Trying to decide where to go in Sicily? Head to Palermo Italy ! This fascinating vibrant city offers something for all tastes: historical museums, Byzantine palaces and churches, busy outdoor markets and refined boutiques, excellent restaurants and delicious street food.
Stroll in the old centre along Via Vittorio Emanuele to see the spectacular reminders of Palermo’s eventful past. The majestic Palace of the Normans (Palazzo dei Normanni) that used to be the seat of the Kings of Sicily is filled with fine mosaics and shows the Arab-Norman-Byzantine style that prevailed in the 12th-century Sicily at its best. Palermo cathedral is another example of different stages in Sicily’s history: the church was enlarged, altered and restored in different ages and today you can see the eclectic mix of the Norman, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles.
The Catacombs of Palermo (Catacombe dei Cappuccini), one of the city’s tourist attractions, provide a macabre experience and a glance at Palermo’s inhabitants from the past or, rather, their remains. From the 16th to the 19th century the catacombs were the burial place for wealthy privileged citizens. Today 8,000 mummified deceased dressed to the nines line the walls of the Capuchin monastery basement. It is certainly not the faint-hearted!
After a visit to the silent Catacombs Palermo’s busy open-air markets with their lively buzz will provide a welcome contrast. The Vucciria Market has been going for 700 years and today you will find anything here: from knock-off designer clothes and handbags to fresh produce, meats, cheese, spices and household items. You will also find some good souvenirs and local handcrafts here. The Piazza Peranni market is a heaven for antique junkies. Haggling is a “must” here, however, make sure you are getting the real deal and not a well-crafted copy!
Palermo is famous for its street food and the best delicacies are to be found at the Mercato di Capo and Ballaro. Gorge on arancine (fried rice balls with various fillings), cazilli (potato croquettes), panelle (chickpea fritters) and pani ca meusa (sandwich with lungs and spleen). Make sure you have a cannolo or two. They say that Palermo is the best place to enjoy these famous crunchy sweet ricotta-filled cones.
Photos by: Dennis Jarvis, Stefano Benetti, Francesco d’Elia.