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16 Pictures That Show How Different Palermo Was     

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Even though we are lucky that Palermo has preserved many old and historical monuments, we can say that the whole city has changed a lot in history. From all the different dominations where every new nation added something to the World War II when Palermo and especially its historic center were heavily bombed, destroying countless buildings and monuments forever. But here are 16 photographs that will give you a slight idea of how different Palermo was.

Read also: 7 Big Ideas For The Best Vacation In Sicily

Quick Sicily Travel Guide

Sicily Accommodation: San Domenico Palace and Grand Hotel Timeo for luxury accommodation in Taormina, and Casa Nostra Boutique Hotel or Palazzo Natoli Boutique Hotel for intimate vibes in Palermo. Dome or B&B Oriental Palace in Catania. Room Of Andrea Hotel or Gaura Apartments in Trapani. Le Tre Campane Ortigia or Palazzo Alfeo Aparthotel in Syracuse. Principe Di Salina Boutique Hotel or Il Gabbiano Relais in Stromboli on the Aeolian Islands.

Top Sicily Activities:

1. Mondello beach

After the reclamation of the marshy and unhealthy area of Mondello, which took place in 1891, the first wooden establishment on the Mondello beach was built in 1892 in conjunction with the National Exhibition by Pietro Pustorino, father of Natale (the owner of the famous men’s shop at Quanttro Canti).
But a storm two years later destroyed the wooden structure. Pustorino did not give up and together with his partner Terrasi rebuilt the plant which was dismantled every September and reassembled in May to prevent another storm from destroying it. This structure lasted until 1910.
In 1913 the current building was built. In the photo above you can also see the water bus that connected the beach to Palermo center.

2. Via Ruggero Settimo

Via Ruggero Settimo with a traffic warden in white uniform. Around 50s-60s.

3. Teatro Massimo with sheep

4. The Pavilion of the National Exhibition

Piazza Castenuovo (via Dante), at the corner of via della Libertà with the imposing monumental entrance of the National Exposition held in the city in 1891-1892. Both the entrance and all the exhibition pavilions were made with ephemeral materials which were promptly dismantled in 1892 at the end of the event. The whole exhibition was located in the area of ​​the so-called “Firriato di Villafranca”
It was in 1891 the inauguration of the “IV Italian National Exhibition” in Palermo, the first in southern Italy, organized with the support of Francesco Crispi. The exhibition, whose pavilions were designed by the architect Ernesto Basile, was inaugurated from November 15 of that year and remained open until June 5, 1892. It was inaugurated by King Umberto I and the president of the council, the Sicilian Antonio Starabba, the marquis Rudinì who had replaced his fellow countryman Crispi a few months ago. It was divided into twelve divisions, over an area of ​​130,000 square meters, of which 70,000 covered, had 7,000 exhibitors, and 1,205,000 tickets were issued. A fine arts gallery, a Sicilian ethnographic exhibition and an Eritrean exhibition were also planned. A special electricity exhibition was also held, which was attended by 73 exhibitors, of which 35 from nationals, 33 from France and 5 from Germany.

5. Capo street market

The Capo Street Market in 1950, photo taken by Milton Gendel.

6. Santa Rosalia’s carriage

It’s very interesting to see how big the Santa Rosalia’s carriage was in 1896. Photo taken in Via Ruggero Settimo.

7. Utveggio Castle

Salon of the cafeteria of the Utveggio Castle hotel in Mount Pellegrino in 1930, photo by G. B. Santangelo.

8. Foro Italico

Foro Italico in 1900, when the sea arrived almost until the Porta Felice. Nowadays there’s a large green area and the coastline is about 100 metres further.

9. La Cala port

La Cala in 1961. The small port of Cala as it was over 50 years ago, when the road was still a single carriageway and the traffic was not the chaotic one of today. In the background on the right you can see the houses bombed in 1943, then demolished in the following years.

10. The shoeshineer

The job of shoeshineer was quite popular and immediately after the end of the World War II, it also involved young men and even children, whom deprivation had caused to become adults, and with a great sense of responsibility they tried to help destitute families as best they could. The phenomenon was even more widespread in Naples, where these kids were called “sciuscià”: a Neapolitan adaptation of the English “shoe-shine boy” (a boy who gives shine to the shoes).

11. The polpari of Mondello

The octopus and seafood sellers in Mondello that had their stalls there until the 1980s.

12. Palazzo Bonagia

The Palazzo Bonagia in via Alloro in all its splendor in 1914, before it was destroyed by bombing.

13. Piazza Pretoria

One of the most beautiful monuments of Palermo – Pretoria Fountain – had also the papyrus plants growing inside the fountain.

14. Barbara Mullen in Piazza Pretoria

The American actress and model, Barbara Mullen, in a 1950 photo shoot in Piazza Pretoria by Richard Avedon.

15. Basilica San Francesco d’Assisi

16. La Vucciria

The Vucciria Market was one of the liveliest places in all of Palermo. Nowadays more and more small shops that previously sold fresh fruits, vegetables and fish have become bars and restaurants.

Book your travel photoshoot in Palermo here or write us at [email protected].

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Chiara Magi
Chiara Magi
I'm a photographer and filmmaker, and most of all probably the biggest lover of Sicily! I am also the creator of Sicily Insider, sharing the best travel information, tips and advice.

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