Palermo has been a crossroads of different civilizations for millennia. This city is an intoxicating concentration of Byzantine mosaics, frescoed churches, and Arabesque domes. A place that is both on the edge of Europe and in the middle of the ancient world, where Soq–like markets are flanked by baroque churches, date palms frame the gothic-style buildings and blue-eyed blondes mingle with brunettes with a darker complexion.
Centuries of splendour and decay have created a complex urban reality, in which crumbling stairways lead to gilded halls where people’s distrust hides a generous heart. In the meanders of its noisy streets, the Sicilian capital contains citrus-scented cloisters, stucco-adorned chapels and vintage shops full of clothes that belonged to the nobles of the past.
The busy Quattro Canti intersection forms the centre of the old city. Not far away is a small group of unmissable monuments, in particular, the sixteenth-century Fontana Pretoria and La Martorana, a church dating back to the twelfth century commissioned by the Syriac admiral of Roger II’s fleet, George of Antioch, and designed as a mosque.
Piazza Pretoria is bordered by impressive churches and buildings, this square is dominated by the triumphal Fontana Pretoria, one of the main landmarks of Palermo. The pools, arranged on different levels in concentric circles, are crowded with naked nymphs, tritons and river gods who seem to dart out of the water. With its realistic nudes, the fountain aroused the scandalized reaction of the Sicilian faithful, who renamed it ‘the Fountain of Shame’.