Termini Imerese is famous since the Antiquity for its hot springs from which emanates water rich in chloro-iodide salts, at a temperature of 43° C. It boasts an important harbor that played a crucial role in the industrial and commercial growth of the town. The town began acquiring a certain importance after the Carthaginians defeated Himera in 408 BC, forcing many of the town to flee and, eventually, settle here, near the hot springs. It enjoyed a considerable prosperity as a Roman colony, declined during the Barbarian invasions and flourished again under Arabs and Normans. In the Middle Ages, it became an outstanding export point for buck wheat and was granted a special protection by the Spanish Viceroys (16th century).
Today, the city is divided into an older section, in the upper side, and a lower modern side. It holds a very renowned Carnival, boasting a long tradition, with parades of allegorical floats through the streets of the town.
The visit of the town can begin in Piazza Duomo, overlooked by the Palazzo del Comune, containing a former Council Chamber decorated with frescoes by Vincenzo La Barbera (1610) depicting the history of Termini Imerese.
Duomo – Rebuilt in the 17th century, it houses (in the fourth chapel to the right) a fine marble high-relief of the Madonna del Ponte by Ignazio Marabitti (dated 1842), a precious wooden statue representing the Immaculate by Quattrocchi (1799), housed in the chapel of the same name, and an interesting Venetian-style Rococo sedan chair once used for taking communion to the sick, in the Chapel of St. Bartholomew.
Museo Civico – Located on Via Museo Civico, the town museum stands opposite to the Duomo. Finely laid out with helpful information boards, it comprises an archaeologic and an art sections. The former collects material ranging from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic, recovered from grottoes in the area, excavations at Himera, among whith are two outstanding red-figure Attic kraters (5th century BC) and coinage from Ancient Greek, Roman and Punic periods; finally, a large room is devoted to Hellenistic and Roman pottery containing grave goods such as oil-lamps, small receptacles and ointment jars, figurines dressed in togas found in the forum and the so-called House of Stenius (1st century AD), portraits including one of Agrippina, the mother of Caligula, which still bears traces of paint; terracotta pipe from the aqueduct of Cornelius and Roman inscriptions. The Chapel of San Michele Arcangelo frescoed by Nicolò da Pettineo leads off the archeology department. It also contains a Madonna and Saints triptych by Gaspare da Pesaro (1453), a two-faced marble cross (15th century) by followers of Gagini, and an interesting 15th century wooden composition unusual in that it depicts the Trinity as a Pietà (with Holy Spirit personified). Through the chapel and up to the floor above, the art gallery is hung with paintings from the 17th-19th centuries. Notable works include a Flemish Annunciation (16th century), some works by local painter Vittorio La Barbera (Crucifixion, 17th century), San Sebastiano di Solimena and, into a small room at the far end, a tiny portable Byzantine-style 1700’s panel triptych.
From behind the Duomo, Via Belvedere leads up to a terrace providing a splendid view of the coast. A little further on, on the left is the gracious 1400’s Chiesa di Santa Caterina d’Alessandria with a fine pointed arch doorway surmounted by a shallow-relief of the saint. Just beyond lies the shaded gardens of Villa Palmeri, where are some remains of the Roman Curia. From the park, following Via Anfiteatro, are the remnants of the Roman Amphitheatre (1st century AD), its ambulatory piers still much in evidence.
Return to Piazza Duomo and take Via Mazzini; a little on, on the right, is the 1600’s Chiesa del Monte long used as the city’s Pantheon (mausoleum for dignitaries).
Città Bassa – Drive down to the lower part of town along the Serpentina Balsamo. A lane leading off a left bend provides a perfect opportunity to stop and take in the lovely view of the pale blue tiled dome of the Chiesa dell’Annunziata.
At the bottom is Piazza delle Terme, overshadowed by the Grande Albergo delle Terme, built in the 19th century to designs by architect Damiani Almeyda.
Acquedotto Cornelio – Take the road to Caccamo, and turn left (yellow sign); after some 300m on a bend, the Roman aqueduct comes into view on the left, its two tiers of arcades spanning the valley formed by the River Barratina.
Himera excavations – 18km to the east. Founded in 648 BC by colonists from Zancle, Himera was the scene of a crushing defeat of the Carthaginians at the hands of allied forces of Agrigento and Syracuse (480 BC). In 408 BC, the Carthaginians, newly invading the island, took and razed the town to the ground. The ancient town is situated atop a hill south of the main Messina-Palermo road. Here sections of the walls and remnants of three temples were brought to light. Along the road up to the site is the Antiquarium, that will be used to display relics.
The most important and best preserved of the buildings, is the Tempio della Vittoria (5th century BC), located at the foot of the hill, north of the main road. It seems that Greeks forced Carthaginians to built it to celebrate their victory in 480 BC. Dedicated to Athena, it was built in Doric style with six columns at the front and 14 down each side. Remains of columns, the cella, the pronaos and the opisthodomus are clearly visible. The eaves were marvellously decorated with sculpted lions’ heads, now in the Archaeological Museum of Palermo.
San Nicola l’Arena – 13 km west. A castle with three round towers overlooks the lovely tourist harbour of this seaside resort. An old shed on the harbour front still preserves various boats used for tuna fishing. In the distance (westwards) stands a lookout tower, poignantly situated on Capo Grosso.