Palazzo Mirto: a hidden masterpiece at the heart of Palermo
A unique historical building can be found in the ancient Kalsa district of Palermo, Sicily’s capital: Palazzo Mirto. This national monument is a rare example of private residence that has survived over centuries, almost completely unchanged. It is one of the oldest and most luxurious aristocratic houses in the city, its basic structure dating as far back as the Middle Ages, although many radical transformations followed. Since the late 1500s, it was home to the Filangeri family, the most important Norman dynasty in Sicily and in all of Southern Italy. In 1982, the last descendant of the family, Donna Maria Concetta Lanza Filangeri di Mirto, decided to donate the building to Regione Sicilia so that this wonderful place could be protected and also be accessible to the public.
Palazzo Mirti is a gem of architectural value, decorated with elegant furnishings that bear testimony to its owners’ aristocratic lifestyle. The ground floor includes stables, carriage garages and a full range of facilities – from kitchens to warehouses. On the first floor, reception halls so lavish they can seem excessive clearly conveyed the family’s noble lineage with priceless paintings, tapestries, ceramics, mirrors, fine porcelains, precious marble, Murano glass chandeliers and 18th-century Capodimonte statuettes. Every item in the beautiful house echoes with absolute elegance. On the second floor the family had its private rooms, which while not as magnificent were certainly rich and refined.
There are 66 rooms altogether, and a few spaces you will not want to miss: the small “fumoir” with Cordoba leather walls; the Tapestry Hall; the “Chinese Room” decorated with opulent varnished furniture; and the dining hall where noblemen of the past usually left their armors. Amongst the amazing details of the residence are the majestic, marble central staircase and a few outstanding collection pieces – such as a 400-piece Meissen china set decorated with all bird species known in the 18th century.
The wonderful rocaille fountain, made with hundreds of seashells, is also definitely worth mentioning. Finally, on either sides of the structure you might notice two aviaries: the one on the right actually led to a secret passage, to leave the palace without being seen.