Palermo & its breathtaking views

Mara Noveni | Live the World

May 29, 2024

Cities seen from above are always spectacular. Mary Poppins taught us this with her chimney sweep friend, and nowadays, the drones that film from above show us every day. Standing on the roofs of a city is a unique experience. In Palermo, we can fully enjoy this experience due to the presence of many places that overlook the roofs and can be visited. Daydreaming and widening your gaze... Among domes, towers and terraces, today I propose a walk at "high altitude" to discover Palermo & its breathtaking views.

From the Teatro Massimo to the cathedral, the perspective of Palermo from above gives us breathtaking scenery and unexpected glimpses. Indeed, the historic centre of Palermo is full of terraces, towers, domes and bell towers, from which you can enjoy the beauty of the city and its splendid location.

© iStock/gandolfocannatella

The Teatro Massimo

One of the points made accessible in recent times is the terrace of the Teatro Massimo, which allows you to admire a panorama that embraces the whole city, the mountains surrounding it and the sea.

The Teatro Massimo was built at the end of the 19th century, demolishing an entire neighbourhood. It is a gigantic building, the largest opera house in Italy, and third in Europe after Paris and Vienna. The terrace winds around the dome, at its highest point 65 meters high. The position of the theatre, located on the edge of the oldest area of the city, also allows you to observe the area characterized by 20th-century buildings. The emotion that the sight of these postcard panoramas arouses in us can be completed by having an aperitif or a granita in the Salotto del Re, the most deluxe room of the theatre.

So, a double panorama opens from the terrace - on one side, the lower houses and alleys of the old city, and** on the other side, the modern city with the first skyscraper in Palermo: the Ina-Assitalia building in Piazza Ungheria**, built in the 1950s.

© iStock/eddygaleotti

The Monastery of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria

The monastery hosted the cloistered nuns of the Dominican order until 2014, and today it is open to the public as a Museum of Sacred Art, but the Church of Santa Caterina is one of the most beautiful churches in Palermo. The terraces of the monastery are an excellent observation point of Palermo from above, but in the past, they were loggias covered by grates, through which the cloistered nuns could occasionally overlook the city and watch the world outside the monastery. Today, you can go all the way around to admire the city from all sides, with a privileged view of Piazza Pretoria and its wonderful fountain.

© iStock/kasto80

The Church of Santissimo Salvatore

Even from the dome of the Church of the Santissimo Salvatore, the panorama embraces the whole city, from the profile of the mountains to the sea. The ascent for various flights of stairs is not too demanding and leads to a height of 40 meters.

The Santissimo Salvatore complex dates back to the end of the 12th century, immediately after the Norman conquest. In 1943, the bombings during World War II destroyed a large part of the church and the adjoining monastery, including the dome, which was decorated internally with a fresco from the 18th century. In 1959, the complex was recovered and restored.

The dome is enclosed in an arched structure where the walkway exists. At every step, these arches frame a different scenario: the Palazzo Reale and the silhouette of the Church of San Giuseppe dei Teatini, the long straight stretch of Cassaro (Palermo's oldest street), the profile of the cathedral and the multicoloured dome of the Carmine Church, in the heart of the historical market of Ballarò.

© iStock/anyaivanova

Tower San Nicolò di Bari

Not far away, the robust profile of the Tower San Nicolò di Bari all'Albergheria stands out, another panoramic point.

The tower dates back to the 1200s and was built along the ancient city walls for defensive purposes. Later, it was transformed into a bell tower due to the presence of the nearby church. Here, the climb is a little more demanding, with the steps winding in a spiral in the final part. But, once you reach the top of the tower, you get the impression of being able to touch what you see. And the view opens onto the coloured awnings of the Ballarò market and the Baroque friezes that decorate the Carmine dome, the cathedral, Palazzo dei Normanni, Teatro Massimo, the domes and bell towers of the city, Monte Pellegrino, the port and much more.

© iStock/mcooperman

The restaurant terraces

The same effect of wonder is felt on the terraces of the city's "on the roof" restaurants, first of all, the Rinascente, which overlooks Piazza San Domenico and offers a truly exciting view. Here, you can enjoy aperitifs, pizzas, or mozzarella-based dishes while your eyes will be satiated by the stunning panorama.

© iStock/Maria SaMu

From the beautiful two-level terrace of the Seven Restaurant, one has the impression of touching the dome of the Chiesa del Gesù.

© iStock/Emily_M_Wilson

And from "Ai Tetti Dining", the restaurant of Eurostar Centrale Palace, it seems you can jump into the cathedral.

© iStock/Leonid Andronov

The Cathedral of Palermo

The Cathedral of Palermo is dedicated to the Assunta, and its accessible roofs allow you to admire the panorama but also to observe many details of the very elaborate construction. In fact, the exterior summarizes many different architectural styles, given the many interventions the building had undergone over time since the Middle Ages when a mosque was adapted and transformed into a church. This makes the Great Church of Palermo a very special monument, which blends Norman decorations with an enormous eighteenth-century dome.

Often, the roofs of the cathedral are also open in the evening to admire the city in a completely different light.

© iStock/trabantos

Monte Pellegrino

The last viewpoint, the highest of all, is located outside the city, beyond the Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia, on the top of Monte Pellegrino. Here, on the promontory that rises between Palermo and Mondello, at an altitude of 609 metres, the city is dominated from the north.

© iStock/Pesh0

From the top, the panorama extends from the mountains to the sea for a magnificent glance. While we observe the city from above, the noises, the traffic, the crowds and life, seen from up there, seem like the slow motion of an old movie... Silence, tenderness, and poetry accompany us to enjoy the magic of Palermo & its breathtaking views. Enjoy!!!

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