A play of a thousand facets
A holiday to Italy with MSC Cruises is the perfect chance to visit the regional capital of Sicily.A filthy, bustling, noisy port, Palermo yet holds an unrivalled display of Norman art and architecture and Baroque churches, combined with a warren of medieval streets and markets.
With Sicily’s greatest concentration of sights, and the biggest historic centre in Italy bar Rome, Palermo is a complex, multilayered port that can easily feel overwhelming if you try to do or see too much in one Mediterranean cruise visit.
The best thing to do here is just to wander as the fancy takes you, sifting through Palermo’s jumbled layers of crumbling architecture, along deserted back alleys, then suddenly emerging in the midst of an ebullient street market.
Select an area (La Kalsa, or the sprawling markets of Ballarò), and enjoy your cruise excursion.
Across Via Maqueda is Piazza Pretoria, floodlit at night to highlight the nude figures of its great central fountain, with its racy sixteenth-century Florentine design. The piazza also holds the restored town hall, while towering above both square and fountain is the massive flank of Santa Caterina, Sicilian Baroque at its most exuberant, every inch of the enormous interior covered in a wildly decorative relief-work.
On the south of the island, a couple of kilometres below modern Agrigento, a series of Doric temples – the most captivating of Sicilian Greek remains and a grouping unique outside Greece – are strung out along a ridge facing the sea. Greek colonists surrounded it with a mighty wall, formed in part by a higher ridge on which stood the acropolis. The southern limit of the ancient city was a second, lower ridge and in the fifth century BC it was here, in the “Valle dei Templi”, that the city architects erected their sacred buildings.