There was an era when Palermo was very different from how we know it today.
It was a city full of parks and artificial lakes, sumptuous palaces, villas, churches and lush gardens … a city famous all over the Mediterranean, which attracted foreign travelers who came here and then told the wonders of it in their travel diaries.
In this distant era, Palermo was the capital of a kingdom and its king, William I, had magnificent palaces built outside the city walls, immersed in wonderful parks that constituted the so-called “genoard” or paradise garden, rich in water, lakes, luxuriant plants, animals and small pavilions where the sovereign rested during his walks or hunting trips.
Fortunately, some of these buildings have survived to the present day and one of the most beautiful is the Palazzo della Zisa, today recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Its name comes from the Arabic “al aziz” and precisely means “the shining”.

At the time of the Normans, in the XII century, the palace was located far from the inhabited center, in the middle of the countryside.
Today, however, if you want to visit the Zisa you have to go and look for it among the buildings of the Zisa district which takes its name from the building. You will find a large cubic building, very simple, with small pointed windows and three large openings on the ground floor.
La Zisa, built between 1165 and 1180 copying the style of the Arab palaces of North Africa, was surrounded by a beautiful park and had a small artificial lake in front of it with a small covered pavilion which was accessed via a bridge.
On the ground floor you can still admire the Sala della Fontana, a beautiful lounge decorated with typical elements of Arab architecture (for example the stone stalactites at the corners of the ceiling) and with a beautiful fountain enriched with golden mosaics; water gushed from the fountain which then flowed along a small canal until it reached the external tank.
It takes a little imagination but it’s nice to imagine when sovereigns and queens, court ladies and knights, spent their summer days in this palace, enjoying the rest and the coolness of the garden.

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