The legend of the Testa di Moro (Head of the Moor) dates back to the 11th century when the Moors dominated Sicily. The story goes like this:
In the heart of the Kalsa, the Arab quarter of Palermo, lived a young Sicilian girl. She was very beautiful with long black hair and blue eyes like the Mediterranean Sea. She spent all of her days gardening. She had lots of flowers and exotic plants and she used to display them on the balcony. One day, a young Moorish merchant was walking down the street when he noticed her beautiful garden. He waited to see the owner of such beautiful flowers, and once he saw the girl, he fell in love with such beauty. After having declared to her his sincere love he started to pass in front of the girl’s window every day until she fell in love with him as well. But one day the Moor told her that he had to return to his country where his wife and children were waiting for him.
The young girl, with her heart broken and her honor lost, decided to plan her revenge. Before his leaving she convinced him to spend one last night of passion together, which of course he agreed to. Once he fell asleep, she beheaded him. What could she do with his head? She decided to use it as a vase for her lovely flowered balcony so that her lover would stay with her forever. She planted it with basil, which grew lushly, and the envious neighbors commissioned terracotta vases shaped with the head of a Moor.
Text from mynameispalermo.com