Pretoria Fountain, Palermo ©
Corrupt, decaying, noisy, polluted, over-populated, jumbled and crime-ridden. All these unpleasant adjectives can be applied to Sicily's capital, Palermo, but this does not stop many holidaymakers falling in love with this city on the northwestern coast of the island. It may be exceedingly ugly in some respects, but it is also a place of beauty that is slowly being revived and restored by the determined city fathers to regain a semblance of its former glory.
At various times during its varied and colourful history Palermo, beautifully situated on a wide bay under the bulk of Monte Pellegrino, has enjoyed a position as one of the greatest cities of Europe, particularly under Arab and Norman domination in the Middle Ages. The legacy of the past is evident today in its treasure-trove of Byzantine, Baroque and Norman historic buildings and relics in its many museums.
The rescue of the holiday resort of Palermo has been aided by funds allocated by the European Union and the wane in the reign of the Mafia. Today the pulse of the city beats fast and furious even in the oppressive summer heat in its hectic street markets, cobbled squares and narrow alleyways, where sirens squeal and traffic roars indiscriminately. Old, historic quarters like Kalsa are being restored and restaurants, galleries and cafes are opening to cater for the tourist trade. Several days are required to appreciate the sights of the seething city before moving on to explore the rest of the island.