Palermo Italy is the capital of Sicily, and still struggling to overcome its image as a one-time Mafia stronghold. When the mafia (or the cosa nostra, as it is called there) began dealing in the lucrative world of drug trafficking during the early 70s, the capital city was often used as a battlefield for competing crime bosses. Murders were shameless and performed in broad daylight, and it was clear that new family leaders were willing to do far more than their predecessors to take control of the streets. But the violence in the heart of Palermo Italy has also faded into memory. The past fifteen years have brought about a new peace, the combined efforts of police and politicians to finally break the stranglehold of corruption that had become synonymous with the isle of Sicily. Now the city features the island"s most exclusive collection of museums and palaces amidst architecture that spins its Arabic and French influences into resounding beauty. The fact some of these meticulously created buildings exist just a neighborhood or two removed from crumbling, charcoal structures left in the aftermath of World War II is worth a flight to Palermo alone.
Though your expectations of Palermo Italy may be colored by its checkered past, a quick scan of the streets will quell any fears for your personal safety. Even after dark, the Mafia"s stake in the machinations of the city seem minimal - if anything, they are merely dismissive when it comes to tourists. A sense of danger permeates the town, but now it is the byproduct of legends and memories rendered intangible by time, and should not stop anyone from hopping a train or purchasing a flight to Palermo.
The many mosques that dot the cityscape of Palermo speak to its history as a one-time Muslim power. Before the Normans invaded it, Palermo was a prosperous Arab city, a widely renowned center for commerce and the arts. The heart of Palermo Italy is the old town. At its center lies Quattro Canti di Citta, an ostentatious square complete with fountains, statues and a large portion of the city"s tourists. Conflicting styles collide at the nearby Duomo, where the cathedral was built in the 12th century on the remains of a basilica that conquering Arabs had themselves tried to convert into a mosque. The Gothic movement at the time influenced additions in the 15th century. A cupola was constructed 300 years after that to further complicate things. Southwest of the heart of Palermo is the La Kalsa neighborhood, built by the Arabs as a homes for their noblemen. A short trek northward leads to the Vucciria, Palermo"s chief market, which a closer resemblance to ancient casbahs than anything traditionally European.
Many choose to take a flight to Palermo from Rome or Naples, cutting travel time considerably. It seems the further south you travel, the less reliable the trains are. And you"ll want to spend as much time as possible exploring each of the gritty streets and unique buildings of Palermo Sicily.