My first day in Palermo starts overcast, and I am based in one of the newer neighbourhoods. Walking south brings me to the most interesting part of town, where four old neighbourhoods are the most vivid, the roughest, and culturally rich pockets of the city. Right at the centre, dividing those four neighbourhoods, is Quattro Canti, a crossroads rather than a piazza, and the first time I arrive, I stand right in the middle of it to absorb the richly decorated buildings on all sides. I am taking advantage of one of the great things in this part of the city: it is mostly car-free. At one point, I lie on my back on the street to see the four buildings rise up to the grey sky. The buildings on all sides are curved, giving the square a circular, and intimate, feeling. A Sicilian walks up to me and is curious to see the pictures I took while lying on my back; he turns out to be an architect, and proudly tells me about his city.
Shortly thereafter, a downpour chases me away. I decide to have lunch, and come back once the worst rain is gone. Instead of taking more pictures of the square, I take the time to study the facades more in detail. At first glance, they look the same, but when you look closer, you start spotting the differences. The four sides represent the seasons: the north is autumn, the east winter, the south summer, and the west spring. Each side has a patron, represented by a sculpture on the fourth floor: Cristina di Bolsena, Santa Ninfa, Oliva di Palermo, and Sant'Agata. On all, there is a marble plaque, dedicating the building to a Spanish king: Charles V, Philip II, III and IV. The square was laid out in the early 17th century, and is considered one of the early examples of city planning. The style is clearly Baroque.
During my next few days in the Sicilian capital, I keep on coming back to Quattro Canti. I see it with rain and with sunshine; I see it early in the morning with quiet streets, and in the afternoon with many people around, and in the evening when the buildings are lit. Quattro Canti is where the two main streets of Palermo meet: Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which runs east-west, and Via Maqueda, running north-south. I use both streets frequently: the former takes me to the Palazzo dei Normanni, the Cathedral, and other sights in the Albergheria and Capo neighbourhoods, La Loggia and Kalsa, and the port, while the latter brings me to the new part of town and back. Between all those long walks, Quattro Canti is my anchor, my orientation point, and when my last day in the city has arrived, I pass one more time to say goodbye to it. She greets me with an especially beautiful sunlight on the sculptures.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Quattro Canti (Italy). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Quattro Canti. Read more about this site.