The Palazzo Alliata Villafranca is one of Palermo’s grandest  palaces, in one of the city’s most beautiful squares, Piazza Bologni.  The façade of the palace is huge and imposing, with two grand pillared entrances, row upon row of curved iron balconies and two large plaster crests of the Alliata family.  It is a building of great dignity, dominating the piazza and demanding respect, but at the same time, possibly because of the air of neglect that surrounds it, stirring the imagination.  From the  minute I saw it I longed to know more about this palace, but it’s only rarely open to the public and it wasn’t  until this week that I was able to go inside.      

Two of the rooms have been open this week to display two recently restored paintings of Matthias Stom, a Dutch baroque painter in the style of Caravaggio.  I suspect I wasn’t alone in visiting more to see the palace than the paintings.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  But just as interesting as the palace itself, was the sad, and rather strange, story of how, in 1988, after more than 300 years, it  passed out of the hands of the Alliata family.    

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