10 Intriguing Facts about Palermo

Palermo is the cultural capital of Sicily for 2018 and with a great choice of places to eat, fantastic entertainment and plenty of hidden gems to discover, we can see why. Here are 10 facts about this amazing location:


1. Palermo’s Location and population

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and Palermo is Sicily’s largest city, with a population over 680,000. It is on the northwest coast of the island and looks over the Tyrrhenian Sea. The main beach in Palermo is Mondello and is perfect for snorkelling and swimming in the clear turquoise waters.


Palermo beach and sea

2. Mountains of Palermo

Palermo has stunning views, not only of the ocean but of a mountain range. Mount Pellegrino towers above the cities bay, providing panoramic views of the city. In the distance, the Madonie Regional Park can be seen, with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop to Palermo during the winter. These mountains are a protected nature reserve and are home to a range of plants that are not found anywhere else in the word.


3. Palermo Climate

Palermo enjoys a hot, Mediterranean climate which makes it warm and dry for much of the year. The hottest months are from late April to August, and this is also when the sea temperature is the warmest. There are long, warm summers and winter rains.


waves in the sea

4. Port of Palermo

Palermo has a natural harbour, which has been built upon and used throughout history as the main port of Sicily, large boats holding passengers and goods have been coming in and out for the port for centuries. Shipping fruits, fish and chemicals, the port has been the foundation and driving force of the growth of the whole island.


5. History of Palermo

The culture of Palermo has been ever changing throughout history, as it has, on many occasions been conquered and invaded. Visiting Palermo provides a great understanding of the island, it is a unique place, like no other city, with a variety of architecture and traditions. The earliest records of civilisation in Palermo was in 8,000 BC, evidence of the existence of people in the area can be found in the wall art in caves just outside the city centre, drawn by people know as Sicani. Palermo has been invaded and taken over by Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, Romans, Saracens and the Normans, each implementing their traditions, erecting elaborate and recognisable buildings that represent their people. Empires were built on the remains of the last, and each street has buildings from different periods of time and new invaders.


historical buildings in Palermo


6. Palermo’s many names

Many of the invaders renamed Palermo once they had taken it over and settled. The Phoenicians named it Ziz, meaning flower. The Greeks called it Panormus, meaning ‘complete port,’ and Arabic invaders renamed it Balarm.


7. Italy’s biggest Opera house

The Teatro Massimo 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 can seat over 3000 attendants and the 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.


The Teatro Massimo theatre, Palermo


8. The Feast of Saint Rosalia

The Feast of Saint Rosalia is one of the most important events in Palermo. The procession through the city takes place every year in July; buildings are illuminated, there are fireworks and a large parade. It is a celebration of Saint Rosalia; when the plague was infecting the city, a hunter claimed to have received a vision from her, he collected her bones from a cave outside of Palermo and then paraded them through the city, a few days after, the plague was no longer haunting the people. The festival is a symbol of victory of life, over death.


9. Opera dei Pupi – traditional 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 performances. 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.


Pinocchio puppet


10. Catacombs of the Capuchins

A fascination for the history and horror lovers, the 16th-century building is home to over 8000 mummified bodies, the underground tunnels where created when Monks ran out of room in their cemetery and wanted to preserve the lives of important or 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 too. 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 family 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.