Chiaramonte-Steri Palace (Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri)
The fortress-like Chiaramonte-Steri Palace (Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri) was built in 1307 as the private home of the powerful Chiaramonte family in a Norman Gothic style that became the model for Chiaramontan architecture. The most notable interior decorations, however, were added a century later, including the magnificent wooden ceiling in the Great Hall (Sala Magna), painted with biblical and mythological scenes. In the 1600s, the palace became the headquarters of the Aragonese/Spanish viceroys of Sicily and used to hold prisoners of the Spanish Inquisition for the following two centuries; the graffiti they scratched into the walls of their tiny cells is still visible. Visit the Inquisition museum, as well as the small art gallery on the palace’s upper floor, as part of a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Palermo’s highlights.
Things to know before you go
- The Inquisition museum may not be appropriate for younger children. Instead, head directly upstairs to the Sala Magna, art gallery, and scenic views.
- The palace is now home to the rectorate of the University of Palermo and can only be visited as part of a guided tour; enquire at the entrance.
- Be sure to bring a camera to capture the views from the upper floors of the palace over Palermo’s old town and the coastline.
- The palace is partially accessible to wheelchair users.
How to get there
Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri is set on Piazza Marina in the city’s historic Kalsa district within walking distance from the port, Centrale train station, and Piazza Pretoria. You can reach Sicily from mainland Italy by ferry, train, or plane.
When to get there
Sicily can be uncomfortably hot in summer, so avoid the midday heat by ducking into the palace for a visit. To see the city at its festive best, tour during the annual U Fistinu festival in July and enjoy processions, fireworks, street food, and music.
The Lighter Side of Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri
The lower-level prison cells in Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri can be rather macabre, so cleanse your palate by heading upstairs to the sunlit art gallery to admire the colorful Le Vucciria by 20th-century Palermitano painter Renato Guttuso. This scene is a lively depiction of one of the city’s most famous historic markets located not far from the palace.
- Mirto Palace House Museum (Palazzo Mirto Casa Museo)
- Piazza & Fontana Pretoria
- Vucciria Market (La Vucciria)
- Church of the Gesù (Chiesa del Gesù)
- Branciforte Palace (Palazzo Branciforte)
- Ballarò Market (Mercato Ballarò)
- Opera Dei Pupi (Rod Marionette Theatre)
- Massimo Opera House (Teatro Massimo)
- Palermo Cruise Port (Terminal Crociere di Palermo)
- Palermo Cathedral (Cattedrale di Palermo)
- Capo Market (Mercato di Capo)
- Politeama Garibaldi Theater (Teatro Politeama Garibaldi)
- Four Corners (Quattro Canti)
- Palatine Chapel (Capella Palatina)