A tranquil place of calm in bustling Palermo is the Parco Giardino Garibaldi. Here you can stroll and relax on one of the benches under gigantic trees. And: a few mystical stories await you. In this article you will find out what they are.
by: Eugenio Rusignuolo | 18 Jul 2021
The Giardino Garibaldi park with its stories of legends and secrets inside, is located in Piazza Marina in Palermo. The piazza is surrounded by several historic palaces, including Palazzo Chiaramonte, Palazzo Denti Fatta and the Palazzi Notarbartolo Greco and Mirto. The church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli is also in the immediate vicinity.
You enter the park through a wrought-iron gate. Right next to the entrance is an old gatehouse, no longer in use, with enchanting wood carvings on the door.
The paths, which have been used and hardly changed since the park was created, lead you deeper into the park: into the heart of the Giardino Garibaldi - to a fountain.
Our tip: Treat yourself to an ice cream made according to old Sicilian recipes and exclusively from natural ingredients from the Rorò Gelateria right next door and enjoy it while strolling through the park. Ice cream, but also brioches, granitas and other sweet temptations are made with much love. Almond and saffron ice cream, the gelateria's speciality, is not to be missed.
The paths on the left and right are lined with a great variety of mainly evergreen plants. Due to the warm climate, there are also plants here that we only know as domestic pot plants. Among other things, you can admire the lime tree in the park, which is popular with us, with a remarkable height of 7 metres.
As early as the Middle Ages, the square on which the park was later built was a popular meeting place and venue for colourful folk festivals. Jugglers presented their arts, merchants offered their wares for sale and the inhabitants of Palermo exchanged gossip.
Due to its proximity to the Inquisition court, several executions of prisoners also took place here at this time. According to legend, the blood of the executed was nutrient for the miraculous growth of the trees that were later planted.
The park was designed in 1863 by the architect and landscape architect Giovanni Battista Filippo Basile, who was very attached to his native city of Palermo. Basile's architectural masterpiece is the Teatro Massimo, which he was unable to complete before his death. The opulent building was therefore completed by his son Ernesto.
Old Basile was a follower of Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian freedom fighter who advocated the unification movement between 1820 and 1870. This is how the park got its historic name.
The biggest attraction of the park are the impressive specimens of three fig trees, which are similar in size to sequoias. One of the trees, together with another from the Botanical Garden in Palermo, is one of the largest and oldest fig trees in Europe. Gigantic aerial roots hang from the trees, anchoring themselves in the ground and thus giving them additional support. At this sight it becomes clear: the park is a magical place.
The three giants were planted well over 150 years ago and are fascinating witnesses of past events due to their size and thick hanging aerial roots. One of them stands out and is as exciting as a thriller. Ready? Then read on.
If the trees in the park could talk, the police would not have had to grope in the dark for more than a century. In 1909, the first police murder of the Mafia in Palermo took place in the park. Joe Petrosino, a policeman from New York with Italian roots, was found shot dead.
An arrested witness from mafia circles had to be released due to lack of evidence. It was not until over 100 years later that the case was solved by chance while eavesdropping on some mafia members, when one of the members boasted about the murder by one of his relatives. A late success for the police, even though the perpetrator had of course long since died.
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