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Palermo Mapping

A world city of inestimable value

Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is a city of extraordinary fascination. Founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th Century BC, it subsequently became part of the Roman Empire. Passing successively under Byzantine, Saracen and Norman rule, Palermo symbolizes the many and often tumultuous events that down the centuries marked the countries bordering the Mediterranean. As usual, our analysis is conducted with the aid of six maps based on GIS data available on the Internet and then graphically reinterpreted. Each gives a snapshot of one aspect of the city. The first - population density - is the reference map against which to read the other five, which respectively show the geographic contours, services and amenities, public transport, worker density, and natural vegetation in the urban area. The Municipality of Palermo has a population of around 650,000, clustered, however, in a fairly small surface area when compared to the extensive megacities this series has explored. Comparison of the population density with worker density maps shows Palermo to have a feature in common with many other cities with ancient city centers not designed to meet contemporary residential needs: the bulk of the population lives outside the historic center while jobs - i.e. worker density - and services are located in the old town. The maps also speak of a city with a double structure: on the one hand, an intertwined web of small streets and alleyways; on the other, a well-laid out grid with traffic arteries and boulevards coursing through the city. The ring road forms a semicircle around the city, taking traffic south-north through a densely urbanized fabric - and giving rise to urban quality and sustainability issues for the areas near this heavy-traffic thoroughfare. Once past the outlying quarters of the city, the ring road proceeds northwards to the town of Trapani, with a branch road linking Palermo with its airport at Punta Raisi. Palermo grew up in the stretch of low land around its...

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