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Visiting Palermo is like taking a walk through the pages of a history book in which the entire history of Sicily is narrated. The extensive tale starts a very long time ago, around 20,000 years ago, in fact. The prehistoric wall paintings in the Grotta dell’Addaura (Addaura Cave) on Monte Pellegrino date from this period. Leap forward several centuries and you will arrive at the Salinas Archaeological Museum with its account of Greek art in Sicily and a small taste of Roman art. A very important chapter of this book is devoted to medieval art and, in particular, that which arose from the encounter between the Christian culture of the Normans and the artistic legacy left in Palermo by the Islamic culture. The result is a series of churches and palaces that are now part of the UNESCO site: Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale. Gothic art is well represented by Palazzo Ajutamicristo, the Church of Santa Maria della Catena and Palazzo Abatellis. The Fontana Pretoria and the sculptures of Laurana and Gagini will speak to you of Renaissance art. There is nothing like Palazzo Chiaramonte Steri and its wall paintings to evoke the dark years of the Holy Inquisition. The narrative journey continues amidst the splendid decorative features of churches like the Casa Professa and oratories with Serpotta’s stuccoes. It then continues past splendid nineteenth-century aristocratic residences, such as the Palazzina Cinese, to great twentieth-century works of art such as those by Renato Guttuso. The book is already written, you just have to decide at which page you want to start.


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