Castello della Zisa

Palermo, Italy

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 known as Genoardo. that included also the Cuba Sottana, the Cuba Soprana and the Uscibene palace.

The Zisa is clearly inspired by Moorish architecture. The name Zisa itself derives from the Arab term al-Azīz, meaning 'dear' or 'splendid'. The same word, in Naskh script, is impressed in the entrance, according to the usual habit for the main Islamic edifices of the time.

In the 14th century merlons were added, by partly destroying the Arab inscription (in Kufic characters) which embellished the upper part of the edifice. More substantial modifications were introduced in the 17th century, when the Zisa, reduced to very poor conditions, was purchased by Giovanni di Sandoval e Platamone. The latter's marble coat of arms with two lions can be seen over the entrance fornix. Several rooms of the interior were modified and others added on the ceiling, a great stair was built, as well as new external windows.

From 1808 to the 1950s the building was used a residence by the princes Notarbartolo di Sciara. Acquired by the Region of Sicilia it was restored in the 1990s. The Zisa today is opened to tourists. Some rooms house Islamic art pieces, tools and artifacts from the Mediterranean area. The most notable room is the central hall, with a mosaic decoration; once it had a fountain too, from which the water flowed outside.



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Piazza Zisa 30, Palermo, Italy
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Founded: 12th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Italy

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4.1/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

gls S (2 months ago)
it’s amazing to consider the water flows create inside and outside the castle. The garden could have been better maintained and in winter the pools were empty
Shoe Princess (3 months ago)
This Palace is a must if you love Arabic architecture. The Fountain Room is just gorgeous, and so are the views of Palermo from the third level. Such a shame the former pool and garden are totally unkept and neglected, but then again it might be a question of funds? ? I hope one day they can be restored to their former glory. I could easily give 3 stars for the outside disappointment but then I like to keep things positive, the Palace is gorgeous inside and as stated previously, if there's no money it's not really a direct fault.
Joe D (4 months ago)
We were almost deterred from visiting this place after reading the reviews here. Much has changed since they were written. There are now loads of infographics and museum displays inside the castello. The staff are very nice as well. The entry fee is 6 euros at full price and 3 for under 25s. You'll see interesting snippets of Islamic art in the Norman period, and the subsequent decline of Palermo. Absolutely worth it. Makes a nice afternoon trip along with the Catacombe not far away. The area outside however is still a complete shamble, as is much of Palermo, especially the areas further inland. Small towns in India are more orderly.
Pola Rewako-Jakusz (6 months ago)
I heard that years ago this monument was one of several must-see places in Palermo. Now it doesn't look like it used to on the photos (no nice garden and fountain), area/neighbourhood around it is very dirty and seems unsafe, there's graffiti on walls surrounding the castle area. When we finally got through the gates there wasn't any information, when we found the ticket office lady couldn't "sell" the place and tell us if it's worth seeing. We decided to buy the tickets anyway but no one ever validated them so we could've walked there without the tickets. There wasn't anybody inside, no information how to walk/visit around the place. When we finally saw some workers (on 1st floor already) there were surprised to see us yet didn't interact with us and didn't tell us anything about the castle. We really regreted spending those €12.
Jozef Pavol (8 months ago)
Really nice historical place. Little bit far away from another historical places. It has a really nice Arabic architecture.
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