The Antico Stabilimento Balneare, Mondello Beach Palermo
A thousand years ago, this beautiful part of Sicily was known by the Arabs as Marsâ ‘at Tin (Port of Mud), it was a malaria-ridden marshland, a swamp.
In more modern times it was once the archetypal small Mediterranean fishing port, today it is a mile long stretch of fine white sand, shallow blue water trimmed with classic Liberty Style architecture. The two fortified towers built in the 15th century as part of Sicily’s coastal defences are still standing.
Although attempts were made to drain the marsh many years before, it was not until the end of the nineteen century that the task was completed. Shortly after, in 1910, a Belgian company purchased a significant portion of the seafront and started making plans to create a seaside resort to rival the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, with its impressive Pier based on the designs of The Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851.
From the beginning, the project attracted the interest and money of the wealthy. The aristocracy of Palermo started buying land and engaging architects to build magnificent summer villas, which sprung up around the bay, creating its own little world, for those who could afford it.
These aristocrats started exclusive sailing clubs, and financed the building of lidos. The jewel in the crown was the Stabilimento Balneare, a magnificent building on stilts above the clear blue waters. The architect, Rudolf Stualker, already had form in this genera, having designed the bathing station for Ostend in Belgium. Accessed by a wooden bridge, the Stabilimento Balneare is yellow and white, richly decorated and functional. The sea-facing terrace offers magnificent views of the bay of Mondello, from Montepellegrino in the south all the way round to Monte Gallo in the north.
It is a testament to the designer and the builders, that it is still in such good condition.