“Panormus conca aurea suos devorat alienos nutrit”: this inscription lies at the bottom of a statue at Palazzo Pretorio. It means “Palermo the golden dell, devours hers and feeds the foreigners”. An omen more than a motto, yet this words describe perfectly the very soul of the city and the citizens of tha capital of Sicily. The very symbol of the city is the statue itself…
It’s 1968, October 14, a date engraved in Sicily’s history: a devastating earthquake destroys a wide region of the island between Agrigento, Trapani and Palermo, the valley of the Belice river. The earth trembles when everyone’s still asleep, the old rural buildings of the country towns crumble down killing hundreds. Poggioreale is one of dozens of cities razed to the ground: houses turned into ruins in a matter of seconds.
One of Giuseppe Tomasi’s ancestors who lived in the 17th century, Isabella, was a nun of the Benedectine cloistered convent of Palma. One day Isabella received a mysterious letter: it was written in an unknown language, a unique combination of ancient Greek symbols, Arab language and obscure signs. The nun told she received the letter from Satan himself; that’s why it is known as the Devil’s letter.
The message written in the letter has never been decoded.
Back in the Middle Ages, when Palermo was the capital of the Muslim Emirate of Sicily, the Arabs adorned the city with their elegant palaces and castles, but they also built one of the most impressive works of engineering ever accomplished at the time: the Qanat.
Have you ever heard the word qanat? It’s Arab and it’s the name of the majestic underground structures used as aqueduct in the ancient emirates or in the Persian cities, where they were called kaniz.
The capital of Sicily, Palermo, hides many secrets, a whole life wouldn’t be enough to uncover them all. Hidden rooms inside churches and palaces, catacombs, secret passages once used by secret societies, and underground tunnels: they’re the marks left on the city by a turbulent history made of conquers, wars and revolutions, that have seen the city passing under the dominion of several civilizations.