Palermo is a city of southern Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Metropolitan City of Palermo.
The population of Palermo urban area is estimated by Eurostat to be 855,285, while its metropolitan area is the fifth most populated in Italy with around 1.2 million people. Within the old town area, the estimated population is around 676,000 people.
The old town of Palermo is divided into four historical districts called «4 mandamenti»: Monte Pietà – Castellammare – Albergheria – Kalsa. This subdivision dates back to the urban changes introduced by the Spanish rulers between the 16th and 17th centuries.
The construction of Via Maqueda crossing Via Vittorio Emanuele II or Cassaro divided the urban space into four areas. The so called Baroque Cross immediately becomes the main route where the most prominent noble families could compete in the ostentation of their economic and political power. Over the centuries two magnificent architectural wings were erected at its sides, formed by aristocratic palaces and churches of religious orders.
After the II world war this area was characterised by a situation of abandonment of the social, building and environmental fabric. However the urban configuration, the historical and cultural traditions of this part of the old town, (extended for about 81 hectares) have facilitated the interventions aimed at improving infrastructures, environment, economic development and social integration.
The historical buildings have been recovered and destined to cultural and tourist promotion activities. Moreover, some degraded areas have been transformed into urban spaces to be lived by the inhabitants themselves.