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European and Mediterranean

European and Mediterranean
By Massimo Basile -

Palermo’s urban and natural landscape is inextricably intertwined. A bird’s eye view shows an extraordinarily compact, well-knit urban fabric enclosed by the mountains of the Conca d’Oro plain and the bay. Contained within this natural embrace are many different stratified cities. For Palermo is Phoenician, Arab, Norman, Swabian and Spanish. Nor is it just a question of an intermingled artistic and architectural heritage. The city’s varied history is reflected in everyday life and in the way different cultures have sedimented and fused. It is a stratified legacy still visible in the paved alleys of the historic center, in the markets and city thoroughfares, but also in the faces of its people and their way of life, even in the local dialect.

A history of métissage 
Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is the result of its strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea that made it a natural crossroads between the West and the Middle East.
Down the ages, it has benefited from the input of different peoples, absorbing contradictions, metabolizing conflicts and developing a culture of openness, tolerance and acceptance. It is a city that has learned to live with and override a multitude of tensions for centuries. This resilience is still very much apparent today. The city withstood severe bombing during the Second World War followed by an unregulated construction boom that extended the city in disorderly fashion during the 1950s and 60s.
The last thirty years have been marked by urban plans prioritizing upgrade of the city’s oldest urban fabric, once a densely populated hive of activity.
There were moments when the plan made strides ahead, and others when it faltered amid difficulties and opposition. But from the 1990s to today, much of the city’s architectural heritage has been salvaged from deterioration, as the city understood the importance of its cultural heritage as...

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