Palermo is one of the centres of Stile Liberty in Italy and an exceptional case in terms of the country's southern provinces. In contrast to Italy's northern cities, such as Milan, Turin and Bologna, Stile Liberty in Palermo developed with a certain degree of independence in terms of foreign influences thanks to the work of two renowned European figures: the architect and designer Ernesto Basile and the cabinetmaker Vittorio Ducrot, both of whom were responsible for the idea of the complete work of art in Italy.
The name of Stile Liberty for this new style was derived from the London firm of Arthur Lasenby Liberty and was popularised in Italy around the time of the International Expositions in Turin, 1902, Venice, 1903, and Milan, 1906. In the case of Palermo, experimentation with new forms began in the last decade of the 19th century and covered everything from architecture to the industrial and decorative arts, such as wrought iron work, ceramics, glasswork, mosaics and furniture. After the Kingdom of Italy had annexed Sicily in 1860, the city began a modernisation process of its urban and economic infrastructures that culminated in a general regulatory plan designed by the engineer Felice Giarrusso in 1885, as well as the organisation of the National Exposition in 1891. Urban planning renovation was centred on the northern part of the city, in an area between the train station and the port. The construction of new roads paved the way for land being made available for construction purposes and this was where the most important public Stile Liberty buildings in Palermo were concentrated, such as the Cassa Centrale di Risparmio and the Palazzo delle Assicurazzioni Generali Venezia, both by Basile, or the Teatro Biondo de Mineo and the Palazzo Ammirata de Rivas.
The presence in the city of an industrial and entrepreneurial middle class helped in the acceptance of this new art, which was identified in Italy with the birth of political union and economic prosperity. One of the families committed to Stile Liberty was the Florio family, who commissioned René Lalique to design the logo for the Targa Florio, a Sicilian car race, and Basile for the exterior and interior design of their home.
Alongside the Florio family, who also dedicated themselves to decorative ceramic work, the Golia-Ducrot family, owners of Italy's most important furniture and decorative objects company, modernised and internationalised the production of Sicilian handicrafts. The collaboration of Ducrot and Basile from 1899 resulted in the production of authentic Stile Liberty settings, such as the dining room of the Hotel Villa Igiea and Basile's own house, the Villa Idea, a complete Stile Liberty project that, together with the Villa Fassini, are the two jewels of Basile's new building design language, inspired by Norman and Catalan Gothic traditions in Sicilian Architecture.