Palazzo Conte Federico

Palermo, Sicily, Italy Book from

A sumptuous bedroom in a palatial residence of a Hohenstaufen-descended count and his engaging Austrian wife, plus a few simpler apartments
Climb the grand staircase from the leafy courtyard, open the tall door - and wow! A series of vast double-height salons drip with chandeliers and gold-framed portraits, patterned pavimento floors swarm with intricate oriental rugs, and illuminated vaulted ceilings glow with religious frescoes and heraldic bas-reliefs. Huge, ornately scrolled armchairs, antique dressers, even a 200-year-old grand piano, all are dwarfed by the expanses of silk-covered wall. There are glassed cabinets displaying ceramics, costumes and other curios, while in the knights' room 2 suits of armour stand guard over a prized weapons collection. You half expect to turn a corner and find Emperor Frederick Hohenstaufen on his throne, brandishing a sceptre in one hand and a falcon on the other (the 13th-century tower dates from his reign).

If it sounds more like a museum than a residence, the welcome of Contessa Alwine and Conte Federico will be a surprise. She's a tall and dynamic Austrian, multi-lingual and a talented singer (hence the concert hall and historic piano - once used by Wagner - where she gives informal recitals). He is an aficionado of vintage cars, and keeps an open-topped 1930's Fiat in the ground-floor workshop. Emperor Frederick, a brilliant linguist and a patron of hunting, astrology and poetry, would be proud.

Highs

  • The stately reception rooms which are used for breakfast and perhaps an afternoon tea or pre-prandial drink
  • The wonderful service from Contessa Alwine, who can explain the rich history of the building and the city with equal vigour
  • The palazzo bedroom, with its gold-draped four-poster: a fitting place for a honeymoon or anniversary
  • A slice of historic splendour, bringing Palermo's Norman and Baroque heydays back to life

Lows

  • Closed for renovations until May 2017, so unfortunately you'll have to wait until then to enjoy the splendour of the place
  • The palazzo bedroom isn't cheap, but it's unique and that's hard to put a price on
  • Only a hand-held shower in the palazzo bedroom
  • If you book one of the cheaper apartments, you'll miss out on the splendour of the main palazzo (but you still get the location and a sense of history)

Best time to go

Spring or autumn are the best times to go, although the weather can also be bright and sunny in winter. There are lots of festivals in summer.

Our top tips

Hire a horse-drawn carrozza on Piazza San Domenico for a leisurely tour of the city. Ask to end up at the Foro Italico, a stretch of waterfront where you'll find several tempting gelateria.

Great for...

Family
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Apartments
  • 4
  • Breakfast or self-catering
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Marabitti room

Rooms

There's one guest bedroom in the palazzo, situated next to the concert room so that you step straight out every morning into the largest hall in the building. Its high walls are covered with gold-patterned silk, above which are the coats of arms of those families which have married here.

In the centre is a monumental double bed - so high that you take 2 steps up to it - which is made from the panels of the old music hall ceiling, as is the capacious wardrobe. You'll find a small TV in an alcove with painted-panel shutters, a glassed display of ceramics, a bookshelf with curly-eared novels in English and German, a shiny sofa and a pretty dressing table. The bathroom is a disappointment by comparison - anything would be - but it is perfectly functional, with a tub (shower attachment) and good hot water pressure.

If you want to bring the children, there are 2 much simpler and smaller rooms up a private flight of stairs (and therefore only let as an add-on to the main room). One has twin beds and the other a double, and there's a spartan shower room between them.

If that all sounds too formal, you can request one of the apartments in the inner courtyard of the palazzo, which we have not seen. All have a double bed (one has a sofabed as well), living room and kitchenette; some are arranged over 2 levels connected by a spiral staircase. Bear in mind that, while they're still charming and reasonably spacious, they're quite dark and furnished in a more ad-hoc way.

Wherever you sleep, you can step outside and straight into the heart of Palermo, midway between the Norman grandeur of the palace-cathedral quarter and the Arab charms of the Ballarò street market and the Piazza Bellini.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Internet access
  • Tv

Eating

If you're staying in the palazzo, there is a bell to call for breakfast, so that you and it arrive at the same time in the blue salone. Expect fresh cornetti, eggs any style, mozzarella, peeled prickly pears - "anything you like", says Alwine, and this is the sort of place where that really means something.

If you're staying in an apartment, there is a simple kitchen with a gas hob and stove, a sink and anough pots and pans for a basic meal. Chances are, though, you'll head out for lunch and dinner - there are some great eateries dotted around the narrow streets of central Palermo.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating: Breakfast
Activity:

Activities

  • Stroll around Palermo - a fascinating city of crumbling palazzi, glittering yachts, beautiful Baroque churches, tourists in horse-drawn carriages, bustling street markets that could be in North Africa, and flagged alleys worn smooth by the centuries. It was once a flagship of Arab culture, then the seat of Norman kings; today it’s a melting pot where you can dine on everything from pasta to couscous, and admire stunning architecture in varying states of repair

  • Visit the Norman Palace, now the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. Wander through its arcaded courtyard and stately rooms, and visit the Palatine Chapel, whose Arabian carved ceiling and bejewelled arches will take your breath away. Catch it back in the lush gardens and cloister of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, south of the palace

  • Stop off at the cathedral. Another Norman-Arab-Neoclassical hybrid, this imposing sand-coloured edifice displays all the architectural styles of the city's history

  • Browse the Palazzo Abatellis art gallery - an imposing palace housing 16 rooms of Sicilian art - or view the classical marbles at the archaeological museum

  • Go shopping - Via della Libertà and neighbouring Via Enrico Parisi are lined with upscale boutiques such as Frette (for linens), Furla (for leather), Visiona (for fashion) and Lethu (for French homeware)

  • The Vucciria, Ballarò and del Capo street markets are a must, as much for the people-watching, banter and atmosphere as for the chance to buy exotic fruit and veg

  • Hop between the chic wine bars in the historic Kalsa district, then take in live rock, jazz or blues at Candelai (Piazza della Rivoluzione, on Via Candelai)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Well-behaved children are welcome. Baby cots and extra beds are available on request.

Family friendly accommodation:

The apartments have plenty of extra space, making them a good family option. In the palazzo, children can sleep in 2 simpler bedrooms up a private flight of stairs, at an additional cost.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
10/
Overall

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