The historic center of Palermo in Sicily offers sun, sea and spectacular historic houses – 71Bait

The Sicilian capital was dubbed the “Kingdom of the Sun” by the invading Normans in the 12th century Palermo is one of the sunniest places in Europe with more than 2,500 hours of sunshine per year. Located where Europe ends and Africa begins, it lies on the northwest coast of Sicily facing east towards the sea and is surrounded by a plain of citrus groves known as the Golden Shell. In the distance, Monte Pellegrino rises 606 meters above the city, the highest peak in a dramatic mountain range.

Palermo was founded in 734 BC. Founded by the Phoenicians and colonized by more than half a dozen different civilizations. Over millennia, it has absorbed traces of these diverse influences into its architecture, art and gastronomy. United with Italy in 1861, it has its own eclectic character.

“It’s a melting pot of different cultures and styles,” said Diletta Giorgolo, Head of Housing at Italy Sotheby’s International Realty. “Palermo is a truly decadent, but at the same time elegant and vibrant city, immersed in culture, excellent food, historic palaces and magnificent architecture. From the Romans to the Arabs and the Normans to the French and Spanish, each historical era has left its mark on the city’s layout. Its historic center is considered one of the most unique and beautiful in Europe.”

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“There is no specific area in the city center where we can draw a line,” said Alessandro Calì, license partner of Engel & Völkers Palermo, adding that Palermo has one of the largest historical centers in Europe at 2.4 million square meters. The Piazza Vigliena, colloquially known as the Quattro Canti, marks the center of the city’s four ancient quarters. The medieval city walls defined the city limits as Piazza Verdi to the north, the sea to the east, Corso Tukory to the south and Porta Nuova to the west.

price range

For historic apartments and villas with gardens in central Palermo, “prices start at €2,000 (US$2,170) per square meter to €4,500 per square meter,” Mr. Calì said. “It depends on whether the property has been renovated or not and other characteristics like the location, the view, whether it has a terrace and so on.”

Historic apartments and townhouses range in size from 70 to 600 square meters. “We have a lot of buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries – the Spanish period – meaning nobles who loved huge spaces and huge rooms,” he said. Historic villas are typically between 400 and 500 square meters with gardens up to 3,000 square meters, he said, adding that prices for high-end newly renovated historic properties start at around €500,000 and go up to €5 million climb.

The average price per square meter is low compared to other historic city centers in Europe. “In Palermo the prices are very low, but for a turnkey apartment you have to pay a surcharge for the renovation costs,” said Ms. Giorgolo. “The prices are still very interesting compared to other art cities in Italy.”

This luxury four bedroom apartment in the heart of Palermo’s historic center is currently asking for around $4 million.


housing stock

Most buyers looking for quality properties in central Palermo prefer historic buildings. “I can’t pinpoint a specific type—apartment, mansion, or townhouse—that our clients are looking for. They are looking for something unique, something historic,” said Mr. Calì. A frequent request is a property with original frescoes, an element that makes historic properties in Palermo particularly exceptional.

Wealthy buyers often look for properties that combine the best of the ancient and the modern, and are looking for “historic properties with contemporary accents, such as… “Owning one of Palermita’s noble palaces – mostly buildings from the 17th to 18th centuries – is like owning a piece of history. It’s a status symbol.”

The most desirable areas for wealthy buyers are around the famous Via Alloro and the Kalsa district, she said. Part of Central Palermo’s appeal is the diversity of its architecture and the wide range of properties available. “There are the noble floor apartments with high ceilings and frescoes, or entire townhouses, or palaces, or mansions with large parks,” she said. “You will find luxury amenities in the modern villas and apartments, but the real value is not in the luxury amenities but in the architectural and historical features.”

Exterior of a 17th-century residential building in the heart of Palermo’s historic center.


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What makes it unique

The city’s eclectic architecture makes it truly unique, juxtaposing renovated palaces with picturesque ruins. The historic center of Palermo is full of breathtaking palaces and squares, churches and monasteries. “It’s over 2,700 years old and attractive to people who love cultural melting pots because there are so many different cultures,” said Mr. Calì. “One of the unique characteristics of Palermo is the coexistence of perfectly renovated buildings with others that still need renovation, so you can find a very luxurious building while its neighbor is being destroyed.”

Palermo’s historic center offers a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture, a wealth of fascinating historic sites, world class restaurants and bustling markets. The vibrant and thriving city is also a cultural hotspot, with theaters and concert halls, museums and art galleries, and a beautiful botanical garden.

“It’s still mainly an open-air museum where you can discover beautiful hidden gems as you walk through the different corners,” Ms. Giorgolo said. “Shopping in the modern part of town, sunbathing and swimming in the sea in Mondello or just visiting Palermo’s finest jewel, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cathedral of Monreale, one of the greatest existing examples of Norman architecture.”

The historic center of Palermo is a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture.

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luxury equipment

The city has good health and education infrastructure and many luxurious amenities. “The high-end boutiques are in the Via della Libertà area. In terms of private schools, there is one international school and the city has many top restaurants,” said Ms. Giorgolo. CEI International School Palermo offers classes in English and Italian and is the only school in Southern Italy accredited by the International Baccalaureate Organization offering co-educational classes for students aged 2 to 18. Thomas More Scuola Paritaria also offers bilingual English and Italian courses from elementary to high school.

World-class restaurants in central Palermo famed for their gastronomy include the Michelin-starred Gagini, which is pioneering a slow-food renaissance in Cala, Palermo’s marina district. Located in the former workshop of Antonio Gagini, a 15th-century sculptor, it serves imaginative contemporary interpretations of Italian classics created by an Italian-Brazilian chef. Other notable restaurants include Bebop, which serves dishes inspired by Sicilian traditions paired exclusively with local wines, and L’Ottava Nota, specializing in fresh, locally sourced seafood prepared in modern Sicilian style.

The city also offers a wealth of recreational activities. “We have more than 300 days of sunshine a day, so you can play golf, tennis or windsurf nine or 10 months a year,” said Mr. Calì. “We also have the Teatro Massimo opera house, the second largest in Europe, with a very attractive seasonal opera calendar, as well as ballet and symphony orchestras.”

who lives there

Central Palermo has a diverse population, including locals, northern Italians drawn to the city’s mild climate, and international shoppers. “Fashion lovers, art enthusiasts and people from the financial world have shown great interest in Palermo,” Ms. Giorgolo said, adding that most foreign buyers are from Britain, France and North and South America. The city is also popular with buyers from Germany and Austria, Mr Calì said.

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Notable Residents

Many famous Italian personalities hail from Palermo, including Italian President Sergio Mattarella. Other notable names include film director Luca Guadagnino and Massimo Valsecchi, a noted art collector and academic who bought the historic Palazzo Butera in 2016 and turned it into a museum and cultural center. Soccer player Salvatore Schillaci and tennis player Marco Cecchinato are also from Palermo, said Mr. Calì.


“Like most cities in Italy, the pandemic has prompted a growing number of foreign buyers to choose Palermo as their second and first home,” Ms Giorgolo said. “During this unpredictable period, it is difficult to accurately forecast prices, but increasing interest in Palermo and Sicily may have a positive impact on values. An example is the baroque town of Noto on the east side of Sicily, where property prices have risen over the past 10 years as international investors have bought property.”

Mr. Calì said that while the pandemic has not significantly affected prices in central Palermo, he expects them to increase over the next few years. “According to recent market reports, we will see a price increase of up to 20% in the next three or four years,” he said.

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