10 Intriguing Facts about Palermo

Sicily, the island on the southwestern tip of the Italian ‘boot’, is one of the most vibrant locations you can visit in the country! There is such a wide range of cultures that can be felt through this historic location through its stunning historic architecture and unique traditions and values. It is also a location with stunning climate and some of the best beaches in the whole of Italy.

While many locations across this region are worth visiting, one of the most popular remains the island’s capital, Palermo. With its unique Arabian heritage, a visit to this city is unlike any other in Italy. Here, we take a look at some of the more interesting facts regarding this beautiful city, giving an insight into the uniqueness of this location.

Palermo is One of Italy’s Most Populous Cities

Sicily is the largest island in the Meditteranean Sea, and Palermo is its capital. With an estimated population of over 650,000, it is the sixth most populated city in Italy. That being said, its population is a long way behind the two leaders Rome (2.9m) and Milan (1.4m). Palermo is also the most populated city south of Naples, which has a population of nearly one million.

Palermo is Surrounded by a Mountain Range

Forming an almost natural harbour for the ancient port, the area of Palermo is surrounded by a small mountain range named after the city itself. Some of the mountains even divide parts of the city as it has expanded over the years.

The range forms part of the Madonie Mountains which stretch across most of Northern Sicily. The most iconic of these is Monte Pellegrino – sat on the bay of Palermo, it boasts remarkable views of the city and the sea, while also being home to the famous Saint Rosalia.

A beach in Palermo surrounded by hills and mountains

Palermo is One of the Warmest Cities in Europe

Thanks to its southerly location and local climate systems, including its close proximity to Africa, the area of Palermo receives some of the best weather in the whole of Europe! Its summers are long, hot and dry, with temperatures remaining largely in the 20s from May until October. Palermo experiences over 2,500 hours of sunshine every year, with almost no rainfall during the summer months.

Palermo’s Port is One of the Biggest in the Meditteranean

A historic port city, Palermo still relies heavily on its connections via the water. The Port of Palermo dates back to over 2,700 years ago and nowadays serves over two million passengers and around five million tonnes of cargo every year.

Palermo’s History Involves Many Civilisations

As previously mentioned, the history of Palermo is one of the most unique and varied of any major Italian city. Prehistoric settlements in the area are said to date back to 8000BC, with the first significant civilisation being the Phoenicians. Over the following centuries, Ancient Greeks, Romans and Byzantines would all lay claim to the city, leaving their mark through unique buildings. However, the biggest impact on the area was made by the Arabian civilisation who made it the capital of a Sicilian Emirate. Palermo remained under their control for over 100 years, during which the city rivalled Cairo in its cultural importance. This period can be felt throughout the city, from its unique architecture to its bustling bazaars.

An historic building by a crossroads in Palermo

Palermo’s Name Once Meant “Old City”

Unsurprising given its many owners, the area of Palermo has been given many names by different civilisations. The Ancient Greeks called the area Paleapolis, which meant “Old City” to distinguish it from another settlement they built to the east. They later named the city Pánormos, which refers to the city’s important port, before the Arab civilisation named the area Bal’ harm. The influence of these names eventually combined into the Palermo we know today.

Palermo Has Italy’s Biggest Opera House

The Teatro Massimo (literally “Maxiumum Theatre”) opened its doors to the public in 1897, and it is not only the biggest theatre in Italy but one of the biggest theatres in Europe. The auditorium was designed to seat 3,000 people but nowadays hosts just over 1,300. The house’s program includes operas, plays, dance and classical music. It is famous for not only its size but the famous flower wheel painting by Luigi Di Giovanni, the royal box and its feature in the final shooting scene in the film, The Godfather, which takes place on the entrance steps.

Saint Rosalia is Palermo’s Patron Saint

Rosalia was a noble, who lived as a devout Christian in a cave on Mount Pellegrino in the twelfth century. In the seventeenth century, when a plague wreaked havoc in Palermo, visions of her began appearing for people. The image supposedly told a hunter where to find her remains, which he then paraded through the city. Soon after, the plague left Palermo, and Rosalia was venerated as the city’s patron saint. A sanctuary was built where her remains were discovered in her honour, which is still one of the most popular locations in the city.

Mount Pellegrino in Palermo

The City Has A Tradition of Puppet Theatre

Traditional puppet theatre has been a popular form of entertainment from as early as the 15th century. It is a tradition that is widespread on the island, but its roots are in Palermo. Still today, locals and visitors come to enjoy and watch these spectacular puppet performances; these are some of the top attractions in Palermo! The acts are based upon Sicilian fables, local legend and history. The puppets and sets are all handmade, and there is a puppet museum in the city centre.

Palermo Has Extensive Catacombs

A fascination for history and horror lovers, the 16th-century Catacombe dei Cappuccini is home to over 8,000 bodies. The underground tunnels were created when monks ran out of room in their cemetery and wanted to preserve the lives of important and wealthy people. The mummification began with just monks, priests and soldiers, but it began to be a status symbol to be rested there and a luxury which could be enjoyed by the rich. The last mummy to be added was in 1920, but some are up to 400 years old. For visitors that enjoy the bizarre and unusual, this is the place for you!

We hope these facts will be of interest to you during your stay in our luxury villas in Sicily. Whether you embrace the puppet theatre, brave the mummies or spend your time in the mountains, Palermo has an incredible history, stunning landscape and fascinating traditions which all make for the perfect city break.