Palermo is the capital of the Italian island of Sicliy, a city that is over 2700 years old.
The city is noted for history, art, architecture and gastronomy.
A visit to Palermo can only start in the heart of the old city, where the Palaeopolis used to be. Here, over the ruins of a pre-existing Muslim palace, the Normans built their residence. The Royal Palace, or Norman Palace, overlooks the square today called Piazza della Vittoria, where the Villa Bonanno gardens were laid out in 1905. On the east side of the square we can see the remains of Palazzo Sclafani, which belonged to one of the most powerful families in 14th century Sicily. The Royal Palace, used to be characterized by four great comer-towers: la Pisana, la Joaria, la Greca and la Chirimbi. In the mid - 16th c. restructuring work began which partly transformed the building and gave it more or less its present appearance. Recent archaeological excavations have brought to light the remains of the Punic-Roman boundary walls.
The last open gallery in the Maqueda courtyard leads to the Salone d'Ercole (The Chamber of Hercules), which looks out over the Fountain Courtyard, and is now the Council Chamber of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The frescoes in the Chamber, by Velasquez (Giuseppe Velasco), 1799, depict the Labours of Hercules. Next to the Viceroys' Room is a space, probably once part of the ancient Joaria tower, leading to Roger's Room. This is particularly interesting because of the splendid mosaic wall-decorations, possibly dating from Roger's time, representing hunting-scenes, animals and plants, recalling the figurative culture and mosaic art of the Muslim East. Leaving the Palace, we skirt Piazza della Vittoria and come to the 16th century.
Porta Nuova (situated at the beginning of Corso Vittorio Emanuele), an unforgettable monument with its imposing mass, majolica-tiled pinnacle and the enormous busts of the four Moors, represented as prisoners with mutilated arms. Beyond Porta Nuova are the ancient barracks of San Giacomo, built by the Spaniards between the 16th and 17th century.