Palazzo dei Normanni

    This Norman Castle (or Palazzo Reale) is located on Piazza del Parlamento, the highest part of the old city. The first structure was built by the Saracens during the 9th century. Later, when Palermo fell under Norman rule, it was considerably enlarged. During the 17th century the Spaniards added the long principle facade. Since 1947 it has been the seat of the Sicilian Regional Government.

The Sala Ruggero is the oldest part of the palace covered with 12th centrury mosaics of hunting scenes. The Capella Palatino, the private royal chapel built by Roger II between 1132-1143, is the undisputed gem of central Palermo. The breathtaking interior is covered by Byzantine mozaics illustrating the story of Adam and Eve and The Fall and other old testament scenes. Also worth a visit are the Royal Apartments and the Torre Juaria, a series of linked rooms where government duties are carried out. These rooms are closed, however, when they are being used for government business.

The entrance ticket includes a guided tour of all the restricted areas when they are open. The Palace is open Monday through Saturday, 8:30 am to noon and 2 pm to 5 pm. Admission costs 10 euros.

Catacombs of the Capuchins

    Visit, if you dare, this web of spooky subterranean passages where 8,000 of Palermo's mummified dead will greet you; some dating back over 500 years and still dressed in their absolute best. The Catacombs are located at the Piazza Cappuccini, and are open from 9 am to noon, and from 3 pm to 5 pm (7 pm in the summer). Admission is €1.50, and the Catacombs are closed on public holidays.

 

Orto Botannico

The Botanical Gardens are part of the University of Palermo. They constitutes the most significant scientific and educational facility housed within the Department of Botanical Sciences at the University.

The origin of the gardens dates back to 1779, when  the Accademia dei Regi Studi was created. The new Academy was established in the old bastion of the Porta Carini with a small plot of land around to accommodate a small botanical garden to be used for the cultivation of "simple" medicinal plants useful to teaching.

 Soon, this first Garden proved inadequate to the needs of the time and in 1786 it was decided to place it in a more appropriate location in Vigna del Gallo, in the plane of S. Erasmus. Then the new Garden was born to help with the development of botanical science in the interests of Medicine and Agriculture and with the intention of providing further decoration to the City.

The construction of the main buildings of the Garden, in neoclassical style, was begun in 1789 and completed in 1795. It consists of a central building, the Gymnasium, and two lateral bodies, and the Tepidarium Calidarium, designed by French architect Leon Dufourny and implemented with the collaboration of talented local architects like Peter Trombetta, Domenico Marabitti and Venanzio Marvuglia.

 

The decorative elements are due to several artists. The current extension of the Garden, about 10 hectares, was reached in 1892 after two successive enlargements.