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Constructed towards the end of the 18th Century by Italian architect- Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia, the beautiful Sicilian-Baroque structure of Palazzo Riso is the home contemporary art was waiting for. Its beautiful ochre front stands right in front of the theatrical scenery of Bologni Square and Carlo V statue. It hosts a permanent collection of famous international artists such as Christian Boltanski and Richard Long, the Italian Emilio Isgrò and Pietro Consagra, but is also a home for nascent Sicilian talents like Laboratorio Saccardi and for remarkable temporary art exhibitions. The museum is also supplied with a book shop and an elegant coffee bar.
Improvements to this area drawn up by Filippo Basile in 1863 resulted in the splendid square we see today. The attractive layout of impressive Garibaldi gardens with their distinctive fig trees makes this one of Palermo's most picturesque spots. Facing each other in the square are Santa Maria dei Miracoli church and 17th century Denti Fatta and 18th century Notarbartolo Greco palaces.
An imposing structure in the heart of old Palermo, this Norman Palace of great historical and artistic importance has, over the centuries, undergone numerous transformations and is currently the Sicilian local government headquarters. A royal residence in Norman times, defended by four towers and richly decorated with Arab designs, it also had its own circle of artists, scientists and literary figures during the reign of Frederick II. The Ruggero, Duca di Montalto, Ercole, Pompeiana rooms and the Torre dei Venti courtyard are however open to the public. By appointment only Tuesdays to Thursdays & Sundays.
Once surrounded by lush green countryside, this marvelous Norman castle gets its name from the Arab word el-aziz, meaning "splendid". At the height of its glory, Castello della Zisa- set in fabulous grounds with its own small lake (which unfortunately no longer exists) was called "Paradiso della Terra" (Heaven on Earth). The castle's simple high-walled rectangular design belies its richly decorated interior covered in marble and mosaics featuring typical Arab motifs called muqarnas.
The delightful village of Monreale sits in a commanding position on the slopes of Monte Caputo, not far from Palermo. The village is renowned for its huge cathedral decorated with dazzling mosaics and sculptures. It is a lively little tourist resort whose favourable climate and fertile soil have allowed citrus trees and vines to grow in abundance. Well-known for its fabulous wines and excellent olive oil, it also has a flourishing local crafts industry, which makes baskets, shoes and furniture.