The spectacular Piazza Pretoria or Pretoria Square is a perfect example of urban planning, which has achieved a balance between space and volume. The space forms a trapeze, defined between the sides of the churches of Saint Catherine and Saint Joseph dei Teatini. The domes of the two churches, which stand opposite each other, dominate the piazza, enclosing it within a series of prestigious palaces and buildings, including the Palazzo Senatorio the Town Hall, also called “Palace of the Eagles”.
Pretoria Fountain located on the square is one of the most beautiful fountains in Italy and takes up the entire centre of the Piazza. Restored in 2003, it is as admirable today as it has ever been.
The fountain was created at the end of the Fifteen Hundreds for the father in Law of Cosimo I of the Medici family, to embellish his Florentine villa. However, upon his death his son decided to sell the edifice, which was bought by the Senate of Palermo. It was then dismantled, transported to Sicily and reassembled by the son of a sculptor who had assumed ownership and direction of the work.
Installing a fountain of such proportions proved difficult. In the end, nearby buildings were demolished to make space for it. Having been initially made by private commission for a private garden, the fountain caused something of a stir, when it was installed in a public space. The numerous nude figures were considered somewhat bold, and for some time it was labeled “the fountain of shame”.
The wonderful thing about this fountain is that it was made to be entered. Based at ground level, the outer ring of stone, protecting the first “layer” of water, is connected to the inner stone ring by four symmetrically placed flights of steps. These steps (completed with elegant banisters) connecting the two rings of stone, once allowed entrance to the very heart of the fountain.
Location: Piazza Pretoria, Palermo
Nearby sights: Palermo Cathedral, Catacombs of Cappuchin, Royal Palace of Palermo
How to get there: Take bus: 101, 102, 105
Nearby hotels: Hilton Villa Igiea Palermo, Grand Hotel Wagner, Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa