I had a few days off and I wanted to spend them in a city – not in the mountains, not at the spa, not in a resort. I just wanted to roam the streets, to see and discover new places, to replenish my batteries with some positive energy. I chose Palermo, who was long on the list of places where I really craved to go. I arrived at the hotel, I left my luggage and, eagerly, I went for a walk. And I convinced myself in a moment that I’ve made the right choice. And more than that, Palermo – out of so many cities I had the chance to see – has a special place in my heart, a place in which I would very much like to return. If you’re going for the first time in the largest city in Sicily, find below a few things that will be helpful.
Admire the arhitectural mix
Yes, a mesmerizing blend, as in Palermo you’ll find both Western and Arabic influences – the combination is fabulous, you have to see it to believe it. Just walk the streets and look around. Step into the museums, churches, or palaces and get ready to be surprised. And if it’s somehow expected that the palaces and the museums to be grand, impressive, well, the churches are truly special. Don’t miss the Cathedral of Palermo and Cappella Palatina.
Do not miss the traditional markets
Packed, humming, colorful – hustling and bustling around the clock. Vucciria, Capo, Ballaro and Borgo Vecchio are the four major markets in the city. The last, the one close to the port, is the most modern one and it’s open all night. For all the others, be sure to get there before 2 PM – the merchants have kept their customary way of living and their traditions alive and intact. And that’s unnegotiable! There you find any fruits and vegetables you might think of (even raspberries in December), dried tomatoes, red oranges, pistachio – and even if you’ve had your lunch, you’ll get instantly hungry at the sight of heavenly goodies, from the most exotic condiments to the varieties of fish and seafood.
Have a bite on the street
Palermo is renowned for its street food and I have to confirm that’s a real experience. A great deal for a real treat. On one day when I arrived, during lunch time, in Capo market, I was stunned to see people literally queuing in front of a small food boutique, feasting themselves standing, from plastic plates. Naturally, I tried it myself, and it was there that I savored the best – and the cheapest – pasta ever. My appetite goes wild only thinking of them. And while we’re on the subject, you can also find street food and traditional dishes made from intestines and bowels. Pani ca’ meusa is a sandwich with chunks of beef spleen and is so tasty that you’ll probably order another one. Oh, and don’t forget about cannoli, the best Sicilian dessert!
Visit The Capuchin Catacombs
Before you start heading towards the Catacombe dei Cappuccini, it’s better to know what to expect: here are displayed over 8000 embalmed corpses. The catacombs were dug beneath the Capuchin Monastery, because the cemetery was full. Initially, they were intended only to monks, but then, all the rich were buried here. I know, it sounds macabre, but the Catacombes are among the most visited places in Palermo.
Relax at the beach
The nearest beach is Mondello and you can get there in about 20 minutes, by bus. Although it’s rather crowded in the season, it’s worth the trip: it’s a gorgeous place, with white sand and turquoise waters. Many Palermo residents come to relax here, so you’ll have an authentic Italian experience. Ciao and Buon divertimento!