Palermo, Italy, CEIPES

Villa Giulia

Villa Giulia is a public garden in Palermo, located on the border with the Kalsa district, between via Lincoln and the Foro Italico, and adjacent to the city’s botanical garden. It was built on the initiative of the praetor and governor of the city Antonio La Grua between 1777 and 1778, took its name from Giulia d’Avalos, wife of the then viceroy Marcantonio Colonna. The villa was designed by the architect Nicolò Palma who designed a public green with a perfectly square perimeter, which in turn was divided into four squares divided by diagonals; the central space, circular in shape, is embellished with four exedras (semicircular grooves, surmounted by a semi-dome), designed by Giuseppe Damiani Almeyda in Pompeian style during the nineteenth century. The villa has two entrances: a sea side, in front of the Foro Italico, which is the main one and no longer active, and one from Via Lincoln, called “Porta Carolina” or “Porta Reale” a few steps from the Botanical Garden , which today remains the only access to the Villa. The monumental entrance overlooking the Foro Italico is neoclassical, now ruined and disused, overlooking the “Promenade to the sea” or the “Foro Italico” and consists of a portico, supported by four Doric marble columns with on the sides two lions placed above pedestals. On the architrave, three shields with the coats of arms of Palermo, of the La Grua family and of the Colonna family. The villa is divided by two roads that intersect to form a square where a circular fountain, by Ignazio Marabitti, is placed in the center, with an artificial rock on which a small marble “Atlas” is placed which has a dodecahedron with 12 clocks on its head for each quadrant, the work of the Palermitan mathematician, Lorenzo Federici. If you carefully observe the architectural plan of the garden from above, you immediately realize that it was conceived as a large compass rose; a mandala that expands like a flower when it opens, but which nevertheless always ends up leading every visitor from the peripheral points of the circumference to a single center: the sundial at the center of the villa. Inside the garden there are numerous marble sculptures, of which the most significant is that of the genius of Palermo by Ignazio Marabitti made in 1778.The meeting with the Genius of Palermo, protector of the city and guarantor of peace, is essential. The statue was made by Ignazio Marabitti in 1778 and consists of a circular basin in Billiemi stone, in the center stands a rock on which the Carrara marble sculpture of the Genius dominates. The protector of the city feeds a snake from his chest, a symbol of health and prudence: in one hand he holds a scepter, a royal symbol, while at his side there is an eagle, an allegory of military victories, on the rock a cornucopia symbolizes abundance, instead the lictorial bundle alludes to justice and power, at his feet, a dog embodies loyalty. Finally, a plaque in Latin reads “Prima Sedes, Corona Regis et Regni Caput” referring to the three ancient privileges of the city: first seat of the kings of Sicily, a place devoted to their coronation and its rank of capital. Once “Villa Giulia” was the villa most frequented by children, small bicycles were rented, ice cream was sold and one could enjoy the fascinating view of an old “Lion” nicknamed “Ciccio” whose residence was a small and sad cage that it was on the opposite side of the entrance on via Lincoln. The German poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe visited the Villa during his stay in Sicily and called it “the most beautiful corner of the earth”.

Piazza Rivoluzione

Piazza Revolution is one of the major places of historical interest in the city of Palermo, as well as one of the epicenters of Palermo’s nightlife. The square was previously known as “Fiera Vecchia”, because of the market that had been in this place since ancient times (its presence is evidenced by a document from 1291 which is kept in the Archive of the Magione church). This square is the heart of the Palermitan Risorgimento and the symbol of the fight against the Bourbons. After the interruptions of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies with the riots of 1820 and 1848, the square was in fact the scene of riots by the people who gathered there against the Bourbons. The first movement of revolt occurred right here in 1820, then again on January 12, 1848, when Giuseppe La Masa, an Italian patriot, politician and military, rushed there to incite the citizens to the insurrection which then started the glorious revolution that lasted 16 months. Two years later Nicolò Garzilli, patriot engaged in the anti-Bourbon struggle, was shot right in the square together with other patriots and revolutionaries. On May 27, 1860 Garibaldi, entered from the nearby Porta di Termini, stopped in this place and on this occasion the Old Fair changed its name to Piazza Revolution. The square is full of commemorative plaques that commemorate its historical events. In the center of the square is one of the fountains with the statue of the genius of Palermo. The Genius of Piazza Revolution or Fontana del Genio, formerly called Genio del Molo or Genio della Fieravecchia, is a 16th century statue. During the riots against the Bourbons The revolutionaries cloaked the Genius of the tricolor or tricolor with the version in which the Triscele was present in the center, making the deity personification of the city and a symbol of the Palermitan desire for freedom. To avoid this, Carlo Filangieri, lieutenant of Sicily of the Bourbon government, in 1852 decided to move the statue to the municipal warehouses of Spasimo. On June 7, 1860, with the arrival in Palermo of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the statue of the Genius of Palermo was brought back by the people to the square, which since then took the name of Revolution Square. These facts renewed the symbolic importance of the genius of Palermo and his social role as the lay protector of the city.

La Vucciria

La Vucciria is one of the oldest historical markets in Palermo, together with Ballarò and the Capo market. It is located in the heart of the ancient “Loggia district” (now included in the Tribunali-Castellammare district), in a quadrilateral between the current Via Roma, Piazza San Domenico, Via Cala and Corso Vittorio Emanuele. The name of this market derives from the word Bucceria, taken from the French boucherie, which means butchery. The market was in fact initially intended for slaughtering and selling meat. It is not clear whether this denomination was imposed in the Middle Ages or during the Angevin domination. Later it became a market for the sale of fish, fruit and vegetables. In ancient times it was called “the big Bucciria” to distinguish it from the smaller markets. “Vuccirìa” in Palermo means “confusion”. In fact, the confusion of the voices that overlap and the shouts of the sellers (le abbanniati) is one of the elements that most characterizes this Palermo market. The origins of the market are linked to its proximity to the city port and stimulated the settlement of Genoese, Pisan, Venetian merchants and traders, etc. since the twelfth century. The presence of numerous craftsmen is still legible from the names of some streets (via Chiavettieri, via Materassai, via dei Tintori, etc.) To relive the old times of the market we can admire a famous painting by Renato Guttuso from 1974, entitled “Vucciria di Palermo”, admirable at Palazzo Steri, which represents the life of Vucciria. An ancient saying linked to Vucciria is “i balati ra Vucciria ‘un s’asciucanu mai” (“The floor of Vucciria never dries”) given by the presence, still today, of numerous schools of fish that keep the pavement always wet. Another curiosity related to vucciria is the famous legend of the Crocodile of the Vucciria. In a room located in via Argenteria, the beating heart of the ancient district of Vucciria, there is a large embalmed crocodile hanging from the ceiling, more than three meters long from the muzzle to the tail. According to one of the popular legends, the reptile had been brought to Sicily by a merchant when he was still small and somehow he found himself wandering free in the Papireto river, where he had grown to reach frightening dimensions. Another version of the story says that the crocodile came to Palermo by swimming, in the open sea or even through a very long tunnel under the Mediterranean. Although the actual origins of the Vucciria Crocodile are unknown, the news about the presence of this animal have its roots in the history of the city. Already in 1612 Vincenzo Di Giovanni in his “Palermo Restored”, told of the discovery of a crocodile in the swamps of Papireto, which was later exhibited in the Commenda of San Giovanni alla Guilla. Another characteristic of the Vucciria market is the presence of one of the representations of the genius of Palermo, Il Genio del Garraffo, or also called Genius of Palermo at Garraffo or in Sicilian Palermu lu Grandi (Palermo the Great). The work, made by Pietro de Bonitate in 1483 and the Sicilian appellation Grandi refers to the size of the statue compared to Palermu u Nicu, homologous and smaller representation, which is located in the Palazzo Pretorio (Palermo), Palermo city hall. The statue was built on the initiative of the Amalfi, Pisan, Genoese and Catalan merchants who had their shops in the Vucciria market. The merchants wanted to pay homage to the city that had welcomed them and decided to decorate the Garraffo plain (from the Arabic gharraf, abundant with water) with a fountain on which to place a statue of the genius of Palermo. In the second half of the 17th century, the fifteenth-century fountain of the Genius of Palermo at Garraffo was dismantled and replaced by the Baroque Fontana del Garraffo. The statue of the Genius of Palermo was removed from the center of the Piazzetta del Garraffo and rearranged in a wall shrine.

Quattro Canti & Piazza Pretoria

The Quattro Canti are located in piazza Villena. Also called Ottagono del Sole, or Teatro del Sole, are part of the complex of the octagonal square. Its structure is perfectly the confluence of the two main arteries, Via Maqueda and Cassaro, now Corso Vittorio Emanuele which divides Palermo into 4 districts: 1) Castellamare; 2) Banco dei pegni; 3) Palazzo Reale; 4) Tribunali They were designed in 1608 by the Florentine architect, Giulio Lasso, inspired by the Quattro Fontane in Rome. During the hours of the day, the facades that form the square are always illuminated at least on one side, which is why they are also known as the “Teatro del Sole”. The Quattro Canti are the four decorative elements that delimit the crossing space. Built between 1609 and 1620 and surmounted by the royal senatorial and viceroy coats of arms (in white marble), the four elevations present an articulation on several levels, with a decoration based on the use of architectural orders and figurative insertions which, from below above, they follow one another according to a principle of ascension from the world of nature to that of heaven. The four façade floors are decorated as follows: on the lower floor, fountains representing the rivers of the ancient city (Oreto, Kemonia, Pannaria, Papireto); then, a Doric-style order, containing allegories from the four seasons (represented by Aeolus, Venus, Ceres and Bacchus); the next order, in ionic style, houses the statues of Charles V, Philip II, Philip III and Philip IV; finally, in the upper order, the four saints of Palermo, Agata, Ninfa, Oliva and Cristina, patron of the city even before the advent of Santa Rosalia. Santa Rosalia, who became patroness of Palermo in 1624, is represented by one of her statues and is located on top of the Palazzo delle Aquile in the adjacent Piazza Pretoria The southern canton, belonging to the Albergheria district, is adorned with a statue of Venus (spring), Charles V, Santa Cristina. The northern canton, belonging to the La Loggia district, is adorned with a statue of Bacchus (autumn), Philip IV and Sant’Oliva. The western canton, belonging to the Capo district, is adorned with the statue of Cerere (summer), Filippo II and Santa Ninfa. The eastern canton, belonging to the Kalsa district, is adorned with the statue of Eolo (winter), Filippo III and Sant’Agata. The “Quinto Canto” seen on via Vittorio Emanuele and is part of the right facade of the Church of San Giuseppe dei Teatini was decorated in 1844. It is in this square that on 30 July 1789 the so-called “old woman of the vinegar” was executed by hanging Giovanna Bonanno: a figure who became legendary in Palermo in the late eighteenth century. A few meters from the 4 canti there is Piazza Pretoria, also called Piazza della Vergogna, which is located near the corner of the Cassaro with Via Maqueda. The fountain was built in 1554 by the Florentine sculptor Francesco Camilliani for the garden of the Spanish nobleman Don Luigi Toledo, father-in-law of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo I dei Medici. About twenty years later, to face a debt situation of the Toledo, it was sold to the Palermitan Senate and arrived in Palermo in 1574. Piazza Pretoria is commonly called by the Palermitans Piazza della Vergogna or Fountain of shame according to two theories: 1) Due to the nudity of the statues that compose it, which caused a sensation when at the time the font was located in the square. 2) due to the large sum of money that the Palermitan Senate had to pay, twenty thousand escudos (eight thousand onze), for its purchase. Given the historical moment of misery, epidemics and famine of those years, it seems that the Palermitans shouted when the members of the Senate came out of the building: “Shame, Shame”.

The church of San Giuseppe dei Padri Teatini

The church of San Giuseppe dei Padri Teatini is a cult building located in the historic center of Palermo. The monument occupies the area delimited to the north by the Cassaro road (today’s Corso Vittorio Emanuele), to the east delimited by Via Maqueda overlooking Piazza Pretoria. It constitutes the summit of the Palazzo Reale or Albergaria mandate and incorporates the south facade of Piazza Vigliena or the Quattro Canti. It was built starting from 1612, on a project by the Neapolitan Theatine architect Pietro Caracciolo together with Giacomo Besio from Savona, a secular Theatine, who was entrusted with the direction of the construction site. The Order of Theatines was founded by San Gaetano Thiene and Gian Pietro Carafa in 1524 and settled in Palermo in the early 17th century. In 1603 the Order managed to obtain the “house” and the church of San Giuseppe dei Falegnami, the former church of “S.Elia alla Porta Giudaica”, from the titular Confraternity of the carpenters, with the commitment to reconfigure it in the Oratory and name it San Joseph. The imposing construction site of the new church began in 1612. The construction site will be so complex that it will not be completed until 1645. In the following years and throughout the second half of the seventeenth century, interior decoration will be worked on. The interior is a real treasure chest, richly adorned with an uninterrupted mantle of decoration with polychrome marble inlays that create an effect of particular pomp and elegance. The plan of the church is a Latin cross basilica with a transept and incorporates the form with three naves, the central one broad and the two lateral ones smaller, divided by mighty Corinthian columns in “petre Billiemus” (gray Billiemi marble): the largest are tall 40 palms (about ten meters), the largest stone monoliths made in Sicily in the modern age. The religious building has an incredible number of works of art of considerable artistic value, made between the 17th and 18th centuries. On a pedestal, next to the entrance wall, there is another interesting piece of Sicilian art, the fifteenth-century “Madonna dell’Oreto”, a delicate Gaginesque sculpture. The spectacular vault of the central nave frames the pictorial decoration by Filippo Tancredi representing “The apotheosis of San Gaetano Thiene” and the cycle of episodes in the life of the holy founder of the Order: the paintings, between 1950 and 1954, were almost totally redone on the previous ones, to remedy the collapses caused by the damage caused by the destructive Anglo-American air raid carried out in Palermo on May 9, 1943 which hit the church heavily. The Church of San Giuseppe dei Teatini was one of the many structures in Palermo affected by the bombings of 1943, today, despite the restoration, it still bears its marks, as can be seen in the tall columns that support the dome where there are chips. From inside the church, through a staircase, you enter a vast church dedicated to the “Madonna of Providence”, famous for a source of water present inside which popular devotion has attributed miraculous powers.

The Cathedral Church of Palermo

The Cathedral Church of Palermo, is the main Catholic place of worship in the city of Palermo. The Cathedral is dedicated to Maria Santissima Vergine Assunta and stands in an area close to the ancient Punic-Roman walls. Transformed into a Friday mosque at the time of Islamic rule, the basilica was returned to Christian worship in 1072 by Roberto and Ruggero d’Altavilla. Archbishop Gualtiero was responsible for the reconstruction of the Norman building, between 1169 and 1185, the year of the consecration of the church. The building has a three-nave basilica plan. As for the exterior of the cathedral of Palermo, it is embellished with four Norman-type towers. In the southern part, the cathedral is connected, through two pointed arches, with the Archiepiscopal palace: characteristics which make the church look like a castle and symbol of temporal rather than spiritual power. On the right side of the church, however, an elegant portico overlooks a square. It is accompanied on the sides by two turrets and embellished with three Gothic-style pointed arches resting on columns. The plurality of orders not only architectural, is also evident from the incision on the first column to the left of the portico: in fact, a passage from the Koran is engraved in stone, certainly the result of the use of the structure as a Muslim place of worship. Detail of the exterior of the cathedral of Palermo depicting the tower with the clock and a statue placed on the square. As for the interior, the cathedral of Palermo has a classic Latin cross plan: In the right aisle, in two chapels, there are the tombs of the kings and emperors who ruled the city. Among the most important, we remember the sarcophagus of Frederick II and that of Roger II. On these tombs there is a legend: this tells of the will of Roger II to be buried near the cathedral of Cefalù together with his whole family. He had also decided to build splendid porphyry tombs for his body, a highly prized volcanic granite. In 1215, however, it seems that Frederick II appropriated the tombs and assigned them to himself and to his father Henry VI, having them transported from Cefalù to the cathedral of Palermo. The remains of Constance of Aragon, wife of Frederick II, and those of Peter II of Aragon are also preserved at the Cathedral. In 1635 the construction of the chapel of Santa Rosalia, patroness of Palermo which is located along the right side of the cathedral. The chapel contains the relics and the new silver urn. Then there is an environment in which showcases are set up, inside which there are ancient precious objects: it is the Treasury room of the cathedral. It houses the gold tiara that belonged to Constance of Aragon and recovered from its tomb. A curiosity! Between the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century the founder of the Astronomical Observatory Giuseppe Piazzi proposed to insert a sundial in the cathedral in order to introduce Sicily into the new era of the European standard time. The sundial of the Cathedral of Palermo is more than 21 meters long and the “gnomon”, that is the instrument for measuring the time, is a hole made in a dome of the right aisle that projects the sun along the sundial axis. It consists of a 21 meter long brass bar embedded in the floor in which the various signs of the zodiac are inserted. At the base of the dome in front of the chapel of San Francesco di Paola, at a height of 11 meters, the “gnomonic” hole was placed that allows the crossing of the sun’s rays that signal the midday: a dot of light is placed on the brass bar of the floor and which, according to the period of the year and therefore to the variation of the position of the sun on the horizon, is moving at the same time determining the succession of months and seasons and the corresponding zodiacal symbols .

Magione Square & Santa Maria dello Spasimo Church

The Spasimo church is located in the Kalsa district, one of the oldest parts of the city of Palermo. Around 1506 the Palermo lawyer Jacopo de Basilicò, expert in law, promoted the construction of the monumental complex named after Santa Maria dello Spasimo respecting and putting in place the wills of the deceased wife, a figure particularly devoted to the pain (Spasm) of the “Madonna who suffers before Christ who falls under the weight of the cross on the Via del Calvario”, therefore Basilicò donated the land to the Benedictine religious of the Congregation of Santa Maria di Monte Oliveto to build a church and a monastery, works sponsored by him and financed. On May 21, 1509, a bull of Pope Julius II authorized the donation of de Basilicò for the construction of a church. According to the will of the testator, the church had to be completed within six years, and in fact around 1516 de Basilicò to worthily celebrate it, commissioned the great Raffaello da Urbino, a painting depicting “The going to Calvary”, known by all as the ” Spasimo di Sicilia “, and to Antonello Gagini a magnificent marble altar destined to frame it. . Raphael Sanzio’s work depicts Mary’s dismay at the fallen Christ under the weight of the cross. The events concerning the construction of the Spasimo convent complex were very troubled: difficulties of various kinds arose which lengthened the execution times and altered the original project. The project required huge resources, so that the only capitals made available by de Basilicò were insufficient to complete the imposing building work leaving the sumptuous unfinished work. After the construction of the church was completed, those of the monastery remained incomplete. Another much more fearful difficulty weighed on the continuation of the works, in fact under the growing threat of the Turkish invasion a few years later the consolidation of the defensive systems of the city became necessary. The events that the Spasimo complex are closely connected with the fortification works that took place in Palermo from 1537 to protect the most sensitive points of the city. In fact, the design of the new ramparts included the construction of one of the bastions in the area of the Spasimo convent, the construction of which caused serious damage to the monastic building and changed the fate of the complex. The damage suffered by the convent of the Spasimo was so important as to induce the fathers to move. After the transfer of the Olivetan fathers, the whole complex was used by the senate for secular uses, and in 1582 in the now deconsecrated church, the viceroy Marcantonio Colonna, made you represent the Ammin of Torquato Tasso, thus becoming the first “public theater” in the city. Following the great plague epidemic of 1624 that hit the city, in the absence of adequate hospital facilities, the Spasimo convent was used as a “hospital” and still as a senatorial warehouse for the conservation of the city’s cereal reserves. From 1835 it became a hospice and later in 1855 the prosthetic hospital that was attached to the large hospital of Palazzo Sclafani was transferred to the Spasimo premises (Spasimo hospital, which survived until 1985). At the end of the Second World War, the church was used as a deposit of artistic material from buildings and churches in the city damaged by the bombings, then for years it fell into oblivion and remained practically abandoned until 1988, the year in which extensive work began. restoration and restoration of the entire complex, which saw the magnificent abbey complex return to public use in 1995. The spasimo church stands next to Piazza Magione, one of the most important squares in the historic center of Palermo. Located in the Kalsa district, it takes its name from the church of the same name which stands right near this significant place. The vast square-shaped square was practically formed on the smallest and oldest Sant’Euno square, whose characteristics were overturned due to the violent bombings that hit the city during the Second World War and which completely destroyed the buildings that surrounded it. The restored foundations of the pre-existing buildings act as roads that cross it entirely and allow pedestrian transit. The square, which has become a meeting place for young Palermitans for many years, is also the site of the celebrations in memory of the Capaci massacre, given the belonging of Giovanni Falcone to this neighborhood.