In Palermo, there is no such word as “stranger”: every traveler visiting the city becomes a new citizen. This is the message that the Palermo community, for thousands of years across populations and traditions uses to describe its progressive soul. This is also what created a strong connection between Airbnb and Palermo, 2018 Italian Capital of Culture.
A few days ago, Leoluca Orlando became the first Mayor in the world to become a host, creating an Experience on Airbnb for the city of Palermo, and it’s a pretty unique one. Mayor Orlando welcomed a group of travelers that got to attend the most important celebration of the city, the Festino di Santa Rosalia with a procession along the most beautiful places of the city alongside him. Each year, the feast celebrates the Saint who contributed to fighting the plague in 1624.
Participants come from all over the world – United States, North Europe and Australia – and become Palermitan for a night. Like Lisa, from New South Wales, who in her review of the Experience wrote: “I will remember this night for the rest of my life”. It’s a common sentiment among those who attended.
This year the feast, that just celebrated its 349th anniversary, drew thousands of travelers and citizens along the picturesque streets, was dedicated to children and what they inspire.
“Kids” explained the Municipality, “ask for a larger vision, a project, to achieve with daily commitment. Palermo chose their point of view because children don’t care about the color of the skin, the religion, or the provenance, just like Palermo: we welcome everyone.”
It was once a Greek and then a Roman city, before becoming an Arab capital which was later conquered by Normans and the Swedish. Palermo gathers all its traditions around the big popular procession of Santa Rosalia that starts – with music and dances – from the Cathedral with a main cart shaped like a boat. Tradition has the Mayor in charge of the procession, shouting, “Hurray for Palermo and Santa Rosalia!” before leaving flowers at the feet of the stature of the Saint, placed at the main crossroad of the city, at Quattro Canti (Four Corners).
Eventually the procession moves on to the coast, at the Marina, packed with colors and customs, celebrating life and the memory of the victory over the plague.
Palermo signed the Carta di Palermo in 2015, a forward-thinking declaration of intent regarding the topics of integration and citizenship, in which the main concept revolves around the right of international mobility. The principle of belonging also guides the partnership initiated with Airbnb, in which Palermo boosts a lively and growing community of hosts who also recently reorganized under an association, SìHost. Following the collaboration of last year’s launch of the national plan on Italian Villages, the Experience dedicated to Santa Rosalia and the digitalization of the tourist tax, the next important milestone for the partnership between Airbnb and Palermo will be to develop an extremely innovative project.
A participatory project will involve associations, citizens, the Municipality of Palermo and Palermo hosts next Fall to survey which project should benefit from the tourist tax collected and remitted by Airbnb to the city of Palermo.
With the first quarterly payment due, Airbnb just remitted the tourist tax collected from April to June 2018, for a total of nearly €200,000 to the city of Palermo, marking a key step towards the transparency and digitalization of the department.
The project, based on a workshop promoted by Airbnb and coordinated by hosts, will put together some visions of Palermo’s future. The outcome of this meeting will be used to pinpoint a project dedicated to the promotion or the well-being of the city, focusing on tourism hospitality, social policies or urban renovation, in line with the city of Palermo’s priorities.
“We are witnessing an extraordinary example of synergy”, said Mayor Orlando, “a synergy between private businesses and public administration; between new technologies and answers to the territory’s needs; between citizens of Palermo who love their city and tools that allow them to share this sentiment. The agreement stipulated with Airbnb resulted in a driving force that ignites a righteous itinerary in which everyone finds their role and their place with reciprocal advantages. A way to collaborate and exchange ideas we hope to turn into a paradigm for our territory, so we can extend it to other situations.”