Postcards from Palermo
A few of my holiday snaps from Palermo – a city steeped in culture, history and deliciously clever sweet treats!
The city of Palermo is the capital of Sicily and is over 2,700 years old. It is located on the north-west coast of the island and is famed for it’s history, architecture, culture and food. I’ve written about some of the amazing local street-food available in Palermo in my blog post about our food tour, but I also wanted to share some of my snaps from the few days we spent there.
The city was founded by the Phoenicians and over the centuries has been under the rule (not in any order) of the Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Carthaginians, Bourbon French – among others.
Just a few feet back from the modern shops in the main streets of the city are the narrow, winding passageways of a city whose culture and traditions have remained unchanged for generations.
Palermo has much to charm the tourist, but the region around the city, once famed for it’s extensive citrus groves, is now blighted with vast tracts of what Wikipedia euphemistically calls “speculative building practices”. This loosely translates to some of the ugliest, most poorly constructed buildings I have ever seen – and unfortunately they are not limited to just the Palermo region.
Like elsewhere in Italy, Palermo has a wealth of beautiful churches, including the very grand city cathedral – with a stuning silver chapel off to one side of the main altar.
The impressive Teatro Massimo, linking the old city with the new city, is the pride of Palermo, which has a distinct musical history. It is the biggest opera house in Italy, and the third largest in Europe. Designed in the high neoclassical style, it was opened in 1897 with a performance of Verdi’s Falstaff.
Fans of The Godfather series of movies will recognise the stairs at the front of the theatre, where the final scenes of The Godfather III were filmed. Flanking the grand staircase are enormous bronze statues of lions straddled with figures denoting music and drama.
Sicily in general, but Palermo in particular, is noted for it’s production of sweet treats. It is difficult to find a bakery without a range of beautifully sculpted and realistically coloured marzipan shapes. While some of them are shaped using moulds, they are painstakingly painted by hand.
Marzipan is not all they do brilliantly in Palermo – this pistachio cream and fruit tart, in chocolate-lined pastry was my afternoon tea on our last day in the city. And a perfect end to a fascinating visit.