Palermo shines as 2018 Capital of Culture

MARIELLA RADAELLI

It is an even more vibrant year ahead for Palermo, the stunning jewel on the Mediterranean, as the Sicilian capital steps into the spotlight as Italy’s 2018 Capital of Culture.
Palermo, Italy
An imposing golden mosaic of Christ Pantocrator dominates Monreale Catheral, one of many sites in Palermo on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

The eventful year will only add to Palermo’s allure as a charming and intoxicating city. “Here there is only spring and summer,” wrote Richard Wagner. The legendary composer found much-needed solace in the city during his quest for warmth, sun and seaside serenity.

Palermo today is “a great laboratory, an experiment — it is the largest multi-ethnic city in Italy”, says art critic Philippe Daverio. “It could be, tomorrow, a sort of virtual capital of the Mediterranean. It is a place where I feel great.”

Capital of Culture events kick off on Jan. 29 with Premier Paolo Gentiloni officially starting the rich program of art installations, concerts and convocations. The city will be an arts hub throughout and well after due to its cutting-edge creativity and historic pride as the political capital of Sicily.

The diverse program includes a festival of migrant literature, a biennale of sacred art and especially the Manifesta, a roving European Biennial of Contemporary Art that changes location every two years. In 2014, the Manifesta took residency in St. Petersburg followed by Zurich in 2016. Inherent in the Manifesta’s nomadic character is the desire to explore the psychological and geographical territory of Europe in both its borderlines and concepts.

“Palermo was selected by Manifesta committee for our message of migrant art, of ‘contamination’,” says Mayor Leoluca Orlando. Palermo has been a haven for migrants throughout its long and complex history, but Orlando says he doesn’t keep track of how many are there today. In fact his answer is “nobody, because who resides in Palermo becomes Palermitan”.

“The migrant who arrives in Palermo is immediately a former migrant. Our proposal to the world is very clear: to consider human mobility as an inviolable right,” says the mayor. “The most significant cultural value we claim is the culture of hospitality. We claim the right of every human being to be and remain different and to be and remain equal.”
Palermo news
With its meld of customs, cultures and cuisine, Palermo offers a colorful, textured experience as the largest multi-ethnic city in Italy.

This city with a big soul has undergone three golden ages in its 2,700-year history: the Carthaginians, Arabs and Normans all found glory on its rugged shores and founded long-term settlements.

As a result, Palermo’s architecture is divine. Its churches are magnificent, as manifest in its Cathedral, the Saint Cataldo Church and the Palatine Chapel, defined as the most beautiful basilica in the world by Guy de Maupassant.

And Palermo’s maze of streets atmospherically chronicle the city’s amazing and seductive history.

The quintessential blend of Arab-Norman style together with spectacular Sicilian baroque architecture form artistic masterpieces, priceless creations that include the Oratorio del Rosario del San Domenico, a 16th-century chapel with a Van Dyck altarpiece and a Novelli frescoed ceiling.

Palermo is also myriad restaurants, bars and vibrant and colorful markets like the Ballarò, the city’s oldest Arab-style open market in the atmospheric Albergheria quarter. As well its sensory abundance includes tasty street food and an enjoyable, leisurely stroll, the “passeggiata”, along the crystal-clear Thyreenean Sea.

Old Palermo is an Arab-Norman city with treasures protected by UNESCO heritage that include two palaces, three churches, a cathedral and a bridge, as well as the cathedrals of Cefalú and Monreale. It is a social-cultural synthesis of Western, Islamic and Byzantine cultures that gave rise to new concepts of space, structure and decoration. The results bear testimony to the fruitful coexistence of people of different origins and religions. Muslims, Byzantines, Latins, Jews, Lombards, Normans and French have all thrived, and often thrived together, in the city’s embrace.