When you say you will be visiting Palermo while you are in Sicily most people will say ‘Oh, The Godfather! Will you be doing a Godfather tour’? The answer to this question was no, but we did book a Palermo and Cefalu tour.
Palermo was about a 2 hour (or more) drive from Taormina where we stayed for the week. Once we got to Palermo the driver took us around the water’s edge where we saw the green space where people were lounging and enjoying the sun and the docks where the cruise ships come in. Across from the waterfront were the gardens, unfortunately the timing of the tour did not allow us time to wander around the gardens or waterfront.
We hopped off the bus and met our local tour guide for this stop. Our first stop on the tour was the Teatro Massimo Opera House, which does have a Godfather connection. The Opera House is where the assassination in Godfather 3 took place. We did not go into the Opera House since the day we were there a lot of school children and tours were there.
We took a walk through a shopping district to the Quattro Canti. This corner in the piazza is the beginning quarter with a fountain and statue of the four seasons, patronesses and the four Spanish kings of Sicily. The north quarter is the La Loggia district which represents autumn with the patron of Olivia di Palermo and has a statue of King Philip IV. The east quater is Kalsa district which represents winter with the patron of Sant’Agata and has a statue of King Philip III. The south quarter is Albergheria which represents spring with the patron of Christina of Bolsena and has a statue of King Charles V. The final quarter, west, is the Seralcadio/Capo quarter which represent summer with the patron of Santa Ninfa and a statue of King Philip II.
Our next stops were the Greek Cathedral and the Catholic Cathedral. The Greek
Cathedral, Martorana or St. Mary of the Admiral, was a short walk from the Quattro Canti. This cathedral has two styles on the inside, mosaics, where were the first style and frescos which were added on later. The outside facade of the church is in the Arab/Norman style, which means the church was originally built as a mosque and was then converted into a Christian church, in this case, a Greek Orthodox church. The combination of mosaics and frescos are absolutely beautiful!
The next stop was the Palermo Cathedral. This church is a little more in the tradition of what you think of European churches. The church was added on to from the original structure from the bell tower to the left. Since we had limited time in Palermo we were unable to get a full experience of the church exploring the bell tower and crypt, but we did have some time to enjoy the main church. While we were there they were tuning the organ so it was nice to sit and listen to the organ play. The church does have a shrine to Saint Rosalia. Here is where they keep the relic that they parade down the street on her feast day. A tradition that I do in churches is light candles and say a little prayer/intention and since St. Rosalia is the patron Saint of Palermo I thought it was fitting to light my candle here.
The last highlight of Palermo was the open food market. This market is what you think of when you think Sicily – old world way of selling goods. Vendors sell everything from fruits and vegetables to meats, fish, and cheese. This market reminded me a little of the Italian market in Philadelphia, granted with slight changes (no longer slaughtering animals as they did in my parent’s era). I enjoyed walking through the market seeing all the offerings the vendors have and the architecture of the surrounding buildings.