Some Italian piazzas are picturesque squares where locals stroll in the evenings, or watch their children play, or gossip with the neighbors. And sometimes, as is the case with Palermo’s Quattro Canti, they’re busy intersections.
Despite the fact that the Quattro Canti - also known as the Piazza Vigilena - is an intersection that’s often full of cars, it’s still one of the attractions visitors seek out in the city. This is largely because of the four buildings that sit at the four corners of the intersection - “quattro canti” means “four corners” - which are Baroque buildings dating from the early 17th century. The four buildings are almost identical, save for a few details.
Each of the four buildings is slightly curved, giving the piazza a rounded footprint, and there are statues in niches that represent the four seasons, the four Spanish kings of Sicily, and the four patron saints of Palermo. Each building is connected to a different Palermo neighborhood, and the patron saint on that building is the patron of that neighborhood.
Unfortunately, since the Quattro Canti is more traffic-clogged
crossroads than piazza these days, the buildings themselves are not as
beautiful as they once were - and admiring the facades under the grime
can be tough with cars whizzing by. Still, the Quattro Canti is at the
heart of old Palermo, so you’ll pass through it often - just try to
imagine what it used to be like, before the automobile.