Via Vittorio Emanuele, formerly known as Cassaro, is the oldest street in the Palermo. Its creation dates back to the foundation of the city by the Phoenicians and was the main street that connected the area of the port with the necropolis, located just outside the walls of the ancient city. Later, with the Arabs, it became the axis of the urban structure that connected the Qasr (the royal palace) with the Porta di mare (later replaced by the church of St. Anthony the Abbot) and gave it the name of Sìmat al balat, or paved street in Arabic. From it all the other streets and alleys of the city branch off, according to the typical Arab urban structure. During the Norman domination the Cassaro (from the Arabic al-qasr, or castle because of its proximity to the city’s palace) was renamed “The Marble Road”, because of its marble-like white pavement. The structure remained unchanged until 1564, when the viceroy Garzia de Toledo decided to extend it to the church of Santa Maria di Porto Salvo (at Piazza Marina) and gave it the name of Via Toledo. Only 17 years later the viceroy Marc’Antonio Colonna approved the extension to the sea with the construction of the Porta Felice. The street took its current name on December 1, 1860, on the occasion of the visit of King Vittorio Emanuele, which occurred following the plebiscite of October 21, preceding, which annexed Sicily to the Kingdom of Italy.
Today, Via Vittorio Emanuele is still an important axis of the city that continues straight to the sea for about two kilometers. It overlooks some of the most important places of interest in the city such as the Cathedral, the Norman Palace, Porta Nuova, Porta Felice, as well as many churches and ancient palaces of inestimable historical value. The intersection with Via Maqueda forms the Quattro Canti, the baroque center of the city and meeting point of the four main districts of the historic center.