La Fontana della Vergogna – Fountain of Shame – in Palermo, Sicily

It’s Palermonday again! If you missed the first installment, please check out last Monday’s visit to Teatro Massimo as well.

Cherrye and I only had one full day to explore Palermo. We wanted to really get a feel for the city, so we decided to just walk around and see what we stumbled upon (with the help of some guidebook info of course).

As it turns out, Palermo is *fabulous* for walking because many of the major sites run along Corso Vittorio Emanuele, historically been the city’s most important street, and that’s the route I’m going to take you on.

We started at our hotel in the Piazza Marina area and headed away from the water and up the main street.

The gorgeous Piazza Pretoria was our first major find:

Fontana della Vergogna, Palermo on Flickr

And we weren’t the only ones there.

One sweet girl from this troop actually came up to me and asked me where to find something–apparently there was a scavenger hunt going on.

Scavenger Hunt! on Flickr

But the only thing I really knew how to find was what was in the middle of Piazza Pretoria: La Fontana della Vergogna, or the Fountain of Shame, a work by Florentine sculptor Francesco Camilliani and Michelangelo Naccherino completed in 1555.

Fontana della Vergogna, Palermo on Flickr

Why is it called the Fountain of Shame you ask?

Fontana della Vergogna, Palermo on Flickr

Well look at all that nekkidness!

You see, the fountain was originally intended for the private villa of the Viceroy Don Pedro de Toledo in Tuscany, where perhaps the 16 (nude) representations of gods and goddesses would’ve been more appropriate.

Let’s just say it didn’t go over so well in the middle of Palermo.

Piazza Pretoria is absolutely surrounded by churches, and as it turns out, the faithful weren’t too excited to come out of Mass and see such debauchery.

But to my 21st century eyes, the fountain and everything around it is simply amazing.

Fontana della Vergogna, Palermo on Flickr

Fontana della Vergogna, Palermo on Flickr

I even love the inscription telling us the name of the iron foundry responsible for protecting the fountain.

Grazie Fonderia Gaetano Basile!

Fontana della Vergogna, Palermo on Flickr

And here is some detail of the church across Via Maqueda (in the background of the first photo), Chiesa di San Giuseppe dei Teatini, designed by Giacomo Besio in 1612 with the dome added in the 18th century:

Chiesa di San Guiseppe dei Teatini, Palermo on Flickr

You might get the idea that Cherrye and I spent quite a bit of time in this square. We did.

It’s breathtakingly beautiful.

And since photos of the fountain at night are so lovely, I can only hope to get back to Palermo someday and see it all lit up in person.

Who’s coming with?

17 Beans of Wisdom to “La Fontana della Vergogna – Fountain of Shame – in Palermo, Sicily”
  1. Gil

    Looks like you two got your money’s worth out of only one day in Palermo by getting in quite a few sites. Again, thanks for the beautiful photos and history lesson.

    Gil, we were blessed with gorgeous weather too–and we definitely got in our exercise!

  2. Christina

    I too love that square quite beautiful indeed. I did giggle when I realized the story I read earlier was of this particular fountain. They are indeed quite nude; my visitors were embarrassed and not all that pleased.

    Oh I’m sorry for your visitors! There was at least one demure statue though πŸ˜‰

  3. 05.05.2008

    You’ve got some lovely images here, the square looks spectacular and I love the girl scout photo. Brava!

    amanda’s last blog post..The birds and the bees

    Thanks Amanda. I’m rather fond of the girls too–I love how their faces are all concealed enough naturally that I don’t feel bad about putting the photo on the Internet…would look nice in b/w too, don’t you think?

  4. vanessa

    I’ve been known to spend half a day in that square and the immediate area surrounding it myself. I hope you managed to find that amazing baroque church on one of the ‘4 corners’ (sorry i don’t remember it’s name and there are at least 5 churches in the immediate vicinity of that square). We are planning to do a night run/ race in Palermo on June 2nd. you are welcome to come with us!! For places that look great at night in Sicily, the best i’ve seen so far is Siracusa. Golden sandy buildings and almost totally pedestrianised. Another must see.

    I know that the one I have the close up photo of is Baroque and just off the square on Quattro Canti? The ones behind Piazza Pretoria we didn’t get to though.

    The run sounds fab…will you be carrying a camera by any chance? I’ll be busily preparing for my mom’s arrival right about that time πŸ™‚

    Can’t wait to get to Siracusa….

  5. 05.05.2008

    Count me in if I’m ever in town. Wouldn’t that be lovely.
    Speaking of Palermo. I knew it rang a bell with me.
    It just came back to me. At uni we use to order pizza from a place called “Palermo’s Pizza” It was as far from authentic Italian as I think one could get (it definitely wasn’t Italian owned), nevertheless pizza always tastes better. . . say, in the wee hours of the night.

    cheeky’s last blog post..soul dust

    There *is* something rather special about late night pizza, particularly during those, ahem, formative years πŸ˜‰ The coffee place at my law school was “Palermo’s” but I’m pretty sure that was the family’s last name (and that they were Italian).

  6. Joanne

    Memories, misty water coloured meeeeemorrrrries, of the way we were. Sorry couldn’t resist. M and I spent our last weekend as fidanzati in Palermo, then I flew back to Canada to plan the wedding. That was (gulp) 11 and 1/2 years ago. Great (as usual) pics! Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

    Joanne’s last blog post..Revisiting a classic

    Aw, how sweet! Thanks for sharing your memories Joanne…more Palermo next Monday πŸ™‚

  7. 05.05.2008

    Uh, I’ll come!!!! Well, it depends on when I hit the lottery πŸ™‚ It looks very beautiful and I am sure it is even MORE beautiful at night! There is just something about all the lights….

    My Melange’s last blog post..Finito Italiano

    I hear you Robin–I think *I’d* have to win the lottery right now to go anywhere even in Italy…dang tax season πŸ˜‰

  8. 05.05.2008

    I am *IN*!!!!

    What a gorgeous place! I LOVE the pictures you took (and brought back… thank you!) you always have a fantastic eye, which is connected directly to your heart and mind and consequently touches all of our hearts and minds when you share.

    Excellent work, lady!

    Okay… so, booking flights now…


    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

    Wanderlust Scarlett’s last blog post..spring cleaning

    Oh I wish you were booking flights…I recommend waiting at least a few months though…prices are CRAZY right now!

  9. 05.05.2008

    I would love to come…I would also love to walk out of church and be confronted by such beauty! I know it’s a bit scandalous…but, it is amazingly beautiful!!

    sadira’s last blog post..Happy May 5th…

    I’ve always been partial to scandalous myself Sadira….

  10. 05.05.2008

    Beautiful! I only wish there were places that historic and magical to visit and photograph around here. Just beautiful!

    Karina’s last blog post..Fun Monday – I Need a Hero

    Ah magical is in the eye of the photographer Karina…I think you can do it πŸ™‚

  11. 05.06.2008

    It’s all sooo beautiful!

    Chel’s last blog post..Cinco De Mayo Meal Week – Yum

    Thanks Chel πŸ™‚

  12. Carole D.

    I’m “IN” Michelle. Don’t know when…Wouldn’t it be nice to organize a get together with all your bloggers/commenters there?
    I’m sure you and Cherrye can make that happen.

    Would be *so* lovely Carole! And I happen to know a cozy little B & B in Catanzaro….

  13. Karina

    Definitely count me in! I love Italy and cannot wait to return to visit. There’s so much left to experience. Great pictures. It really made me wish I was there.

    Karina’s last blog post..Sunday Scribblings–Family

    Come on back Karina!

  14. 05.06.2008

    Wouldn’t it be GREAT if all of these commenters WOULD come with us next time? They’d be traveling with pros…well, sorta! πŸ™‚

    Cherrye’s last blog post..Travel Tip Tuesday: Saving a Little Green

    Hah! Semi-pros maybe πŸ˜‰

  15. 05.07.2008

    I am really affected by these photos of Palermo. I’d love to come with! And the Piazza Praetoria looks Spanish to me – is it?

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..Music Monday – “Future’s So Bright” – Timbuk 3

    I know the fountain was put in during the Spanish Inquisition, but that’s all I really know of the history–lots of Spanish viceroys around during that time (more on that next Monday!) πŸ˜‰

  16. Stephanie

    I first saw the fountain when I went to Sicily back in 1975. My mother in law thought it was disgusting!!! I laughed, when I realized why she was so disgusted. I was told the priests had the men’s (private parts) knocked off. I know they were cleaning the fountain up in 2002, maybe they put the parts back? Did you get to the Cathedral? It is really beautiful! My son in law is from Palermo. It’s a great place!

    Don’t know the fate of the privates–didn’t investigate too closely I’m afraid πŸ˜‰

    Yes, we got to the Duomo, during Mass, actually…photos forthcoming!

  17. 05.07.2008

    What a lovely city. All your pretty pictures make me want to go there even more! Thanks for sharing.

    Erin’s last blog post..I want a reset button!!

    Glad you enjoyed Erin πŸ™‚

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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