Some great cities offer sights that
look almost as good at night as they do during the day. Palermo is one of
them. This is remarkable for a "secondary" city that you usually
need a connecting flight to get to, but Palermo's civic administration has
made a serious effort to promote the place in every way, and flattering
lighting is a good example. Of course, any competent photographer will tell
you that the best "night photography" really takes place at dusk
when the electric lights have been turned on but there's still just enough
ambient light to ensure that your subject is completely illuminated in a
natural way. Follow that advice and you may even capture backgrounds such
as a usually-elusive violet sky.
Nowadays the "great debate" is Film versus Digital, and rarely
is it as lively as when discussing night photography. What should be considered
is that even with a digital camera you may need a tripod and time-exposure
to capture certain scenes or duplicate some of the interesting effects of
film photography --things like the streaks of light resulting from passing
vehicles. Here's a quick guide to what's available and (usually) well illuminated.
Opera houses: The Teatro Massimo is a spectacular subject just
before Christmas, when it is decorated with an array of lights, but this
opera house, and Politeama a few blocks away, are always interesting. The
Massimo is neoclassical while Politeama represents a kind of "Pompeian"
Porta Nuova: Parts of this arched gate date from the fifteenth
century. It is interesting from either side --Piazza Vittoria or Piazza
Indipendenza. The Norman Palace is nearby.
Norman Palace: From either side, Piazza Vittoria or Piazza Indipendenza,
this is an interesting subject on high ground overlooking the surrounding
gardens. The Pisan Tower visible from Piazza Vittoria is largely medieval.
The pointed battlements and Gothic facade on the Piazza Indipendenza side
are later additions but still beautiful.
St. John of the Hermits (shown): Located near the Norman Palace,
this Norman-Arab monastery with reddish cupolas is visible from the street
at night. Stunning.
Cathedral: Illumination here is amazing, and the setting offers
numerous angles from which to photograph, from the apse to the front portal,
arches and towers.
Steri Castle: Located in Piazza Marina, this structure offers
interesting details such as its arched two-light windows.
St. Francis of Assisi: This Romanesque-Gothic church is located
in its own small square. During summer there are tables set up by the nearby
restaurant but the facade is still visible.
Quattro Canti: This Baroque treasure is usually illuminated at
night, and during the Christmas season and certain festivals, such as St.
Rosalie in July, the street is decorated with lights.
Piazza Pretoria (shown): The statues of this Baroque fountain
stand out as a brilliant white against colourful backgrounds formed by the
surrounding buildings, mostly churches.
San Cataldo: This church and the Martorana nearby are not usually
illuminated by special lighting so get there just after sunset to take advantage
of the fading sunlight.
About the Author: Architect Carlo Trabia has written for this publication and others.