The Cassaro (Sicilian: u Càssaru) is the most ancient street of Palermo. From the late 16th century the street also had the name Via Toledo. Following the unification of Italy, it was officially renamed Via Vittorio Emanuele II, but the old and distinctive name is still in use. The street is rooted in the age of the foundation of Palermo by the Phoenicians. It provides access to a number of important sights, including the Royal Palace (also known as Palazzo dei Normanni) and the Cathedral, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The name "Cassaro" comes from the Arabic word "Qasr" (fortress, castle). In fact, during the era of the Islamic Sicily, Panormus, called Balarm by the Saracens, became the island's capital and a large portion of the ancient city was widely fortified. In the Middle Ages, especially during the Islamic and Norman periods, the street was also called "As-Simat Al-Balat" (Arabic) and "Via (Platea) Marmorea" (Latin) because it was paved with slabs of marble. Even now, the Arabic word "balat(a)" is used in Sicily to indicate the marble.
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