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Palermo - Ancient Walls and Modern Streets

Palermo - Ancient Walls and Modern Streets

Tom Verso (March 1, 2013)
From the amazing Kevin Flude collection - see link below
Remnant of Palermo Medieval wall located at intersection of Via dei Benedettini, Via Albergheria, and Via Carlo Forianini. Note pointed arch, which implies it was built during or after Norman period. Pointed Arches, the structural and aesthetic essence of Gothic, invented by the Turks and came to Europe via Sicily

One can hardly read a journalistic or scholarly article about Palermo without coming across references to the ‘Old City Walls.’ For example, “Toward the end of the eighteenth century, Palermo's resident aristocrats…competitively extended their high society into a lush zone of 'villeggiatura' beyond the city walls...” (Schneider, “Reversible Destiny”). So where were those walls? An excellent section of Wikipedia’s article “Palermo” – subsection “City Walls” ( identifies key locations of both the ancient and the medieval circuits taken from Adriana Chirco's "Palermo - City Guide". The same article has a link to an absolutely incredible collection of 177 pictures of wall remnants (many with Google map locations) by Kevin Flude. The present article below presents traces of the wall circuits on Google maps based on locations cited in Wikipedia article. Further, it can be seen as an addendum to a previous article on this blog “Ancient Rivers and Modern Streets” linked in the “Related Articles” box. Also, consistent with the reoccurring theme of this blog; a pedagogic postscript.


"Palermo has got at least 2 circuits of City Walls - many pieces of which still survive. The first circuit surrounded the ancient core of the punic City - the so-called Palaeopolis (in the area east of Porta Nuovo) and the Neopolis. Via Vittorio Emanuele was the main road E-W through this early walled City. The eastern edge of the walled City was on Via Roma and the ancient port in the vicinity of Piazza Marina. The wall circuit was approximately Porto Nuovo, Corso Alberti, Piazza Peranni, Via Isodoro, Via Candela, Via Venezia, Via Roma, Piazza Paninni, Via Biscottari, Via Del Bastione, Palazzo dei Normanni and back to Porto Nuovo.
In the medieval period the wall circuit was expanded. Via Vittorio Emanuele continued to be the main road E-W through the walled City. West gate was still Porto Nuovo, the circuit continued to Corso Alberti, to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele Orlando where it turned east along Via Volturno to Piazza Verdi and along the line of Via Cavour. At this North East corner there was a defense, Castello a Mare, to protect the port at La Cala. A huge chain was used to block La Cala with the other end at S Maria della Catena (St Mary of the Chain). The sea-side wall was along the western side of Foro Italico Umberto. The wall turns west along the northern side of Via Abramo Lincoln, continues along Corso Tukory. The wall turns north approximately on Via Benedetto, to Palazzo dei Normanni and back to Porto Nuovo. Source: Palermo - City Guide by Adriana Chirco, 1998, Dario Flaccovio Editore.
Several gates in the City Wall survive. Images of the City Wall can be see here [1]"

: clicking on the '[1]', if not in the quote, then the Wikipedia original, will link to Flude's "slide show" - do so it's amazing.
Also, the reference to Piazza Marina as part of the ancient Punic wall system is confusing.  At the time of the ancient walls, the current Piazza Marina would have been under water.  The Cala at that time came up to current Via Roma - See maps in "Ancient Rivers and Modern Streets"
Also, Corso Alberti, I believe is another name for Corso Alberto Amendeo on Google map below.

Trace of "The first circuit surrounded the ancient core of the punic City - the so-called Palaeopolis (in the area east of Porta Nuovo)"  based on locations referenced in the above Wikipedia article.  
Note: as best that I can determine, the walls were inside of the rivers Papireto on the north and Kemonia on the south (see: "Ancient Rivers and Modern Streets").  Essentially the rivers function as a moat would in castle defensive architeture. 


Trace of "medieval period wall circuit" based on referenes in the above Wikipedia article. 
Note: by the time these walls were built, the rivers and a large portion of the Cala were emptied (see: "Ancient Rivers and Modern Streets).

Trace of both 'old' ancent and 'new' medievil walls:

Pedagogic Postscript
It is truly amazing how much time and effort the grandson of a Palermitan women must put forth to glean a few facts, trepidatious inferences and ultimately flat out guesses about the history of his ancestral homeland. Indeed, if it weren’t for the Internet and Google, like the generation of his parent (children of the great emigration), he would be relegated to stone cold ignorance about the history and culture of Italians south of Rome.
But, Oh My! What a different story, if Palermitanuzzu were of Tuscan origins or north of Rome generally. Then there would be available to him voluminous English language translations, retranslations, and translations again of his history and culture, many advanced university degree programs, schoalry publcations, and northern Italian roadshows like "2013 Year of Italian Culture in the United States". Similarly, if he were only interested in the history and culture of southern Italians post-Ellis Island, there would be scholarly works and university courses available.
Accordingly, no doubt the libraries and archives of Palermo are filled with social scientific works and histories about such things as the Rivers and Walls of ancient Palermo, and the history and culture of Sicily generally, and south of Rome more generally.  Nevertheless, they are largely inaccessible to near seventeen million southern-Italian Americans because the Italian American literati have a love affair with Renaissance Italy, its contemporary progeny, and are nostalgic for Little Italy.   

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A+ article and A+ research.

A+ article and A+ research. Really incredible to see stuff like this.