Cruise Port of Palermo, Sicily
My favorite cruise port on the Royal Caribbean Mediterranean cruise was to Palermo, Sicily. My daughters and I did not book an excursion and wanted to explore Sicily in the cheapest way possible.
After stepping off the cruise ship, we realized things were very spread apart, so we hired a non-English speaking taxi driver who agreed to give us a private tour for $40. Our trip ended up lasting 4 hours and took us all around the city and then some.
Here are our top five highlights.
#1 Quattro Canti
In the heart of the old city center (where two main streets, Via Maqueda and Via Vittorio Emanuele intersect into four parts) lays the “mandamenti” area. In English, this translates to the four corners.
The architecture is stunning and the statues are incredibly intricate and photogenic. You will notice tourists standing in the middle of the street trying to capture all four sides in one frame. Each section contains one of the season’s allegories, one of the four Spanish Hapsburg kings, and a patron saint top.
#2 Saint Catherine’s Church
St. Catherine’s (of Alexandria) Church was built in 1596 and is all about attention to detail. The ceilings and frescoes are painted brilliantly. I found this church to be one of the most fascinating of all we visited during our Mediterranean cruise through France and Italy.
The chapels inside St. Catherine’s Church includes Conception, Rosary, the seven pains, St. Domenico, and Crucifix. One of the altars is made of precious stone materials and is stunning.
#3 Fountain of Pretoria
Located outside St. Catherine’s Church is the Fountain of Pretoria, one of Palermo’s highly ornate fountains. The impressive statues feature nude nymphs, goddesses, and satyrs that were considered majorly risqué for their time. It is incredible to think that someone thought up these amusing statues modified over the years to become a bit more modest.
Be sure to see the Piazza Pretoria, where you will find the “Fountain of Shame”. Initially built in 1555 by Francesco Camiliani, this risqué fountain will shock you with its statues and scenes.
#4 The Catacombs of the Capuchins
The best part of our day in Palermo, Sicily, was a haunting tour of the 16th-century catacombs, eerie but unusual. For those who are not familiar with catacombs, it is a place that naturally mummifies dead bodies housed there.
At this time, my children young and were creeped out by how close the mummified corpses were to our walkway. We descended stairs into the Capuchin Catacombs into a cold cinderblock chamber where no photography was allowed. Bodies hung on the walls and some behind bars, sorted into rooms by classifications such as priests, children, and nobility. The bodies included some of the dead’s material possessions, too.
I found it amazing that the clothing was still remarkably intact on almost all of the bodies. This place houses thousands of mummified monks.
#5 Sanctuary of Saint Rosalia on Monte Pellegrino
The Baroque facade of the St. Rosalia Roman Catholic Church is impressive. It is built right into the mountain, with water dripping from the ceilings both inside and out.
Legend has it that St. Rosalia cured the plague in this area, and there is an opportunity to burn a candle or leave an offering for thanks in the foyer flanked by her statue. A gorgeous gold statue of St. Rosalia, designed by Van Dyck, is made entirely of gold and marble and shows her reclining in a protective case. The jagged rock walls, rock floors, and sophisticated religious decorations make this an unforgettable experience.
My recommendation for the do-not-miss spot in Palermo would be this wondrous and stunning circa 1625 church amid the Pellegrino mountains in a vehicle that has working brakes. The church is literally up the hillside and the ride down is quite frightening.
History of Palermo
Palermo, Sicily dates back to the 8th and 6th century B.C. The city became part of the Byzantine Empire for some time, then was taken over by the Arabs.
During this time, the arts and economies thrived due to their advanced culture. Palermo increased its prestige by building mosques, exquisite palaces, and eye-popping gardens. It changed hands many more times, but in 1870 Palermo became annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.
The capital of Sicily is Palermo, the fifth largest city in Italy. You’ll find it in northwestern Sicily, next to the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Palermo, Sicily Photo Gallery
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