An intriguing monument from the Norman era has re-opened to the public in Palermo. Situated to the south of the city, on the approach to Monte Grifone near the Brancaccio district, it was originally a country retreat built by the Arabs. The Norman king, Roger II, developed it into a luxurious palace with a surrounding park. It is known as the Castello Maredolce or Favara, the name Favara deriving from the Arabic, while the name Maredolce came from the artificial lake which was created around it from water piped in from the nearby hills.
The contemporary chronicler, Archbishop Romuald, described the retreat as a sanctuary for birds and beasts, at a place which was full of wooded valleys, its waters stocked with a large variety of fish. The extensive park, which was encircled by walls, provided hunting for deer and wild boar. At its heart stood the king’s splendid palace, a fortified structure, austere with small windows in the Muslim style, with a central courtyard surrounded by arcades. This is where Roger II resided in the heat of summer.
The remains of the palace can be seen today. It was much modified in later times, especially by Frederick II. The lake has long dried up but an idea of the scale of the property can be seen from the surrounding park. It serves as a reminder of the splendours created in Sicily by the Normans, when Palermo was a leading city in the Mediterranean, surrounded by parks and luxurious country retreats.