The Capuchin Catacombs contain the mummified remains of approximately 8,000 ancient inhabitants of Palermo. Capuchin friars started mummifying and embalming the bodies of the city's nobles in the late 1500s, and the tradition continued for centuries – the last body was embalmed in 1920. After being embalmed, the corpses were hung along the walls of the catacombs, dressed in their finest clothes, which they still model today. It is a spectacle that is equal parts fascinating and spooky.
Address: Piazza Cappuccini 1
Telephone: (091) 212 117
Opening time: Daily 9am to 12pm and 3pm to 5pm (until 7pm in summer)
One of the most fascinating attractions in Palermo is the Museo delle Marionette, a museum dedicated to the art of puppetry. The collections here – the world's foremost puppet collection – highlight this age-old entertainment. Free puppet shows are staged in summer, but the museum collection itself is entertainment enough. The antique puppets represent traditional characters of Norman Sicily, such as Saracen pirates, knights, ladies and troubadours. The collection includes English "Punch and Judy" dolls and puppets from the Far East.
Address: Via Butera 1 (around the corner from the Palazzo Chiaramonte)
Telephone: (091) 328 060
Opening time: Open Mon-Tue, Sat-Sun 9am-1pm; Wed-Fri 9am-1pm, 3:30pm-6:30pm
Admission: €5 (adults), concessions available
In the suburb of Monreale, high on the mountain slope overlooking “Conca d’Oro,” as the valley beyond Palermo is referred to, sits the Monreale Cathedral. The 12th-century cathedral is a mix of medieval Christian and Muslim architecture, and boasts a wonderful mixture of Arab, Byzantine and Norman art. The magnificent mosaics that cover 6,340 square metres of the dome and interior walls are unsurpassed. The adjacent Benedictine abbey features a cloister with 228 carved stone columns, many inlaid with mosaics, depicting scenes from Sicily’s Norman history.
Address: Piazza Vittorio Emanuele
Telephone: +39 091 640 4413
Transport: Monreale can be reached on bus 389 from the Piazza Indipendenza in Palermo, taking about 20 minutes to reach the cathedral.
Opening time: Daily 8am to 12pm and 3.30pm to 6pm
Some of Europe's greatest archaeological treasures are tucked away in this former church that dates from the 16th century. In addition to showcasing the famous Stone of Palermo, this museum houses iconic Greek and Roman statues. Highlights include two Phoenician sarcophagi dating from 5 BC, and the Pietra di Palermo, a black slab discovered in Egypt containing hieroglyphics that is known as the 'Rosetta Stone' of Sicily. One room is devoted to the marvellous finds unearthed at the temples of Selinunte. There is also an interesting section devoted to underwater archaeology.
Address: Via Bara all'Olivella, 24
Telephone: (091) 611 6805
Opening time: Open Mon, Sat-Sun 8:30am-1:30pm; Tue-Fri 8:30am-2pm, 2:30pm-6:30pm
Admission: €4.50 (adults), €2 (children)
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The remains of this ancient Sicilian city lie 16km east of Palermo, near Santa Flavia on the slopes of Mount Catalfamo. It was first a Phoenician village, then a Greek town before it was sacked by the Romans in 254 BC, who rebuilt much of the original town. As a result, the ruins here are of the Roman style. Sadly, no complete structures remain and the ruins consist mainly of floors and the lower portions of walls and columns. Portions of mosaics and paintings are still visible however, and an impressive view of the Gulf of Palermo can be had from the hilltop above Solunto. There is a small archaeological museum at the site, although most of the artifacts from Solunto are in the Palermo's Regional Archaeological Museum.