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Learn more about Palermo

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Comune di Palermo
Image:Palermo stemma.png
Municipal coat of arms
Country Image:Flag of Italy.svg Italy
Region Sicily
Province Palermo (PA)
Mayor Diego Cammarata (since November 26, 2001)
Elevation 1 m
Area 158 km²
 - Total (as of January 31, 2006) 675,501
 - Density 4,275/km²
Time zone CET, UTC+1
Coordinates 38°07′N 13°22′E
Gentilic Palermitani
Dialing code 091
Postal code 90100
Frazioni Mondello, Sferracavallo, Baida, Boccadifalco, Vergine Maria, Ciaculli
Patron St. Rosalia
 - Day July 15

Palermo (Palermo in Italian, Palermu, Palemmu, Paliermu or Paliemmu in Sicilian) is the principal city and administrative seat of the autonomous region of Sicily, Italy as well as the capital of the Province of Palermo. Inhabitants of Palermo in Italian are referred to as Palermitani or poetically Panormiti.


[edit] History

Main article: History of Palermo
Back street in Palermo.

Palermo was founded in the 8th century BC by Phoenician tradesmen around a natural harbour on the north-western coast of Sicily. The Phoenician name for the city may have been Zîz, but Greeks called it Panormus (see also List of traditional Greek place names), meaning all-port, because of its fine natural harbour. It should be noted however that the city was never a Greek city-state, but was later part of the Greek speaking Eastern Roman Empire . Palermo is widely considered to be the most conquered city in the world, as shown in the following article.

Palermo remained a Phoenician city until the First Punic War (264-241 BC), when Sicily fell under Roman rule. The Roman period was one of comparative calm, Palermo coming under the provincial administration in Syracuse. When the Roman Empire was split, Sicily and Palermo came under the rule of the Eastern Byzantine Empire.

In the 9th century, Sicily was divided into two prefectures by the Byzantines. The two prefects went to war with each other, and Euphimius, the winner, dreamt of reuniting the Roman empire. However, he lacked an army, so he asked the Arab Aghlabids rulers of North Africa, at the time the up-and-coming power in the Mediterranean, to lend him theirs. Within a week of the Arabs' arrival in Palermo in 827, Euphimius died mysteriously, and they declined to leave. By 878 all of Sicily, except for a few Byzantine enclaves near Taormina, was controlled by the Saracens. In 905 they captured those too. The Arab rulers moved Sicily's capital to Palermo where it has been ever since. Under Muslim dominion Palermo became an important commercial and cultural center, a flourishing city broadly known in all Arab world - it is said that it had more than 300 mosques. But they were also years of tolerance: Christians and Jews were permitted to follow their own credo.

In 1060 the Normans launched a crusade against the Muslim emirate of Sicily, taking Palermo on January 10 1072 and the whole island by 1091. The resulting blend of Norman and Arab culture fostered a unique hybrid style of architecture as can be seen[1] in the Palatine Chapel, the church San Giovanni degli Eremiti and the Zisa.

Sicily in 1194 fell under the control of the Holy Roman Empire. Palermo was the preferred city of the Emperor Frederick II. After an interval of Angevin rule (1266-1282), Sicily came under the house of Aragon and later, in (1479), the kingdom of Spain.

Sicily's unification (1734) with the Bourbon-ruled kingdom of Naples as the kingdom of the Two Sicilies inflicted a devastating blow on the elite of Palermo, as the city was reduced to just another provincial city, the royal court residing in Naples. Palermo rebelled in 1848 and held out against the Neapolitan crown until May 1849.

The Italian Risorgimento and Sicily's annexation (1860) to the kingdom of Italy gave Palermo a second chance. It was once again the administrative centre of Sicily, and there was a certain economic and industrial development.

Palermo survived almost the entire fascist period unscathed, but during the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943 it suffered heavy damage.

The importance of Palermo got another boost when Sicily became (1947) an autonomous region with extended self-rule. But any improvement was thwarted by the rising power of the Mafia, which still today is a dramatic feature of the city, as well as the whole Southern Italy.

Palermo is a city with monumental problems, but is also a city of almost three millennia of history, beautiful palaces and churches, colourful markets, marvelous food and a distinctive cultural identity.

[edit] Demographics

Image:Palermo panorama.JPG
Panorama of Palermo.

Because Sicily is not as prosperous as the mainland Italian regions, legal immigrants and guest workers rarely make headway into Palermo but Sicily is a natural port of call for illegal immigrants and especially those from Northern and Inner Africa. Even if the immigrant population is not taken into account, the city is one of the fastest growing in Italy with those under 14 still outnumbering those over 65.

Year Population
1450 c. 30,000
1650 c. 135,000
1800 202,800
1830 171,100
1850 178,900
1880 236,300
1900 295,600
1946 416,500
2005 720,000 (urban area: 1,064,000)

[edit] Main sights

Image:Palermo 2005 041.jpg
The Cathedral of Palermo.
Image:Palermo 2005 044.jpg
The Porta Nuova ("New Gate") is the monumental access to the centre of the city.
Baroque interior of the Church of the Jesus.

Palermo has a noteworthy architectural heritage and is notable for its many Norman buildings.

[edit] Churches

[edit] Palaces and museums

Image:Chapelle Palatine.jpg
Roger II's Cappella Palatina combines French-Norman, Byzantine, and Arabic influences.

[edit] Theatres

[edit] Places

[edit] Other interesting sights

San Giovanni degli Eremiti.
Façade of the Church of the Magione.
Harbour with Monte Pellegrino.

The Cathedral has a heliometer (solar "observatory") of 1690, one of a number1 built in Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries. The device itself is quite simple: a tiny hole in one of the minor domes acts as Pinhole camera, projecting an image of the sun onto the floor at solar noon (12:00 in winter, 13:00 in summer). There is a bronze line, la Meridiana on the floor, running precisely N/S. The ends of the line mark the positions as at the summer and winter solstices; signs of the zodiac show the various other dates throughout the year.

The purpose of the instrument was to standardise the measurement of time and the calendar. The convention in Sicily had been that the (24 hour) day was measured from the moment of sun-rise, which of course meant that no two locations had the same time and, more importantly, did not have the same time as in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. It was also important to know when the Vernal Equinox occurred, to provide the correct date for Easter.

The Orto botanico di Palermo, founded in 1785, is the largest in Italy with a surface of 10 ha.

One site of interest is the Capuchin Catacombs, with many mummified corpses in varying degrees of preservation.

Close to the city is 600 meter high Monte Pellegrino, with spectacular views of the city, its surrounding mountains and the ocean. In his book, "Travels in Italy", Goethe described Monte Pellegrino as the most beautiful promontory in the world.

[edit] Sports

Palermo has its own football team, U.S. Città di Palermo, playing in Italian Serie A and in UEFA Cup. The chairman is Maurizio Zamparini and the coach is Francesco Guidolin (appointed on January 29, 2006). They currently sit top in Serie A with the same points as Inter Milan. They have equalled a club record in winning their last five Serie A matches. They are also playing in the UEFA Cup, currently sitting second in Group H with two matches to play.

[edit] Patron saints

The patron saint of Palermo is Santa Rosalia, who is still widely venerated. On the 14th of July, people in Palermo celebrate the "Festino", which is the most important religious event of the year. The Festino is a procession in the main street of Palermo to remember the miracle attributed to Santa Rosalia who, it is believed, freed the city from the Black Death in 1624. The cave where the bones of Santa Rosalia were discovered is on Monte Pellegrino (see above): when her relics were carried around the city three times, the plague was lifted. There is a Santuario marking the spot and can be reached via a scenic bus ride from the city below.

Before 1624 Palermo had four patron saints, one for each of the four major parts of the city. They were Saint Agatha, Saint Christina, Saint Ninfa and Saint Olivia.

Saint Lucy is also honoured with a peculiar celebration, during which inhabitants of Palermo don't eat anything made with flour, but boil wheat in its natural state and use it to prepare a special dish called cuccia. This commemorates the saving of the city from famine through the intercession of St Lucia. A ship full of grain mysteriously arrived in the city's harbour and the population was so hungry that they did not waste time in making flour but ate the grain as it had arrived.

[edit] Transport

Palermo International Airport, also known as Falcone-Borsellino Airport, Punta Raisi Airport: dedicated to Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, two anti-mafia judges killed by the mafia in early 90s, is located 32 km (19 miles) west of Palermo (Punta Raisi). Buses depart roughly every 30 minutes from the central railway station (via Piazza Ruggero Settimo) to the airport, and can sometimes during rush hour take more than an hour. It can also be reached by trains departing from Centrale, Notarbartolo and Francia stations.

[edit] References

[edit] See also

[edit] External links


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