An aging monarch seated on his throne and holding a snake, the Genius of Palermo is the mysterious emblem of the city. No one knows where it originated or what it truly symbolizes, but it has come to epitomize the city itself.
The Castello a Mare doesn’t look like much from the bike path; just a collection of ruins. But once inside the gate, the scale of the former castle is striking. The date of its construction is unknown, but estimated to be around 1150. For 750 years, it was one of Palermo’s most important lines of defense against pirates and invaders. And during the Spanish rule of Sicily, it served as the seat of the Holy Inquisition.
Palermo is bounded to the north by Monte Pellegrino, a rock jutting into the Mediterranean which Goethe described as “the most beautiful promontory in the world”. Near the mountain’s summit is the Santuario di Santa Rosalia, one of Palermo’s many patron saints. The mountain park and the sanctuary can be easily visited in a few hours, and make a great escape from the noise and traffic of the city.
Charming, horseshoe-shaped La Cala was the main fishing port in Palermo, until the 16th century when it lost most of its size due to receding waters. The spot has played an important role in Palermo since the days of the Phoenicians, so it’s not surprising that there’s a lot to see here.