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Palermo Guide Italy



Palermo craftwork offers a lot of choices to satisfy the yearning to own some local souvenirs: traditional craft techniques passed on through the generations still allow you to buy some high quality craftsmen’s products. Unique, original items that are the total express of Palermo’s culture and tradition.
One of the most typical objects of all are the famous “pupi”, puppets which UNESCO has declared to be “masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”. The “pupi” are the characteristic Sicilian marionettes that the “pupari”, the master puppet show experts, use to put on shows of the medieval knights actions, inspired by the French “Chansons de Geste” and “Orlando Furioso”.
The historical “pupari” families in Palermo have been passing on this art to each new generation. If you walk along Corso Vittorio Emanuele, you will see the Cuticchio, Mancuso and Greco family craftsmen’s workshops and if you are lucky, you may see a marionette being created by true artists, who are part carpenters, part blacksmiths, part painters but, most importantly, actors. The Palermo pupi are 80 cm high, they weigh about 15 kg (keep that in mind when you are buying one!) and wear sparkling armor on a wooden and clay body and their faces are painted with very strong expression, to emphasize their role in the shows.

Another typical product is the Sicilian cart, that was much used in the past by both travelers and by traveling salesmen, and which can now be bought in almost any size. In this case too, the influence of the “Chansons de Geste” is important: the carts are completely decorated with pictures that depict the heroic adventures of the French champions. A long, tiring work that requires technique and vocation: decorations can either be painted or sculpted and require several layers of painted background and the work of various craftsmen.

Palermo is also known for other crafts products, such as painted pottery (vases, large wall plates, and jugs of all sizes) and recipients in copper or tin, that can be purchased in the ancient Via Calderai.
Market lovers can go on a tour of the four most famous, crowded (not by tourists) markets in Palermo, to get a true sense of the city’s atmosphere: Vucciria, that is held between Via Roma and Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Ballarò, near the central station, Capo, behind the Teatro Massimo, and Borgo Vecchio, that is held between Piazza Sturzo and Piazza Ucciardone and which is open until late.

If typical, local craftwork is not your style, and you prefer to shop for famous names, we recommend a walk along the elegant Via Libertà, the place where all the boutiques of the famous Made in Italy and Europe designers can be found, such as Tod’s, Dolce & Gabbana, Hermés, Luis Vuitton and Cartier.

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