The Arab-Norman Itinerary

The Arab-Norman Itinerary of Palermo, Monreale and Cefalù, an ideal route that crosses two civilizations of great artistic contents, has been declared by UNESCO as a "World Heritage Site" and included in the World Heritage List.

The Norman domination of Catholic religion followed the Arab domination and its magnificent vestiges left in two and a half centuries of domination (from 827 to the end of the eleventh century) that enriched the city and other areas of Sicily with splendid monuments. The Norman domination of Catholic religion transformed the existing style in its own style but taking advantage of the Arab craftsmen for their artistic competence and technical skill.
The result of this union flows into a unique style that is called Arab-Norman for the unique mixture of architectural genres. Thus we see churches and civil buildings with Latin or Greek cross basilica plan coexist, but embellished with domes and red domes typical of Arab architecture. Towers and portals with pointed arches and round arches with Byzantine mosaics inside, coexist with Arab ornaments such as horseshoe arches and ceilings adorned with the characteristic "muqarnas cavities" and stalactites carved in limestone. Plus, outdoor courtyards with fountains, tubs and lush green areas set up for the royals amusements.

Monuments of the Unesco Heritage Route:


In Palermo

Palazzo Reale or dei Normanni

The Royal Palace is located in the oldest part of the city, above the Punic settlement. It is the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. One of the most visited monuments in the city and the oldest royal residence in Europe. Inside the palace we find a jewel of art! The Palatine Chapel defined by Guy de Maupassant as the most beautiful church in the world.

The Royal Palace is located in Piazza Indipendenza, 1, Palermo - tel +39 091 626 2833


Palatine Chapel

The Palatine Chapel was defined by Guy de Maupassant the most beautiful church in the world. It is a basilica with three naves and is located on the first floor of the "Palazzo dei Normanni". A jewel of art in which Byzantine, Muslim and Latin cultures are combined. The dome, the transept and the apses of the basilica are entirely decorated in the upper part by Byzantine mosaics, among the most important of Sicily, depicting the Christ Pantocrator and scenes of the Bible.

The Palatine Chapel is located in Piazza Indipendenza inside the Palazzo Reale


Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta

A great and enchanting opera, great masterpiece of Sicilian art. Inside there is the sarcophagus of Frederick II. The "Treasure of the Cathedral" is kept in the crypt and includes a collection of artworks datable to the Norman age and the nineteenth century.
Beautiful is the crown of the first wife of Frederick II of Swabia, the Empress Constance of Aragon. The Cathedral's roofs can also be visited.

The Cathedral of Palermo It is located in Corso Vittorio Emanuele


The Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti

Among the most interesting examples of Sicilian-Norman art, it is considered one of the symbolic monuments of Palermo. One of the most fascinating and unique ecclesiastical buildings of our city. It's impossible to imagine Palermo without the exotic charm of the red-plastered domes that cover the church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti.
The complex of San Giovanni degli Eremiti is bordering the ancient medieval south-western city walls and it is located near Palazzo dei Normanni in the stretch once brushed by the waters of the river (Kemonia), one of the two rivers that once crossed the city (today underground).

The Church of S. Giovanni degli Eremiti is located in Via dei Benedettini, 16 Tel: +39 091 6515019


The Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (also called "La Martorana")

The Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio is located in the ancient heart of Palermo, where once the walls of the old city ran, a true jewel of Byzantine art, also known as the Church of "Martorana". Its most common denomination comes from the presence of a female Benedictine monastery, founded in 1193 by Goffredo and Aloisia De Marturano, to whom in 1435 King Alfonso "the Magnanimous" granted the church.

The Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio is located in Piazza Bellini 3


The Church of San Cataldo

It was built in 1154 under the reign of William I at the behest of Majone Da Bari, as the chapel of a sumptuous palace, no longer existing today. It is the most peculiar example of Arab architectural culture at the service of the Norman sovereigns with the typical red domes that dominate it. The external walls are characterized by the graphic design of the blind arches surmounted by an ornamental crowning cymatium. The interior, with a central plan, has three naves divided by columns with capitals that support the acute arches. Splendid are the floor with polychrome inlays in marble and porphyry, and the altar in which are engraved a cross and the symbols of the evangelists. The church today is now deconsecrated to worship.

It is located in Piazza Bellini, 3 - 90133 Palermo - Tel: +39 091 302667


The Palace of Zisa

Realized by the Norman sovereigns of Sicily, recognized as the protagonists of one of the most admired courts of the Middle Ages. Along with the traditional reputation of warriors, they are also recognized as patrons of prestigious and refined civil and religious buildings.

The Great Count Ruggero and his descendants, in order to create "an ideal landscape", realized an immense Royal Park in the great Piana of Palermo, a paradise on earth, where they promoted the building of their "Sollazzi Regi" (places of delights) beautiful dwellings of leisure and rest, surrounded by magnificent gardens with lush vegetation, hunting pavilions, artificial lakes and fish ponds.

lThe Palace of Zisa is located in Piazza Zisa, Palermo - Telephone: +39 091 6520269


Ponte dell'Ammiraglio

It was built around 1131 by the will of Giorgio d'Antiochia, admiral of King Roger II, to connect the city to the gardens on the other side of the Oreto river. Even today, in the square, called Piazza Scaffa, it is a symbol of the link between the city center and the suburban area Brancaccio.

The use of the characteristic high-pitched arches allowed the bridge to bear very high loads; also interesting is the opening of minor arches between the shoulders of the large ones to lighten the structure and the pressure of the river below. The bridge in fact resisted without problems even to the terrible Palermo flood of February 1931.

At this bridge, on the night of May 27, 1860, Garibaldi troops bent, in a hard battle, the Bourbon troops that opposed their entry into the city.

It is located in Piazza Ponte dell'Ammiraglio


In Monreale

The Cathedral of Monreale

It deserves great attention because it is truly one of the most beautiful temples in the world. After St. Sophia, in Istanbul (Constantinople), it is the largest Byzantine mosaic work in the world. The word "mosaic", in fact, derives from the Greek and means "patient work, worthy of the Muses". Dedicated to Santa Maria la Nova, a masterpiece of Arab-Norman art, commissioned by the King William II of Altavilla, called "Il Buono" (the Good), between 1172 and 1176.

Inside about 6400 square meters of mosaic cover the surface, according to an artistic representation of the Bible, a catechesis in pictures, so that people can immerse themselves in the sacred space.

It is located in Piazza Guglielmo II, 1, 90046 Monreale PA - Tel. +39 091 640 4413


The Cloister

Adjacent to the Cathedral of Monreale there is the Cloister of the Benedictine Convent, built in the late twelfth century, a wonderful example of Byzantine architecture, in the center of which  there is a fountain with a richly carved column with  the shape of a palm stem. Of particular value are the capitals, with sacred and profane scenes taken from the Old and New Testaments and the beautiful columns, smooth, carved, decorated in relief with leaves, flowers, birds and other animals.

"The columns are all grooved, some are twisted, some straight, all encrusted with colored and gilded mosaics, granite, porphyry, every kind of marble that forms small designs of enchanting accuracy. The capitals are a mixture of flowers, fruit, of figures of animals of every kind ... This cloister is the most complete, most sought after monument that can be built in its kind, it is in this sublime place that the most inmates re-admit to the world and its gran style" (Jean Houel,  A picturesque trip to the islands of Sicily, Lipari and Malta).


In Cefalù

Cathedral of Cefalù

The Cathedral (Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ) was founded in 1130 by the will of Roger II who, according to legend, had promised to build it if he had saved himself from a terrible storm that hit his ship during a trip to Palermo. A perfect example of southern Romanesque style, Cefalù is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. The façade is strongly characterized by two corner towers, added in 1240, and lightened by mullioned windows. The roof of the central nave is painted wood and is a rare example of Islamic art in Sicily. The apse, the transept and the adjacent walls are decorated with golden mosaics that culminate in the magnificent Christ Pantocrator, a perfect example of pure Byzantine style, which is perhaps the most sublime representation of Christ realized in Christian art.


It is Located in Piazza del Duomo, 90015 Cefalù PA - Telephone: +39 0921 922021