The Villa Giulia in Palermo is considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Italy. The park is located not far from the coast. The villa is full of statues of famous local characters. Highlights include the central fountain and the so-called Genio di Palermo.
Villa Giulia Palermo
Address, opening times and ticket price
Address: Via Lincoln 2/B. Bus: 139, 221, 224, 450. Admission: Free. Opening times: November through February from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; March and October from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; April and September from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; May through August from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Villa Giulia was built between 1775 and 1778. At the time, the land was still outside the city. It used to be the garden of the noble Chiaramonte family.
The architect was Nicolò Palma, who was from Palermo itself. The name derives from the wife of the Spanish viceroy Marcantonio Colonna, Donna Giulia d’Avalos Guevara. Construction was commissioned by a pretore named La Grua.
After an expansion in 1866, the Villa Giulia became Palermo’s first public park.
At the entrance to Via Lincoln there used to be a cage with a lion in it which was nicknamed Ciccio (“Fatty”).
The gate opposite the Foro Italico is closed, although it used to be the main entrance. It consists of a portico with four Doric columns and a lion statue on either side. The coats of arms on the architrave are those of the Colonna and Grua families and of the city of Palermo.
The only entrance that can now be used is on Via Lincoln, near the Botanical Garden. This is called Porta Carolina or Porta Reale.
The garden is laid out according to a rigorous pattern. The plan is square and the entire area is separated from the surrounding area by a wall with an iron fence.
Bridges, artificial lakes and small hills accentuate the park, and busts and other sculptures line the paths.
Johann Wolfgang Goethe claimed that the Villa Giulia was one of the most wondrous places on earth. Today, even though it is clearly somewhat neglected, it is still one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in the city.
Atlas and the Sundials
Two avenues meet in the centre, near a circular fountain designed by Ignazio Marabitti. A marble Atlas sits on a cliff with a dodecahedron on its head depicting 12 sundials. These were created by local mathematician Lorenzo Federici.
Genio di Palermo
Ignazio Marabitti was responsible for the statue depicting the Genio di Palermo. This Genio is one of the emblems of the city. It is a mythological figure depicted as an old man, who was a protector of the city in ancient times. He is accompanied here by a snake (symbol of caution) and a dog (symbol of loyalty). In addition, he carries the Horn of Plenty. According to his contract, Marabitti had to complete the monument within 10 months, which he succeeded in doing.
The eight statues surrounding the Genio in a semi-circle were added a year later, in 1779. The two outer ones, also by Marabitti, had already been made in 1763, for the Casa Professa. They have been reused as “Glory” and “Abundance”.
“Anger”, “Fury” and “Envy” used to be located in another site. They had originally been placed in Piazza Sant’Anna by Ignazio’s brother Lorenzo.
Little is known about the other three statues.
During the 19th century, four exedras designed by Giuseppe Damiani Almeyda were placed in the garden.