San Gaetano, founder of the Theatines order. Another striking feature is the large dome with a blue and yel ...
Founded: 1612-1677 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Quattro Canti

Quattro Canti was laid out on the orders of the Viceroys between 1608-1620 by Giulio Lasso and Mariano Smiriglio at the crossing of the two principal streets in Palermo, the Via Maqueda and the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. The piazza is octagonal, four sides being the streets; the remaining four sides are Baroque buildings, the near-identical facades of which contain fountains with statues of the four seasons, the four ...
Founded: 1608 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Santa Caterina Church

The Church of Saint Catherine (Chiesa di Santa Caterina) is a synthesis of Sicilian Baroque, Rococo and Renaissance styles. In 1310 the last will of the rich Benvenuta Mastrangelo determined the foundation of a female monastery under the direction of the Dominican Order. The new monastery was dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria and was erected in the area where the old palace of George of Antioch, admiral of Roger ...
Founded: 1566-1596 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Fontana Pretoria

The Fontana Pretoria is a monumental fountain of Palermo. The fountain was built by Francesco Camilliani in the city of Florence in 1554, but was transferred in Palermo in 1574. The fountain represents the Twelve Olympians, other mythological figures, animals and the rivers of Palermo.
Founded: 1554 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Church of San Cataldo

Erected in 1154 as a notable example of the Arab-Norman architecture which flourished in Sicily under Norman rule on the island, the Church of San Cataldo is annexed to that of Santa Maria dell"Ammiraglio. In the 19th century it was restored and brought back to a form more similar to the original medieval edifice. The church has a rectangular plan with blind arches, partially occupied by windows. The ceiling has thr ...
Founded: 1154 | Location: Palermo, Italy

San Matteo al Cassaro Church

The Church of Saint Matthew (San Matteo al Cassaro) was built between 1633 and 1664 by the will of the Miseremini confraternity. The building was probably designed by the architect of the Senate of Palermo, Mariano Smiriglio, but was completed by Gaspare Guercio and Carlo D"Aprile. It is decorated with many works of important Sicilian artists like Vito D"Anna, Pietro Novelli, Giacomo Serpotta, Bartolome ...
Founded: 1633-1664 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio Church

The Church of St. Mary of the Admiral (Santa Maria dell"Ammiraglio) is a Co-cathedral to the Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi of the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church, a diocese which includes the Italo-Albanian (Arbëreshë) communities in Sicily who officiate the liturgy according to the Byzantine Rite in the ancient Greek language and Albanian language. The name Ammiraglio ('admiral') derives from the foun ...
Founded: 1143 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Palermo Cathedral

Palermo Cathedral was erected in 1185 by Walter Ophamil (or Walter of the Mill), the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo and King William II"s minister, on the area of an earlier Byzantine basilica. By all accounts this earlier church was founded by Pope Gregory I and was later turned into a mosque by the Saracens after their conquest of the city in the 9th century. Ophamil is buried in a sarcophagus in the ch ...
Founded: 1185 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Norman Palace

The Palazzo dei Normanni (Norman Palace) was the seat of the Kings of Sicily during the Norman domination and served afterwards as the main seat of power for the subsequent rulers of Sicily. The building is the oldest royal residence in Europe; and was the private residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Sicily and the imperial seat of Frederick II and Conrad IV. The palace stands in what is the highest point of the anc ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Palermo, Italy

Santa Ninfa dei Crociferi Church

Santa Ninfa dei Crociferi – dedicated to one of the patron saints of Palermo – is one of the first buildings erected after the opening of Via Maqueda, the second most important street of the city. The construction of the church began on in 1601. The construction was fostered by the Palermo Senate and financed with donations from several noble families of the city. The original project was probably prepared in Rome. ...
Founded: 1601 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Teatro Massimo

The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele is the biggest in Italy, and one of the largest of Europe. Construction started in 1874, but was stopped for eight years from 1882 until 1890. Finally, on 16 May 1897, twenty-two years after the laying of the foundation stone, it was inaugurated with a performance of Verdi"s Falstaff conducted by Leopoldo Mugnone. Basile was inspired by ancient and classical Sicilian architectu ...
Founded: 1897 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Porta Nuova

Porta Nuova is a monumental city gate of Palermo. It represents the entrance of the Cassaro (the main and most ancient street of the city) from Corso Calatafimi (the way to Monreale) and is located beside Palazzo dei Normanni, royal palace of Palermo. According to the historian Tommaso Fazello the original gate was built in the 15th century. After the Charles V"s conquest of Tunis, the Emperor came to Sicily. He ent ...
Founded: 1535-1584 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Oratory of San Lorenzo

The Oratory of Saint Lawrence was founded in the late 16th century. The building was given to the Conventual Franciscans in order to spread the cult of the saints Francis and Lawrence. In 1699 Giacomo Serpotta realized a sumptuous stucco decoration. The oratory is particularly famous because of the masterpiece altarpiece Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence (1600 or 1609) by Caravaggio. This important pai ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Palermo, Italy

San Domenico Church

The Church of Saint Dominic hosts the burials of many figures of Sicilian history and culture. For this reason it is known as the 'Pantheon of illustrious Sicilians'. The origin of the building dates back to the Middle Ages. A first Dominican church was built on this site between 1280 and 1285. The church was in Norman–Gothic style and it was also fitted with a convent and a cloister that represented a s ...
Founded: 1640 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Saint Francis of Assisi Church

The history of the Saint Francis of Assisi Church starts with the arrival of the first Franciscans in Sicily. In 1224 the chronicler Vadingo reported the groundwork of the first Franciscan convent near the Walls of Palermo. However, shortly after, the local clergy with the support of the Saracens chased the friars out from the city. The friars went to Viterbo and appealed to the Pope Gregory IX. The pontiff ordered Lando ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Palermo, Italy

Church of the Gesù

The Church of the Gesù is one of the most important Baroque churches in Palermo. The Jesuits arrived in Palermo in 1549, and by the late 16th century began building a church adjacent to their mother house (Casa Professa). The original design called for a single nave with large transepts and several side chapels, but it was changed by the early 17th century, to a more grandiose layout typical of Jesuit architecture. Natal ...
Founded: 1636 | Location: Palermo, Italy

San Giovanni degli Eremiti

The San Giovanni degli Eremiti church dates back to the 6th century. After the establishment of the Norman domination of southern Italy, it was returned to the Christians by Roger II of Sicily who, around 1136, entrusted it to the Benedictine monks of Saint William of Vercelli. The church was extensively modified during the following centuries. A restoration held around 1880 attempted to restore its original medieval app ...
Founded: 12 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Palazzo Abatellis

Palazzo Abatellis is home to the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia, the Gallery of Art for the Sicilian region. The palazzo, an example of Gothic-Catalan architecture, was designed in the 15th century by Matteo Carnelivari, at the time working in Palermo at the palazzo Aiutamicristo. It was the residence of Francesco Abatellis (or Patella), port master of the Kingdom of Sicily. The regional gallery is home to many ...
Founded: 1954 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Santa Maria della Pietà Church

The Church of Saint Mary of Pity (Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pietà) is a Baroque church localted in the quarter of the Kalsa, within the historic centre of Palermo. In 1495 the noble Francesco Abatellis, captain at the service of King Ferdinand II of Aragon, in the absence of heirs, staged the construction of a Benedictine monastery under the name of Santa Maria della Pietà. In 1526 the monastery was founded, but ...
Founded: 1678 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Santa Maria della Catena

Santa Maria della Catena church was built in 1490-1520 and designed by Matteo Carnilivari. The name derives from the presence, on one of the walls, of a chain (catena) which closed the Cala port. The work mixes late Renaissance style and Gothic-Catalan style, the latter especially visible in the three-part arcaded loggia located at the top of a staircase (added in 1845). The interior is also late Gothic, and includes ...
Founded: 1490-1520 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Sant'Ignazio all'Olivella

The Church of Saint Ignatius is located in the ancient neighbourhood of the Olivella, within the historic centre of Palermo. The church belongs to the Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri and was built starting in 1598. It is located near the former house of the congregation, now Regional Archeological Museum Antonio Salinas, and the Saint Catherine Oratory. It is believed that during 12th century Saint ...
Founded: 1598 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Regional Archeological Museum Antonio Salinas

The Regional Archeological Museum Antonio Salinas possesses one of the richest collections of Punic and Ancient Greek art in Italy, as well as many items related to the history of Sicily. Formerly the property of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, the museum is dedicated to Antonio Salinas, a famous archaeologist and numismatist from Palermo. It is part of the Olivella monumental complex, which includes the Church ...
Founded: 1866 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Santissimo Salvatore Church

The Church of Most Holy Saviour (Santissimo Salvatore) was built starting in 1682 in the area of an ancient female Basilian monastery founded by Robert Guiscard in 1072. The building was designed by the architect Paolo Amato, but also Giacomo Amato and Angelo Italia were involved in the construction. It was said that Constance, Queen of Sicily (1154-1198) had been confined to the church as a nun since childho ...
Founded: 1682 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Sant'Anna la Misericordia

The complex of Sant"Anna, including the church and a convent, was built in a zone formerly occupied by an unhealthy inlet, circumscribed by cliffs and filled by alluvial deposits of the Kemonia, one of the rivers of the ancient and medieval Palermo. In the period of the Sicilian Vespers the area housed the residence of Joanne De Saint Remy, collaborator of Charles of Anjou. In the 16th century a chapel dedicated to ...
Founded: 1606-1632 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Sant'Orsola Church

Sant"Orsola Church was built for the 'Compagnia di Sant"Orsola' (Brotherhood of Saint Ursula), a group of believers which was founded in 1564 in the neighbouring church of Santi Quaranta Martiri Pisani al Casalotto. The church was open to the public in 1662. The nave, and maybe the entire building, was designed by Giacomo Amato. In 1672 a beautification work started. During this period the building ...
Founded: 1662 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Santa Teresa alla Kalsa Church

The Church of Saint Teresa is located in the quarter of the Kalsa, within the historic centre of Palermo. The church was designed by the palermitan architect Giacomo Amato and was built between 1686 and 1700. It was decorated with works of important artists like Ignazio Marabitti, Guglielmo Borremans, Sebastiano Conca, Giovanni Odazzi, Giuseppe Serpotta and Procopio Serpotta.
Founded: 1686-1700 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Santa Maria dello Spasimo

Santa Maria dello Spasimo is an unfinished Catholic church in the Kalsa neighborhood in Palermo. Construction of the church and accompanying monastery of the Olivetan Order began in 1509 with a papal bull from Julius II, on land bequeathed by Giacomo Basilicò, a lawyer and the widower of a rich noblewoman. The Spasimo or Swoon of the Virgin was a controversial idea in late medieval and Renaissance Catholic devoti ...
Founded: 1509 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Immaculate Conception Church

The Church of the Immaculate Conception is a Baroque church of Palermo. The church is near Porta Carini, in the heart of the ancient market. It was built between 1604 and 1740 and is finely decorated with many works of Sicilian artists like Giacomo Amato, Pietro Novelli, Olivio Sòzzi, Giuseppe Velasco and Carlo D"Aprile.
Founded: 1604 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Sant'Agostino Church

The Gothic Church of Saint Augustine (Chiesa di Sant"Agostino) is located near the market of the Capo, in the quarter of the Seralcadio. The church is also called Santa Rita, because of the devotion to this Augustinian saint. The church was built during the Angevin period (13th century) replacing an earlier church that dated back to the Hauteville era. The building was subject to subsequent changes over the centur ...
Founded: 1275 | Location: Palermo, Italy

La Magione

The Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, commonly known La Magione, is a Norman church of Palermo. It was completed in 1191 and is the last church built in the capital of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily during the period of the Hauteville dynasty. Its foundation is linked to the Chancellor of the Kingdom, Matthew of Ajello. Initially attributed to the Cistercians, during the period of the Hohenstaufen dynasty the church became ...
Founded: 1191 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Castello della Zisa

The Zisa is a castle in the western part of Palermo. It is included in the UNESCO Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale World Heritage Site. The construction was begun in the 12th century by Arabian craftsmen for king William I of Sicily , and completed by his son William II. The edifice had been conceived as summer residence for the Norman kings, as a part of the large hunting resort kno ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Palermo, Italy

Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo

The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo (Catacombe dei Cappuccini) are burial catacombs. Today they provide a somewhat macabre tourist attraction as well as an extraordinary historical record. Palermo"s Capuchin monastery outgrew its original cemetery in the 16th century and monks began to excavate crypts below it. In 1599 they mummified one of their number, recently dead brother Silvestro of Gubbio, and placed hi ...
Founded: 1599 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Castello a Mare

Castello a Mare is an ancient fortress that guarded the entrance to the port at Palermo in La Cala. Extensive remains are visible, some of which are open to the public. There is a Norman keep, a fortified gate or entrance, and remains of a sophisticated Renaissance star-shaped defence.
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Palermo, Italy

Church of Saint Francis Xavier

The Church of Saint Francis Xavier (Chiesa di San Francesco Saverio) is a Baroque church of Palermo. The building is considered the masterpiece of the Jesuit architect Angelo Italia. In 1633 the Jesuits founded their fourth house in Palermo. It was destinated to the Third Probation and dedicated to Saint Francis Xavier. This new foundation was patronised by Giovanna Aragona Ventimiglia, Marchioness of Giarratana. In 1634 ...
Founded: 1633 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Cuba Palace

The Cuba Palace in Palermo was built in 1180 by William II of Sicily in his great Royal Park, as his personal recreation pavilion, together with an artificial lake: it shows strong Fatimid art influences, as it was (at least partially) designed and decorated by Arab artists still living in Palermo after the Norman conquest in 1072. During the rule of Bourbon kings of Naples it was annexed to a barracks. In the 16th centur ...
Founded: 1180 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Maredolce Castle

The origins of the Maredolce Castle are unknown. Some scholars tend to attribute the foundation of the castle to the emir Ja"far al-Kalbi (998-1019), believing that it was built over a pre-existing structure. Other scholars believe that the castle dates back to the Norman era, although others consider that just the lake of the Favara Park was realized in the age of the Hauteville dynasty. The first documents regardin ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Palermo, Italy

Porta d'Ossuna Catacombs

The Catacombs of Porta d"Ossuna were built by early Christians around 4th and 5th centuries AD. They were founded in 1739.
Founded: 4th century AD | Location: Palermo, Italy

Ponte dell'Ammiraglio

The Admiral's Bridge (Ponte dell'Ammiraglio) is a medieval bridge of Palermo. It was built over the Oreto River during the era of the Norman Sicily by the ammiratus ammiratorum George of Antioch. In 2015, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of a series of nine civil and religious structures inscribed as Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale. According to a legend, the bridg ...
Founded: 1131 | Location: Palermo, Italy

San Giovanni dei Lebbrosi Church

San Giovanni dei Lebbrosi is an ancient church in Palermo. While built by the Norman rulers, the architecture has strong Arabic influences. The builders may have been Fatimid architects. The church in 1119 was attached to a leprosarium, hence the title. The church was dedicated to St John the Baptist. The adjacent hospital no longer exists. The church was initially commissioned in 1071 by Robert Guiscard and Roger I o ...
Founded: 1071 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Santo Spirito Church

The church of the Holy Spirit located within the boundaries of Sant"Orsola cemetery. The Cistercian monastery was founded between 1173 and 1178 by the archbishop of Palermo, Walter of the Mill, and was entrusted to monks of the calabrese Abbey of Sambucina. Considerable donations of King William II of Sicily and his mother, Margaret, enriched the monastery"s property. On March 30, 1282, it was in front ...
Founded: 1173 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wroclaw Town Hall

The Old Town Hall of Wrocław is one of the main landmarks of the city. The Old Town Hall's long history reflects developments that have taken place in the city since its initial construction. The town hall serves the city of Wroclaw and is used for civic and cultural events such as concerts held in its Great Hall. In addition, it houses a museum and a basement restaurant.

The town hall was developed over a period of about 250 years, from the end of 13th century to the middle of 16th century. The structure and floor plan changed over this extended period in response to the changing needs of the city. The exact date of the initial construction is not known. However, between 1299 and 1301 a single-storey structure with cellars and a tower called the consistory was built. The oldest parts of the current building, the Burghers’ Hall and the lower floors of the tower, may date to this time. In these early days the primary purpose of the building was trade rather than civic administration activities.

Between 1328 and 1333 an upper storey was added to include the Council room and the Aldermen’s room. Expansion continued during the 14th century with the addition of extra rooms, most notably the Court room. The building became a key location for the city’s commercial and administrative functions.

The 15th and 16th centuries were times of prosperity for Wroclaw as was reflected in the rapid development of the building during that period. The construction program gathered momentum, particularly from 1470 to 1510, when several rooms were added. The Burghers’ Hall was re-vaulted to take on its current shape, and the upper story began to take shape with the development of the Great Hall and the addition of the Treasury and Little Treasury.

Further innovations during the 16th century included the addition of the city’s Coat of arms (1536), and the rebuilding of the upper part of the tower (1558–59). This was the final stage of the main building program. By 1560, the major features of today’s Stray Rates were established.

The second half of the 17th century was a period of decline for the city, and this decline was reflected in the Stray Rates. Perhaps by way of compensation, efforts were made to enrich the interior decorations of the hall. In 1741, Wroclaw became a part of Prussia, and the power of the City diminished. Much of the Stray Rates was allocated to administering justice.

During the 19th century there were two major changes. The courts moved to a separate building, and the Rates became the site of the city council and supporting functions. There was also a major program of renovation because the building had been neglected and was covered with creeping vines. The town hall now has several en-Gothic features including some sculptural decoration from this period.

In the early years of the 20th century improvements continued with various repair work and the addition of the Little Bear statue in 1902. During the 1930s, the official role of the Rates was reduced and it was converted into a museum. By the end of World War II Town Hall suffered minor damage, such as aerial bomb pierced the roof (but not exploded) and some sculptural elements were lost. Restoration work began in the 1950s following a period of research, and this conservation effort continued throughout the 20th century. It included refurbishment of the clock on the east facade.