The greatest representative of Art Nouveau in Palermo was certainly Ernesto Basile and his works still decorate the city with the particular flair of Art Nouveau. Some of his best creations include the Villino Florio, Villa Igiea, which now houses a hotel, the Ribaudo kiosk, Villino Ida, which Basile built for his family, Villino Favaloro and finally the Teatro Massimo. Art Nouveau came to Palermo at a time of great economic splendour: Palermo’s best families wanted to demonstrate their prosperity by building villas and small villas. In particular, at the beginning of the twentieth century, construction began in the Mondello area, Palermo’s buen retiro by the sea. The Art Nouveau itinerary must therefore include a visit to the town of Mondello, where there are many small villas in this style. Among the works mentioned and many others in the Art Nouveau style, I would like to mention the Massimo Theatre. The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele in Palermo is the largest opera house in Italy, one of the largest in Europe and the third largest in terms of architectural size after the Opéra National in Paris and the Staatsoper in Vienna. State rooms, halls, galleries and monumental staircases surround the theatre proper, forming an architectural complex of enormous proportions. It was originally intended to seat 3,000 spectators, but today the capacity, according to current regulations, is about 1,300. The seats are arranged in a horseshoe-shaped hall with five tiers of boxes and a gallery. Construction of the theatre began at the end of the 19th century and involved the destruction of the Church of the Stigmata and the Monastery of San Giuliano. Work began by architect Giovan Battista Filippo Basile in 1875 and was completed by his son Ernesto Basile, a fine representative of Italian Art Nouveau, who built the theatre in the Neoclassical style.
Sciascia wrote of Palermo …… is an essentially Art Nouveau city, almost a small capital of art-nouveau’.
Beyond its undoubted beauty and stylistic importance, one cannot help but think of its artistic relevance, and it is truly sad to think of the closure of theatres at this time, of how much each type of show can involve, excite and contribute to the education of every man.