Palermo on Our Own

On Monday we took the Rick Steve’s walking tour of old town Palermo, the largest town in Sicily. Rick calls it old, a little shabby, but one of Sicily’s best surprises. Some people we talked to compared it to Naples, Italy as dirty, run down, and unappealing. So far, we agree with Rick. The old town is certainly old, but we found the city generally clean and filled with attractive architecture. Many buildings have been refurbished and certainly more would benefit from refurbishment. Let’s look at a few scenes from our walking tour.Our first stop was the Teatro Massimo, the Palermo opera house. With a footprint of almost two acres, it is the largest opera house in Italy and the third largest in Europe. Construction began in 1875 and it took 22 years to finish it. The final scene of The Godfather trilogy was filmed on the front steps. The building is nice on the outside, but it gets more attractive on the inside.The Theater has 380 seats in the orchestra and a thousand box seats on five levels. The royal box is in the center over the entrance.This is the view from the royal box. They were preparing the stage for an upcoming opera. It has a massive backstage for storing sets and props. Unfortunately, they are between operas during our visit.Most of the streets of the old town are narrow and pedestrian only. All the apartments seem to have balconies and most of them have flower pots.Many of the streets have fountains and graffiti. The doors next to the fountain are street art and the mustache on the woman is vandalism.The Baroque interior of the Oratory of San Lorenzo. The painting over the alter is a reproduction. The original by Caravaggio hung there for 350 years until it was stolen in 1969 and never recovered. The thief used a knife to cut the painting out of the frame. That is no easy feat as the top of the frame must be more than 12 feet off the floor.The exterior of the Church of Santa Catarina is relatively simple.The interior is a Baroque masterpiece. The bottom picture shows the top of a railing where pieces of marble of various colors were cut and pieced together like a puzzle.This is the Fountain of Shame, which was crafted from Carrara marble in 1555 for the Tuscan villa of a Spanish Viceroy. It was sold to the city of Palermo by the Viceroy’s son, who became Palermo’s governor. It was broken down into 640 pieces and moved to its present location in front of city hall.It was called the Fountain of Shame because all the sculptures were nude, which was considered very racy in conservative Sicily. The fountain was located beside the convent of Santa Catarina and the nuns tried to keep the statues clothed. When that didn’t work, they came out in the dead of night with hammers and chisels and removed the offending parts of the statues. An iron fence was added around the fountain in the 19th century to stop any further redesigns.

4 thoughts on “Palermo on Our Own”

  1. The animals in the fountain are delightful!
    Remember how on our cruise (Bali?) so many of the statues, not even necessarily nude, where clothed? Usually in a black and white check.

  2. We enjoyed the rest of Sicily more than Palermo. However, we were not there very long . You seem to have found interesting sites to visit

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