For the yachting enthusiast anxious to explore the waters around Sicily, the Tyrrhenian Sea makes for good sailing and Palermo the ideal harbour with the mildest of climates all the year round. This is certainly the place for those seeking a cosmopolitan city with a great history.
Though laying on the northern side of Sicily in the Bay of Palermo the capital city has excellent summer temperatures and even the winter months of December to March have an average temperature of 10 degrees Centigrade.
Palermo viewed from the sea, has high-rise hotels and a dominant cathedral, but the ancient turrets are mostly seen to nestle around the harbour with the 600 metre high Monte Pellegrino in the background. Palermo must take pride of place for its festivals which are often linked to the particular local Saint's day or, as at Xmas-time, to the Feast of St Nicola and a lively Christmas market. In May there is the Merit Cup Windsurf World Festival and in June an Ecovision Film Festival as well as a "Solmasic" Music Festival held in Palermo's celebrated "English Garden."
Before abandoning the charming sea-views for land-based festivities it is worth noting that it is Palermo's chequered history that attracts the international tourist. The fact that so many different races have visited, and in some cases made this their home, points to an ideal cosmopolitan capital city. Originally it's history of human settlements goes back to circa 8,000 B.C. (evidence from ancient cave drawings) but it was the Phoenecians who founded Palermo. The Greeks explored the area and during the 1st Punic War the Romans took control. In 488 A.D. The Vandals and Goths arrived but were eventually defeated by the Eastern Roman Empire. After a brief spell under the Empire, for nearly 1,00 years the island was occupied by the Arabs and it was not until 1072 A.D. that it came under Christian rule again. It was Roger II of Sicily who was responsible for establishing the King's Court at the Palazzo dei Normanni. This move greatly enhanced the status of Palermo. He also started building the magnificent cathedral quite near the Palace. In the 12th Century Sicily became part of the Holy Roman Empire and from 1266 & 1734 it had no less than seven different rulers from the House of Aragon, the kingdom of Spain, of Savoy and of Austria. It was not until 1860 that it was annexed with Italy.
This historical background does explain why the city centre, in particular, is an incredible mixture of Norman architecture, Arab coastal fortresses, Sicilian Baroque churches and Catalan Galleries. Rulers appear to have left their mark and gradually expanded the city centre. For those entering the city from the South Harbour with its curved bay and well-known Fish Market, you are in walking distance of a multitude of churches. The nearest are St. Maria de Calena, La Pieta, La Gancia and St. Teresa all of which are scattered around the Piazza de Kalsa. Overlooking the beach in that part of the city you will find the Puppet Museum and the Palace of Chiaramonte. Hence even a short walk gives an instant introduction to 900 years of Palermo's history. Entering the north harbour with its three major quays (Molo S.Lucia, Piave and Vittorio Veneto), there is a slightly longer stroll to the Piazza L.Sturzo, which has the Gallery of Modern Art, an English church in the Via Mariano Stabile and further inland the English Garden with its two Villas (Bordonaro and Falcone Morvillo).
After decades of Mafia domination, Sicily's chief city is re-emerging as one of Europe's great capitals. This dazzling city presents intriguing contrasts, from elegant, middle-class shopping quarters to the ancient and enchanting old city, divided by winding alleys lined with noisy outdoor markets. Its incredible mixture of cultures, architectural styles and culinary flavours is now infused with an optimism that is expressing itself in a frenzy of restoration, nightlife and cultural creativity.
For those wishing to stay overnight the Grand Hotel (Hotel et Des Palmes) is roughly midway between the north and south harbours at the junction of the Via Roma and the Via Cavour. It is a good location for viewing the grand architecture of the two theatres - Teatro Massimo and the Politeama Garibaldi. This hotel is one of several in the Via Roma all of which are recommended as 3/ 4-star -rated hotels.Read More