Palermo, Province of Palermo, Sicily

Province capital and also administrative seat of the autonomous region of Sicily, Palermo is the largest city in the island.

Palermo can be reached by its International Airport, located 32 km (19 miles) west of Palermo, with buses departing every 30 minutes from the central railway station to the airport; it is also connected by ship or ferry to the main Mediterranena harbours.


  • Altitude: 14 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 650,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 90100
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 091
  • Patron Saint: Santa Rosalia - Before 1624 Palermo had four patron saints, one for each of the four major quarters of the city. They were Saint Agatha, Saint Christina, Saint Ninfa and Saint Oliva.
  • Frazioni & Localities: Mondello, Mondello Lido, Sferracavallo

History - Antiquity

Palermo was founded in the 8th century BC by Phoenician tradesmen around a natural harbour on the north-western coast of Sicily. The Phoenician name for the city may have been Zîz, but Greeks called it Panormus, meaning all-port, because of its fine natural harbour. Palermo is widely considered to be the most conquered city in the world. Palermo remained a Phoenician city until the First Punic War (264-241 BC), when Sicily fell under Roman rule. The Roman period was one of comparative calm, Palermo coming under the provincial administration in Syracuse.

History - the Middle Ages

When the Roman Empire was split, Sicily and Palermo came under the rule of the Eastern Byzantine Empire. This lasted until the 9th century, when Muslim forces from north Africa invaded, taking Palermo in 831 and all of Sicily by 965. The Muslim rulers moved Sicily's capital to Palermo where it has been ever since. In the Muslim period Palermo was a major city of trade, culture and learning, with (it is said) more than 300 mosques. The city was renowned throughout the Muslim world. It was a period of prosperity and tolerance, as Christians and Jews were allowed to live in peace.

In 1060 the Normans launched a crusade against the Muslim emirate of Sicily, taking Palermo on January 10, 1072 and the whole island by 1091. The policy of tolerance continued under the Norman rulers, though the mosques were converted into churches. The resulting blend of Norman and Arab culture fostered a unique hybrid style of architecture as can be seen in the Palatine Chapel, the church San Giovanni degli Eremiti and the Zisa.

In 1194 Sicily fell under the control of the Holy Roman Empire. Palermo was the preferred city of the Emperor Frederick II, who is buried in the cathedral. After an interval of Angevin rule (1266-1282), Sicily came under the house of Aragon and later in 1479 the kingdom of Spain.

History - the Renaisssance and Modern Times

As the seat of the Spanish viceroy, Palermo grew in population from 30,000 in the mid-15th century to 135,000 on the eve of the plague of 1656. In the 15th and 16th centuries Palermo was enriched with a large number of baroque buildings, many of which still exist today.

Sicily's unification (1734) with the Bourbon-ruled kingdom of Naples as the kingdom of the Two Sicilies reduced Palermo to just another provincial city, the royal court residing in Naples. Palermo and its many palaces fell into decay. Palermo was the scene (January 12) of the first of Europe's revolutionary upheavals of 1848.

The Italian Risorgimento and Sicily's annexation (1860) to the kingdom of Italy gave Palermo a second chance. It was once again the administrative centre of Sicily, and there was a certain economic and industrial development led by the Florio family. In the early 20th century Palermo expanded outside the old city walls, mostly to the north along the new boulevard, the Via della Libertà in the style of Art Nouveau or Stile Liberty as it is known in Italy, many of the villas were built by the famous architecht Ernesto Basile.

What to see

  • The Capuchin Catacombs, with many mummified corpses in varying degrees of preservation.
  • Close to the city is 600 meter high Monte Pellegrino, with spectacular views of the city, its surrounding mountains and the ocean.
  • The Grand Hotel Villa Igeia, built by Ernesto Basile for the Florio family, a fine example of Liberty style.


  • The patron saint of Palermo is Santa Rosalia, who is still widely venerated. On the 14th of July people in Palermo celebrate the "Festino" who is the most important religious event of the year. The Festino is a procession along the main streets of Palermo, to commemorate the miracle made by Santa Rosalia, who freed the city from the plague in the 1624.

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Provinces of Sicily
Sicilia region
Surnames in the Provinces of Sicily