Three red domes immediately call attention to the tiny church of San Cataldo on Piazza Bellini, near the center of Palermo. A pristine example of Arab-Norman architecture, San Cataldo dates from 1160 and has survived into the present-day in a mostly original state.
One of the most photographed objects in Palermo is the giant, snow-white fountain in the Piazza Pretoria, just southeast of the Quattro Canti. The fountain sits in front of City Hall and has become a symbol of governmental corruption. Disgust with Palermo’s legendary malfeasance, in addition to the fountain’s abundant nudity, are the two reasons that Plaza Pretoria is known among citizens as the Plaza of Shame (Piazza della Vergogna).
Almost every day, it seems like another massive cruise ship docks at Palermo’s port, and thousands of tourists pour out like molten lava. With only a few hours to see everything Palermo has to offer, they hop on the big double-decker sightseeing buses which cruise around the historic center. Maybe they’ll have a chance to visit the Norman Palace or the Catacombs but, after a couple hours, it’s right back onto the ship. I wonder how many of them are captivated by the city’s charm, and promise themselves to return.
Near Palermo’s Quattro Canti is the Church of Santa Caterina, whose modest exterior belies the Baroque magnificence waiting inside.
Construction on the church began in 1566, but the interior decoration dates from the 17th and 18th centuries, when Baroque was at its height, and the Catholic church was encouraging intricate detail and emotional themes.