The Normans in Palermo Private Tour

The Normans in Palermo Private Tour

The Norman history of Palermo is simply fascinating...

This tour includes some of the most important edifices built by the Normans in Palermo, all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is then the tour to discover why Palermo, in the 12th century, was one of the most important cities in the world.

For this private guided tour we will pick you up from your hotel or b&b with one of our vehicles. The first stop is Piazza Bellini, in the old city; upon arrival one can easily spot a mosque-like church: San Cataldo, founded around 1160 by the king's admiral Maio of Bari. The church provides a typical example of the Arab-Norman architecture, which is unique to Sicily.

Opposite to it lies the Church of Martorana (or Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, ammiraglio meaning admiral): in 1184 the Arab traveller Ibn Jubayr visited the church, and later devoted a significant portion of his description of Palermo to its praise, describing it as “the most beautiful monument in the world”. If an Arab said so for a Christian church it must be true!

We move then to the Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti (Saint John of the Hermit). The church's origin dates back to the 6th century; later, after the Islamic conquest of Sicily, it was converted into a mosque. After the establishment of the Norman domination of Southern Italy, it was returned to the Christians by King Roger II of Sicily who, around 1136, entrusted it to the Benedictine monks of Saint William of Vercelli.

After a short drive we get to the Zisa Castle: its construction begun in the 12th century by the Arabian craftsmen for King William I of Sicily, and completed by his son William II. The edifice was conceived as a summer residence for the Norman kings, part of the large hunting resort known as the Genoardo (Arabic: Jannat al-arḍ, literally Paradise on Earth). The Zisa is clearly inspired by the Moorish architecture. The name Zisa itself derives from the Arab term al-Azīz, meaning dear or splendid.

The next stop is at the Maredolce Castle or Favara Castle, located in a neighbourhood in the city's outskirts. It is an edifice in the Islamic style whose architecture does not show Norman influences. It lies inside the once-named Fawwarah (boiling spring in Arabic), the Favara Park nowadays. The palace, improperly considered a castle, was built in 1071 as part of the qasr, that is a fortified citadel at the foot of Mount Grifone, probably encircled by walls.

Nearby lie the Admiral's Bridge. According to a legend, the bridge is situated in the place where the Archangel Michael appeared to the Norman Count Roger I helping him to conquer Palermo, at that time the capital city of the Emirate of Sicily. It was completed in 1131, a year after the coronation of Roger II, son to Roger I, as first King of Sicily. The construction was supervised by the admiral George of Antioch, the most powerful man of the Kingdom after Roger II.

Why touring with Palermo Walks? We only offer quality!
Palermo Walks has been awarded the patronages of the Sicilian Parliament and of the City of Palermo, we provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee, you can always talk to one of our managers. Our style is based on storytelling, our unique way of sharing with you the history and stories of people, art, culture, food, traditions.

Book your private tour now to enjoy the best of Sicily!



  • 9:00 Hotel or b&b pick-up by car or minivan
  • 9:30 Church of San Cataldo
  • 10:00 Martorana Church
  • 10:45 Church of Saint John of the Hermit
  • 11:45 Zisa Castle
  • 13:00 Lunch (not included)
  • 15:00 Maredolce Castle
  • 15:30 Admiral's Bridge
  • 16:00 Hotel or b&b drop-off
  • Booking Box

    Your experience starting from €64,00
    Number of People:
    * Date:

    Customise your Experience

  • Options

    • Customisation: if you prefer a shorter or a longer tour, to add or remove some points of interest, and/or if you require different hours, please contact us.
    • For a guide speaking a language different from English or Italian, please contact us.
    • For special needs please contact us: convertible car seats for babies and foldable wheelchairs may be rented at €15 each.
  • Specifications

    • Frequency: daily (except Christmas Day and New Year's Day).
    • Departure: 9:00 from your hotel or b&b in Palermo's city centre; if your hotel or b&b is outside Palermo's city centre please contact us.
    • Duration: 7 hours.
    • Shore excursion tour with port pick-up and drop-off: yes, we can reduce the tour duration if needed.
    • Number of participants: 1-7, for more people please contact us).
    • Type of tour: private.
    • Location: Palermo.
    • Modality: by car or minivan, and on foot.
    • Level: easy.
    • Vehicles: 1-4 people large sedan or SUV, 4-7 people minivan. All vehicles are air-conditioned.
    • Dress code: no shorts and no sleeveless garment as not allowed in religious sites; it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes.
    • Rates: 1 -2 people €349, 3-4 people €399 per person, 5-7 €449.
    • What is included: hotel or b&b pick-up and drop-off by car or minivan, English-speaking driver/guide.
    • What is NOT included: entry tickets, lunch.

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