The Castello della Zisa stands in the western part of Palermo. It was built in the 12th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was originally built as a summer residence for the then royal family. The main attraction is the Sala della Fontana. It is the current seat of a museum dedicated to Islamic art.
Castello della Zisa Palermo
Address, opening hours and entrance fee
Address: Castello della Zisa, Piazza Guglielmo il Buono – 90135 Palermo. Tel: (+39) 0916520269. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 18:30; Sundays and holidays from 09:00 to 13:00. In the weekends of August and September the closing time is at 21.00 hrs. Admission: 6 Euro; free on the first Sunday of the month. Note that, during the Covid/crisis, the Green Pass is mandatory.
History and Description
The Zisa Castle was built during the governments of Guglielmo I and Guglielmo II. Its completion took place in 1167. It was the favourite summer residence of the king and his court.
The name derives from the Arabic al-Aziz meaning “magnificent.”
The most radical of the many modifications to the building took place in 1635. Under the direction of Giovanni Sandoval a number of Baroque changes were made at that time.
The palace has three floors. The vestibule opening onto the facade is called the Sala della Fontana. This “Room of the Fountain” is decorated in the Arabic manner and is supported by pairs of columns. The apartments in the southern and northern wings of the building open onto the hall.
On the arch above the entrance is a fresco depicting the “Devils of the Zisa.” This is a series of figures that, according to legend, would be uncountable because of the way they are arranged clockwise.
The floor is traversed by a channel, which leads to two tubs that are square on the outside and octagonal on the inside. The water from the fountain after which the hall is named falls into these tubs.
The entire hall is lined with marble. Above the marble is a mosaic frieze with motifs from nature.
Through a ventilation system using a kind of chimneys, the building was kept cool in the summer.
At present, the Castello della Zisa houses the Museum of Islamic Art.