Important families use to have their own palace in the city centre (and maybe a place in the countryside, where they grew agricultural products). Many of these palaces now would deserve better maintenance, but resources are not always enough. As you may know, many people left Sicily a couple of hundrfeds year ago and establish themselves in America, mostly in the North, and thousands of traditional houses and property are now poorly attended. You should spend some time imagining how it used to be in the past. The glorious and luxurious period in which landlords ruled the Sicilian society: it has pro's and an overwhelming amount of con's; but, if you consider the architectural legacy it has been a wonderful period.
If you don't rely on ur legs and feet there are other possibilities to travel around Palermo city center. Here are phaetons! 8) However we didn't have a phaeton going around but I reckon it's quite funny and amusing! ;))
This building is build in Normandic Arabic style. It was build in the 12th century.
The building is very impressive and you must see it when you visit Palermo.
Inside you can see the relic of Saint Rosalia, the patron of the city and some graves of Normandic kings.
For all their French beginnings and Christian beliefs, the Normans were enamoured of the lifestyle of the Saracens they'd displaced as rulers of the island kingdom. They spoke Arabic and Arabs held many important posts in their courts. They lived in Arab style, surrounded by a luxury and elegance that was unknown by their northern cousins in France and England. They used Arab architects and builders for their grandest buildings and planted wonderful Arab gardens and pleasure grounds around their palaces.
Little but written descriptions remain of all this splendour - fabulous tales told by visitors to these courts of gardens where fountains, man-made lakes and streams cooled the air, silk-lined pavilions were scattered among groves of sweet-smelling citrus and almond trees, exotic plants abounded and even more exotic animals and birds roamed free or were kept in eleborate menageries. It's all but impossible to imagine as you make your way through the shabby streets past souless modern blocks of flats and the crumbling decay of the outer reaches of Palermo to the palace of La Zisa - the last of these wonderful pleasure palaces to be built before the magic kingdom faded away, overtaken by the powerful combination of the zeal, greed and bigotry of Popes and Holy Roman Emperors.
William l commissioned La Zisa in 1166, his son, William ll was already on the throne when it was completed the following year. The gardens are long gone - the new park currently being laid out in front of the palace in traditional Arab style would have disapeared into a corner of the original garden.
The palace itself is solid enough - a large, restrained cube, very Moorish in appearance, with a ruined pool in front of the main door. Only the Fountain Room, the main reception room shows any trace of the beauty that earned the palace its name - La Zisa means "The Magnificent". Two storeys high, it retains its"muqarras", Arabic stalactite roof vaultings that are familiar to anyone who has travelled to Cairo or Damascus. Some of the Byzantine mosaic frieze remains as do the bands of Roman Cosmati mosaic around the doors and walls (the remnants of fresco are of a much later date). The upper floors are all bare stone walls, with narrow passages and small rooms, some of which display a collection of historical Arab artifacts. It's all very heavily restored but it opens a tiny window into the past, just big enough for the ghosts of 12th century Sicily to slip through.
douginmiami's new Palermo Page
I will be travelling to Sicily in Dec./Jan. I would be most interesting in receiving travel advice, particularly lodging, as well as must see events over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
We are two persons travelling by car over 2+ weeks.