Bus tales

Bus tales

Today we discover one of the main streets of Palermo, via Roma! A downtown street that our passengers will know well, having had a privileged view through the route of our shuttle buses to Palermo Falcone and Borsellino Airport.

Along Via Roma it is possible to observe part of the history of Palermo, passing by historic buildings such as the Biondo theater from the early 1900s or the post office building from the Fascist period. Until the unification of Italy, the area corresponding to the current Via Roma was nothing more than a popular district, which was subsequently transformed into an important artery aimed at connecting the Central Station (newly built) with the area of ​​the “new” Palermo , corresponding to Piazza Politeama, and the port.

The document that gave origin to Via Roma, “The Regulatory Plan for Restoration” by Felice Giarrusso, dating back to 1885, led to the change of the entire area, following the footsteps of the great roads that cut in half the cities of Turin, Naples or Milan and on the inspiration of Baron Haussmann’s city planning of Paris.

The construction of this street, designed to contain service buildings, and not as an avenue of noble villas like the equally famous Via Libertà, caused an important change in the heart of the city, causing quite a few controversies regarding the important structures that were sacrificed. Speaking of this, the most acute observers will have noticed that via Roma is not exactly straight, but has a very small deviation at Corso Vittorio Emanuele: this anomaly is due to the presence of the palazzo del Marchese Arezzo who, with some pressure on the high floors, managed to save his residence moving the axis of the street a little further.

Today maintains Via Roma its fundamental role as a link between the two souls of the city, offering not only important commercial services but also glimpses of splendid ancient buildings or typical streets of the historic city center. It is a real treasure to be discovered, which revolves around this important street, an artery in the urban but also anatomical sense of the term, connecting the “heart” of the historic center to other areas of the city.

Bus tales

Among the streets of Palermo city centre there is a unique place, full of charm and mystery, the Castello della Zisa, which is surrounded by its magnificent garden.

Built around 1165 in Norman style and renovated a few years ago, the building is one of the symbols of the domination and culture alternations that have followed one another in Palermo, becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Arab-Norman itinerary of Palermo, Cefalù and Monreale in 2015 .

La Zisa represented a real paradise just outside the city, an oasis full of exotic animals, fruit plants, palm groves and suggestive fountains: the term itself “Zisa” contains all the beauty of the place, as it derives from the Arabic Al-Aziza, that means “the splendid”. In addition to its flourushing garden, the inside of the structure was also considered a heavenly place, a place where it was possible to enjoy some cool air: its architecture, the ventilation system given by the particular arrangement of the windows and the inner channels, inside which flowed water, led to a lowering of the temperature compared to the outside climate, offering some shelter from the sultry Sicilian summers.

In addition to its architectural peculiarities, the Zisa is also a place full of mysteries, mainly due to the presence of the “devils” that are painted on the arch of the Sala della Fontana: although they are actually mythological figures, the subjects of the fresco were traditionally associated with spiteful little devils that could come to life and that were put in that place to protect a mysterious hidden treasure. The position of the painting, in fact, creates a particular optical effect that deceives the observer, making the figures appear to be in motion and even making it almost impossible to count the exact number. Legend also has it that the cause of the strong wind in the city derives from their escape from the Palace, which by opening the doors caused the fresh air to go outside.

In fact, the sayings “Today the devils of the Zisa are freed” when a strong wind blows or “As many as there are devils of the Zisa” to indicate an uncertain and mysterious quantity, date back to this legend.

To date, a look at the “devils” is a must during a visit to Palermo and at the Castle, where the legend is able to fascinate adults, children, tourists and citizens, all with their noses up counting, in vain, their exact number!

Bus tales, Travel notes

Sicily is a land full of curiosities, which even Sicilians themselves often don’t know and, just as often, correspond to Italian or even international records.

These anecdotes concern some of the naturalistic characteristics typical of the area, while others concern its history and culture, thanks to the different dominations that took place over the years.

Everyone knows the Sicilian natural beauties, but perhaps not everyone knows that:

  • Sicily has the primacy for protected natural areas, with its five natural parks, six marine protected areas and seventy-two nature reserves;
  • one of the most destructive event of the twentieth century is the Messina earthquake of 1908;
  • Sicily includes a variety of climates that contain almost all the climates of Europe and northern Africa.

Regarding monuments and artistic beauties, there are lots of surprises:

  • Sicily is the Italian region with the highest concentration of artistic and cultural heritage;
  • the oldest written document in Europe, a letter from Adelasia degli Aleramici dating back to 1109, is kept in the State Archives of Palermo;
  • the first jazz record in the world was recorded by Nick La Rocca, son of Sicilian emigrants;
  • the fresco “Il Trionfo della Morte” (The Triumph of Death) kept in Palazzo Abatellis inspired Pablo Picasso for the realization of Guernica;
  • the feast of Sant’Agata di Catania is one of the most important religious events in the world;
  • the Sicilian flag is the most long-lived in the world;
  • according to some testimonies, both ice cream and spaghetti have Sicilian origins!

Between nature, monuments and…food, of course, Sicily is a land waiting to be discovered, full of surprises for those who live there and for those who want to visit it as a tourist.

Bus tales

Two of the most popular symbols of the city of Palermo are the Massimo and Politeama Theaters, which characterize the urban center and give citizens and visitors a suggestive walk between the two large squares that host them.

As we have already mentioned when talking about some interesting things to know about Palermo, the city holds the primacy for the coexistence of two opera houses, an example followed only later by other important cities for culture in Italy and Europe. Both theaters, however, not only represent a place of entertainment, but rather tell the story of a city growing during the 1800s, and today are two very important symbols of the city, taken with affection as a point of reference by all the people that live in Palermo, thanks also to their central location (one of the stops of our shuttle bus is in fact right next to the Politeama Theater, so it is a point of reference for us too!).

Speaking of the origins of the two theaters, we cannot fail to mention the “dualism” that distinguishes them in every aspect, right up to their origins: if the Massimo Theater had the aim of becoming the hub of the recreational activities of the bourgeoisie and the nobility, the Politeama Theater had the one to be the reference point for the entertainment of all people, with shows and operettas during daytime, suitable for everyone.

Another dualism concerns the two areas where the theaters are located: Piazza Verdi (the square of the Massimo Theater) was already a central place at the time and particularly privileged thanks to its proximity to both the ancient walls and the urban center of the period, Piazza Castelnuovo instead, it was still a countryside area, where only the first hints of the future neighborhoods were visible. It should be specified, however, that the Politeama Theater should have been in Piazza Marina, but with the fall of the Bourbon empire the preliminary works were interrupted to start again four years later, with the indication of a new area for the construction.

Regarding the architecture that distinguishes the two structures, we can speak of “double”, with reference to the two great figures who took care of the construction of the two theaters: Giovan Battista Filippo Basile and Damiani Almeyda are two very important names in the history of architecture in Sicily. Basile, in the construction of the Massimo Theater, was able to overcome the contrast between architecture and engineering by creating a monumental and cutting edge structure, the young engineer Damiani Almeyda, on the other hand, managed to communicate the more usable and “light” nature of the Politeama Theater also with its external appearance, slender but elegant, with the recurring use of the shape of the arch, which recalled the circus structures.

Today reflecting on the differences between the two theaters is funny, especially regarding the reasoning underlying the urban planning issue: now the two structures are considered to be just a few steps away, not reflecting on how much those 650 meters of distance, at the end of the 1800s, marked a great cultural, urban and social difference. As for the soul of the two theaters, the type of shows offered still embodies the concept of the time: if the Massimo Theater is a stage (in every sense!) of national and international opera, the Politeama Theater mainly hosts concerts and prose shows, thus providing, together with the other theaters in the city, a varied and important program of events

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