Opera Dei Pupi (Rod Marionette Theatre)
One of the most remarkable traditional forms of entertainment is on full display at the Sicilian Puppet Theatre. Though these puppet shows became popular in the early 19th century, some of the legendary tales enacted by marionette knights, pirates, and saints date back to the 12th century.
In Palermo, you can tour the International Marionette Museum to see collections of Sicilian and international marionettes and a traditional puppet show in Italian and Sicilian dialect—a delight even if you don’t understand a word. The museum is located in the historic center of Palermo, and a visit can easily be paired with a walking tour of the city’s top attractions.
Things to know before you go
- Puppet shows are not held every day, so check the performance schedule ahead of time.
- Photos are not allowed during the show, but the historic marionettes on display in the museum make for great pictures.
- The museum and puppet theater is accessible to wheelchair users.
- Kids especially enjoy seeing puppets from across the world and a live puppet show at the museum.
How to get there
The International Marionette Museum is located on Piazzetta Antonio Pasqualino just steps from the waterfront in the historic center of Palermo, an easy walk from some of the city’s most famous attractions and the train station.
When to get there
If you would like to see a puppet show, check the performance schedule in advance or at the museum ticket window so you can plan your visit to the museum accordingly. The museum is closed on Sunday and Monday afternoons, but open all day the rest of the week.
The History of the Opera dei Pupi
In the 19th and early 20th century, Sicily’s marionette theater was at its peak, with traveling stages built into donkey carts giving performances using elaborately painted backdrops and hand-carved wooden marionettes across the island. Today, there are just a few places where the marionette theater tradition continues, and the era of these puppet companies being family-run operations with skills passed between generations is long gone.
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- Massimo Opera House (Teatro Massimo)
- Branciforte Palace (Palazzo Branciforte)
- Capo Market (Mercato di Capo)
- Vucciria Market (La Vucciria)
- Politeama Garibaldi Theater (Teatro Politeama Garibaldi)
- Piazza & Fontana Pretoria
- Four Corners (Quattro Canti)
- Palermo Cathedral (Cattedrale di Palermo)
- Church of the Gesù (Chiesa del Gesù)
- Mirto Palace House Museum (Palazzo Mirto Casa Museo)
- Ballarò Market (Mercato Ballarò)
- Chiaramonte-Steri Palace (Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri)
- Palermo Cruise Port (Terminal Crociere di Palermo)
- Palatine Chapel (Capella Palatina)