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Shifting Imageries: Gentrification and the New Touristic Images of the Inner City of Palermo


After the bombings of 1943, the historic centre of Palermo was left with several crumbling buildings and a social situation of some concern. Therefore, over the last sixty years, all kinds of representations of Palermo have revolved around the presence of criminal organizations and the risks of living in the most dangerous areas of the city (including the city centre). These representations started to change around the beginning of the new century when the inner city of Palermo underwent an intense process of redefinition of its territorial identity. Several key factors may be used to explain this process: from traditional economic reasons concerning gentrification and touristification, to culture-led approaches and to urban policies that support the organization of megaevents (Manifesta 12, Italian Capital of Culture, etc.). Participation processes taking place in the city centre have also furthered the scope and range of these changes, trying to mark a distance from the past. This chapter aims to provide the results of ongoing action-research held in the inner city of Palermo, with the goal of describing the imageries that both local social actors, foreigners and tourists are shaping in their redefinition of what Palermo is or should be.