As we left our hotel on most mornings, we typically turned west (left) to walk on the Via Maqueda towards Quattro Canti (four corners) to where the streets Via Maqueda and Corso Vittoria Emanuela, intersect. This is heart of the Palermo and it just made it easier to orient ourselves in whatever direction we wanted to go to explore the sights. In general, we would head either south or north on the Corso Vittoria Emanuele to where most of the historical attractions are located.
On our first full day in Palermo, we started out by taking some time to peruse the Alfa Romeo car show being held in the piazza across the street from our hotel.
The following are excerpts from the press release, “Alfa Romeo takes part in the 100th edition of the legendary “Targa Florio” by the Museo Alfa Romeo:
“The 100th edition of the legendary “Targa Florio”, the oldest car race in the world, will be held in Sicily 5-8 May. It was originally commissioned, funded and organised by the Palermo magnate Vincenzo Florio for the purpose of establishing a “practical and precise criterion for assessing the travelling car”. The race has been competed in various forms ever since 1906. Organised by AC Palermo in collaboration with the Automobile Club of Italy, it is four events rolled up in one: Targa Florio Rally, Targa Florio Historic Rally, Targa Florio Classic and Targa Florio Historic Speed. ”
“Several prestigious locations in Palermo will also host dedicated areas exhibiting the latest Alfa Romeo models during the days of the Targa Florio. They range from the captivating Giulia Quadrifoglio to the new Giulietta and Mito, the two recently updated models that display a marked family feeling with the Giulia, as seen in the new front that flaunts a brand-new grill and the legendary trefoil, perhaps the most famous and recognisable signature in the automotive world. Even the lettering of the names “Giulietta” and “Mito” also winks to that of the Giulia, with both cars sporting the refreshed logo of the Alfa Romeo brand.”
Later, we signed up for a tour of the iconic landmark, the Teatro Massimo. There is a daily tour except on Mondays which I and my friend managed to join. We were told that this stunningly beautiful grand, Opera House took over 22 years to complete after 1874. The first Italian architect who oversaw its stages of construction was Giovan Battista Fillipo Basile and then it was his son Ernesto Basile who took over this project. The Teatro Massimo is the largest theatre in Italy (and the third largest opera house in Europe after Vienna and Paris). Basile took his inspiration from the neo-classical Greek temples in the area. Constructed in the late-Renaissance style, the auditorium seats over 1,300 guests with 7 tiers of boxes rising up around an inclined stage in the shape of a horseshoe. It sponsors both opera and ballet extravaganzas. We did purchase tickets for a practice rendition for their upcoming ballet event, Cinderella which we were thrilled to attend. This was truly a practice run with no costumes but the dancing was exceptional and magical.
In the afternoon, we decided to saunter north on the Corso Vittoria Emanuele towards the sea. We detoured on to Giardino Garibaldi (Garibaldi Garden) and came upon the Palazzo Chiarmonte-Steri which looked interesting to where we decided to investigate.
There is a write-up from Best of Sicily Magazine on historic families (Chiaromonte) by Vincenzo Salerno. The following are some excerpts:
“By 1300 the first Manfred Chiaramonte (two successors bore his name) was the Count of Modica, in south-eastern Sicily, but his feudal territories formed a patchwork of baronies and fiefs extending across the island. One of Sicily’s most important feudal lords, he undertook the construction of numerous castles, and though the architecture called “Chiaramonte Gothic” was neither an invention by his architects nor gothic, it represented a signature style defined by sweeping arches and graceful two-light windows. Palermo’s Steri and the fortresses of Mussomeli, Naro and Malta (the old part of Fort Sant’Angelo in Valletta) epitomize this style, and it is fair to say that the medieval legacy of Sicily would be the lesser if it were lacking.”
“But the Chiaramonte family also left a less dignified mark on Sicilian history, Treason. And in the middle ages disloyalty, especially by feudal nobles was a serious offense (which was not an infrequent event). Andrew Chiaramonte was the culprit who faced justice by execution in 1392 in front of his majestc castle in Palermo. But he was not the only guilty party in his family.”
“Yet a memory of the Chiaramontes endures symbolically in heraldry. In typical fashion, their coat of arms was defaced. However, a twentieth century restoration of the Steri Castle brought to light two examples – the fresco shown here (possibly depicting Manfred with an ironic halo) and a bas relief shield of simple design in white stone high on the castle’s exterior wall. The coat of arms itself is simple, the stylized white mounts literally representing the surname, “white mountain.”
The Museo dell’Inquisizione is now located in the basement of the 14th century Palazzo Chiaromonte Steri. This museum offers a frightening reminder of the Inquisition in Palermo during their Spanish rule. The honeycomb of the prisoners’ cells has been restored to reflect the many layers of their stories in the form of graffiti and artwork. We were escorted through these cells by an English speaking guide.
Alfa Romeo takes part in the 100th edition of the legendary “Targa … www.museo alfaromeo.com/en-us/news/…/100aEdizioneTargaFlorio_05_05_2015…May 5, 2016 – The 100th edition of the legendary “Targa Florio”, the oldest car race in … Organised by AC Palermo in collaboration with the Automobile Club …
The Legend of the Targa Florio Continues – Times of Sicily http://www.timesofsicily.com/targa-florio…The historic Targa Florio in Sicily, which begun in 1906, was a brain-child of Vincenzo Florio, a wealthy wine-maker born in Palermo.
Museo dell’Inquisizione – Lonely Planet http://www.lonelyplanet.com › Mediterranean Europe Museo dell’Inquisizione … Museo Internazionale … Home Europe Mediterranean Europe Italy Sicily Palermo Region Palermo Sights in Palermo Museo dell’Inquisizione …