There are so many fantastic places to discover in Palermo, one post wasn’t enough. In fact, two might not be enough. Every time we purposely get lost in the city, we discover other marvels. Here are some others:
Museo d’Arte contemporanea della Sicilia. (Photo borrowed from this website.) We’re so used to seeing “old” things in Italy, it’s always a surprise that Italians like modern and contemporary art. It shouldn’t be; their furniture, their fashion, their engineering, speak of a forward-looking people as much as one who wishes to preserve its past. However, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Sicily is still a surprise. It is housed in an 18th Century Palace (Palazzo Riso) that belonged to the princes Ventimiglia di Belmonte. The building itself is an interesting example of a noble private residence that married the magnificence of the late baroque with neoclassical severity. After years of neglect and disrepair, the Department of the Region of Sicily bought the building in 1986 and restored it, opening it as the museum in the late 90s. Although a few remnants of the palazzo have been preserved, the inside of the museum fades so the collection can shine: truly contemporary art from Sicilian artists or artists who have lived in Sicily and who are seeking to give a new voice to the island through their creations. The pieces are few but are truly thought-provoking do change the vision one may have of Sicilians today. If you’re a contemporary art aficionado, this museum is a must.
Foroitalico and Terrazza a mare. It’s not a long way from where we live to the port. A few weavings in the vias and viccoli (streets and alleys) and we walk along via Alloro to arrive at the Salita Mura delle Cattive (Wall of the Evil Women exit) and onto Viale Umberto I. Once you cross this avenue (very, very busy) you have reached the Foroitalico, and area along the bay of Palermo dedicated to outdoor activities; there are benches facing the water, a cycling and running path, a large shaded park with fountain and benches. Palermitans and tourists often migrate there for a break, or for their daily exercise. The sun is shining, there’s a breeze from the ocean, and the sound of (incessant) traffic all but disappears.
Moschea. As mentioned earlier, there is a large muslim community in Palermo. When you stroll of Maqueda, you’ll often encounter large groups of men and women in Indian garb (most are Bengladeshi, about 8000 live here) loitering on via Maqueda. During our Palermo roaming, we discovered the reason. Off via Maqueda, at the top of the hill of Via Celso, is the Moschea di Palermo, the Palermo Mosque. It is a Tunisian Sunni mosque (most Bengladeshi are Sunni), managed by the Tunisian government. It is housed in a unconsecrated church, chosen because of its orientation toward Mecca. Its external looks lends and ironic touch since, in all the Byzantine decorations around the city, the mosque is housed in a decidedly neoclassical building with no Arabic influence. The mosque opened in 1990.
Chiesa Sant’Anna della Misericordia. Hidden between Via Roma and Via Vittorio Emmanuele, among many other piazzas is the Piazza Sant’Anna where the church of the same name suddenly appears, looming over parked cars and small businesses. The church was closed, so we didn’t get to visit inside, but the facade itself was worth finding it. Based on the Roman Baroque Style, it was designed by Giovanni Biagio Amico. Unfortunately, the church suffered damage during the five major earthquakes Palermo had, the latest in 2002, which rendered the church unusable for five years. Nevertheless, the facade was successfully conserved. Serpotta, the famous sculptor who has created the beautiful Oratorios of Palermo (Santa Cita being particularly fine) was involved in the design of the alcoves on the facade.
We have several days left and we’re not finished roaming the city. Surely there will be other discoveries I’ll be able to write about.