the historical context
the Zisa

The Genoard Park, the garden of pleasures and wonders

Palermo in Islamic and subsequently  Norman times was surrounded by numerous parks and gardens, organised around palaces, monasteries and splendid residences, both winter and summer.

4.Outdoor garden: overview
The present day Zisa garden, opened in 2005, with a surface area of 30,000m2, is a green expanse, rich in flowers and plants, which visually recreates the splendour of the ancient Genoardo garden, considered to be the Paradise of the Earth. The colours are dominated by the white marble from the Alcamo and Castellammare del Golfo quarries, which was used to make the footpaths and the water channel. The latter connects the fountain room with the grand fish pond located outside, in front of the elevation, in a symmetrical position to it. The Zisa garden is divided into twelve footpaths and is infused with the scent of typical Mediterranean scrub plants. Another original feature is the metal structure, with Islamic motifs and covered with climbing plants, which runs along the long side of the garden.

Trees, flowers and plants such as citrons, lemons, oranges and jasmine were introduced into these lush green expanses, partly thanks to the use of new irrigation systems of Arab origin. The gardens, undoubtedly of Persian origin, were located far from the urban centre and were privileged places of entertainment for the rulers. An interesting testimony can be found in the Liber ad honorem Augusti of Pietro da Eboli , dating from around 1197, where, in a valuable miniature depicting the Genoard Park, exotic plants and animals are also noted.The Genoard, which was one of the most important and extensive parks, in the period of William II, extended from the city of Palermo, eastwards, in the valley of the Oreto river , to the south where it bordered with Altofonte .The name derives from the Arabic Jannat al-ard, Garden or Paradise of the Earth; it occupied the whole western part of the fertile plain of Palermo, which in modern times would be called Conca d'Oro . The park is described as a place of pleasures, full of sounds, scents and colours, like the Persian Riyads, thanks to the presence of citrus groves, orchards irrigated by perennial waters, fountains, springs, water tanks surrounded by palm trees and numerous species of animals.
Inside the Genoard, close to the spring waters and placed at a relative distance, there were dwellings, palaces and pavilions: the Cuba , the Zisa, the Cuba Soprana , the Cubula , or small cuba, the  Menani and the Scibene .The Genoard Park also includes the Maredolce Park, in the southern countryside of the Palermo plain, established by Roger II and also called Parco Vecchio (Old Park).Inside is the Castle of Favara , where an artificial lake, with an island in the middle, was built for winter fishing. The Genoard was a privileged link with Monreale and other royal parks, including the Parco Nuovo (New Park), now known as Altofonte, ordered by Roger II as a hunting reserve, located in a privileged position between the Conca d’Oro and the Gulf of Palermo.
Here, in 1153, the first King of Sicily also had a palace built, which is still partly visible today, together with a small chapel dedicated to the Archangel Michael.
Of the ancient building, only three arches now remain. The original plan consisted of a series of rooms arranged around a porticoed courtyard with pointed arches.
According to ancient sources, the park was populated by fallow deer, roe deer and wild boar for hunting, shaded by trees and rich in water springs.

An architectural crescendo

The senses tell the interior

The architectural space

Intertwining of knowledge in Norman Palermo

The senses tell baroque decoration

The senses tell the ceiling

From oblivion to the recovery of memory

the roof of Paradise: one of the most representative works of medieval art

The beautiful Zisa and its garden: solacium regi among sounds, colours and scents

The senses tell the architecture and decorations

the Baroque interior

Saint Peter’s Chapel in the Royal Palace

The senses tell the historical context

The opus sectile floor of the Palatine Chapel

The senses tell restorations

The mosaics of the transept and the apses

The senses tell the Zisa over the centuries

The Cassaro

Shapes and colours of the wooden ceiling

The architectural envelope: the Greek cross layout oriented towards the light

Different styles and transformations of “one of the most beautiful monuments in the world”

The mosaics of the naves

The loca solatiorum: dwellings for recreation, well-being and hunting

The Palace of Kings

The senses tell the historical context

A building constructed in a short space of time

The birth of the Norman kingdom

The senses tell the architecture

The Royal Throne

the Baroque exterior

The Norman conquest of Sicily and the birth of a new Latin kingdom

The senses tell the mosaic cycle


The senses tell the flooring

The flooring: shapes, motifs and iconography

From earthquake to collapse

The senses tell the external architecture and the original layout

The rediscovered palace

The Genoard Park, the garden of pleasures and wonders

The return of water

The Admiral’s dedication

The senses tell the historical context

Gold and light: the splendour of the mosaics in the Royal Chapel

The decorations on the bell tower

The interior of the church

The mosaic cycle, an ascending path towards the light

The ancient convent of the Martorana, a history of devotion and tradition


The architectural appearance and transformations over time