The Mediterranean Maquis is a well known natural area. Within it, Palermo is a city with a warm and wet climate, mild wet winters, hot summers and low rainfall. It has many different places where you can go to appreciate the surroundings, relax and recharge while taking a walk. Let’s discover them together.
VILLA GIULIA AND THE BOTANICAL GARDEN
In Via Lincoln, between the Central Station and the sea, there are two large contiguous green areas which act as the city’s “lungs”. Villa Giulia is a geometrically laid out park with arcades painted in Pompeian style (which remind me a bit of Central Park in New York). From the hill inside, covered with succulent vegetation, there’s a view of the sea. Also of note is the Villa’s multi-face Dodecahedron clock. It’s made of marble and was designed by the mathematician Lorenzo Ferderici. It has a sundial on each face and sits in the middle of a fountain on the shoulders of a statue of a young man. The ideal thing to do is to sit on a bench there with an (enormous) “arancina-bomba” drink from the nearby Touring Bar. Next door is the Botanical Garden operated by the University. Many go there out of scientific interest, given the wide variety of plants it encompasses, but the garden also offers a romantic stroll which is sure to have an effect. Amidst the greenhouses, herbaria and Sapindus trees, you might be moved to declare your love …
THE ENGLISH GARDEN
In the city centre, a 10-minute walk from the steps of the Politeama Theatre, I often take a break in the English Garden or “Giardino Inglese”. It covers an area of varied terrain, as is typical of English gardens, hence its name. Among is bridges and underpasses, ficus and cycas, you can always find a bit of shade on hot days. There is also a skating area which has also been used for ice skating during winter for some years. Inside there are some kiosks.
In Piazza Marina, there is one of the largest trees in Italy, a 30 metre tall Ficus macrophylla whose trunk measures 21 metres in diameter. It stands right in front of Palazzo Steri, which was the seat of the viceroy and Spanish Inquisition. Executions were once held in this area, but now it’s a spot where you find only photography lovers and sweethearts. On Sundays, there’s an antiques market there where I always find something to buy after a bout of haggling. Don’t ever accept the first offer!
IL PARCO DELLA FAVORITA
This is the most extensive green area in Palermo (400 hectares) and sits at the foot of Monte Pellegrino. People from Palermo go there on Easter Monday or Sundays during Spring to have a barbecue. They also go running, biking or walking amidst its citrus, olive, ash, nut and sumac trees during the hot summer. It forms part of a nature reserve, so you are advised to stay on the trails and paths. The visit can be extended to include a walk up the “Acchianata”, which goes from the foot of the mountain to the Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia. Or, you can take a swim in the sea which is close by the northern area of the park. Located between Palermo and Mondello, the park is easily accessible by bus.
PUNTA BARCARELLO IN SFERRACAVALLO
I finish up at a place which its a bit off the beaten path. It’s a spit of land jutting into the sea, located in the fishing village of Sferracavallo. There, you will find some excellent seafood restaurants. It’s also much visited in summer for its cliffs and crystalline sea (for example, the Baia del Corallo or “Coral Bay”). Here, nestled among the pines and prickly India fig trees, lies Punta Barcarello. I sometimes go there to think or get some sun in winter. Here, the fishermen have built a chapel to protect them when they are at sea. But, you’ll also find some bizarre miniature reproductions of monuments there. These miniatures include the fountains that were once in the village, the trulli of Puglia and even the Egyptian Sphinx! There is also an amphitheatre where kites are often flown in Spring. From it, you can see the gulf and the planes landing at the Palermo airport. In summer, you can also go swimming and snorkelling there.