Palermo travel guide - Sicily

Discover Palermo, with the most beautiful promontory in the world, its gastronomic delights, its crystal clear sea, its magical mix of Greek-Arabic-Roman.
The Palatine Chapel is the royal chapel situated in the Palazzo dei Normanni
The Palatine Chapel

1. Best things to do in Palermo

Without neglecting the multitude of monumentality that the Greek, Roman and Norman tradition gave the Sicilian capital, we are aiming straight at the shrine of Santa Rosalia, the patron saint of Palermo since she saved 600 people by the wave of plague that afflicted the island, located on the well known and stunning Monte Pellegrino.

 

Palermo Cathedral is a Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Virgin Marie. It is characterized by the presence of different styles.
Palermo Cathedral, photo by Dennis Jarvis

On this mount, between 3 and 4 September, you can arrive barefoot, in a sad and composed pilgrimage. Palermo Cathedral, however, deserves special mention: coming from the Teatro Massimo you will find a lot of unlikely shops full of junk; from military uniforms to typically Sicilians gadgets... then it offers an immense structure and original features: Do not expect the usual cathedral, but a mixture of forms and architectural styles in one body; to sign and remember the different peoples who, over the centuries, have alternated on Sicilian soil. The church was commissioned by Archbishop Walter of the Mill, and consecrated to the Virgin. It presents Byzantine and Sicilian Baroque-Romanesque influences, which are enriched by many palm trees ordered along the facade.

Another place not to be missed, is "the four corners" (the center of Palermo streets and crossroads of cultures), here you will find a myriad of coaches in charge of the tourists to explore the city in a completely green way; You can reach the Zisa Castle in which "you accounts devils and you can never keep count" thanks to a half quaint and quirky: "THE LAPA" Guides will accompany you through the maze of the old town ... The halls are exposed to some Islamic artefacts including elegant musciarabia (from masrabiyya), and the most common tools (candlesticks, bowls, basins, mortars) predominantly made of brass. You can also visit Zisa garden, imposing and fashinating.

Arancine is a typical dish of Palermo
Arancine, photo by Katherine H

2. Taste and local food

In Sicily, food and desserts are a real craze. Not only a tradition, but a cult to be preserved. One feature you can not forget is the sacred value of hospitality in Palermo, which pours into the continuous spasmodic supply of food!

This singular habit is summarized on the side of restaurants in a simple and inescapable dictates: you will always find, any time of the day, what you want to eat.

What to eat? You will be spoiled for choice. Bread with spleen, with or without grated cheese, to taste“ alla Focacceria San Francesco”), “pane e panelle” (fried chickpea flour, tasty and served in a sort of hamburgers for real vegan gourmet!

After that fried eggplant, fried broccoli, fried fish, fried potato patties not to be confused with the croquettes.

Arancini are everywhere, with classic tomato sauce, meat sauce and peas or white. Remember that in Palermo you will find a kind of arancino "orthodoxy", strictly in just two versions, red or white.

In Palermo, you can find multitudes of roasted vegetables, especially peppers and artichokes.

Do not forget to try fresh fish, from boiled octopus to sea urchins, mussels and babbaluci, snails with garlic and parsley lot. The babbaluci area is Corso dei Mille, here you can enjoy them in everywhere.

Peeled prickly pears and vegetables of every style (remember that the Sicilians "doc" never buy prickly pears already peeled, they peel them at the time, as well as the best cannoli are filled in front of you!).

Melon, pineapple and watermelon as the freshest local fruits, together with orange, lemonade or water with anise.

The cous cous is great and prepared in a tagine in a combo between culture Moroccan, Tunisian and Sicilian.

In western Sicily Cannolo is slightly different from the traditional one, just like the arancini. Cottage cheese with sugar and many variations, from the classic chocolate candies, pistachios to almonds.

On the September to do list do not forget Cous Cous Fest through the streets of San Vito Lo Capo in the province of Trapani. Do not miss the Chocolate kebab and Slow Food ice cream. Geometry of the cannoli The harmonious form of cannoli deserves a separate chapter.

They are sweet but sophisticated, pure and simple, as you see it. They look like ties or butterflies. Served on paper trays that do not have anything special except their sacred contents: an imaginary syncretism of religious and profane; the religion of the land and its products "good" by nature.

Mondello is Palermo's beach, it is a jewel of the Sicily
Mondello beaches, photo by Dennis Jarvis

 

3. Mondello and Surroundings

Mondello with its Caribbean beaches is a few kilometers away, and can be reached easily from the airport.

The promenade is wonderful off-season, without caos, when you can enjoy the breathtaking views and white sand. The reserve of Capo Rama has a remarkable fauna and geological interest due to the presence of rocks of karst features on which to grow plants like the dwarf palm.

Ustica is an enchanted island, off the coast of Palermo, a popular destination for visitors from all over the world is full of greenery and colorful birds.

Punta Barcarello is a bay situated in the natural reserve of Capo Gallo
Punta Barcarello, photo by Pietro Columba

4. Nature, sport and green itineraries

Slow travel Le Serre Pizzuta with their carbonate rocks are an alternative to walk by foot very impressive, with caves of great beauty like that of Zubbione and Garrone, ferns and vegetation.

Natural Reserve Caves Molara is another chance to walk with its caves and its dense wildlife. Reserve Genuardo and Monte Santa Maria del Bosco, founded in 1997, is a place rich in history and natural beauty.

Lake Plain is the oldest and largest man-made reservoir on the island, located a few kilometers from Palermo.

Thanks to the presence of numerous streams its surroundings are filled with aspen trees and majestic willow trees, the lake environment is rich in freshwater ponds.

The coastal nature reserve of Capo Gallo, consisting of the promontory that divides the two gulfs of Mondello and Sferracavallo, is full of caves like the Oil, similar to the Blue Grotta of Capri. Many of these caves preserve important archaeological and prehistoric features: to explore by foot and... swimming!

An interesting bike trail is the one from Palermo to Agrigento that can be followed starting from Ficuzza Wood, with a full immersion in the fantastic Sosio Reserve, in the name of nature. Moving on to the WWF Reserve of Torre Salsa, Lavalle of Temples and town Agrigento you can also visit the Sicani Mountains, with small geysers, Bivona and Palazzo Adriano.

 

Palermo street view by horse-drawn
Palermo street view by horse-drawn, photo by Patrick Nouhailler

5. Where to stay in the city and surroundings

You can choose to sleep in an old farm or in an organic agritourism in a natural park. In a small eco-friendly B&B in the historical center of Palermo, or in a design hotel that reduce its environmental impact.

Discover all the eco-accommodations in Palermo province

Author: Angela Sebastianelli

Cover Image: 

Eco-friendly accommodations

Lake Sails

Piana degli Albanesi (Sicily)

Starting from 49,00 €
La Terrazza sui Normanni

Palermo (Sicily)

Starting from 60,00 €
BioResidence Lago sopra Palermo

Piana degli Albanesi (Sicilia)

Starting from 99,00 €
Agriturismo Valle del Torto

Caccamo (Sicilia)

Starting from 50,00 €
Hotel Orleans

Palermo (Sicilia)

Starting from 52,00 €
B&B a km zero in collina - Sicilia

Casteldaccia (Sicilia)

Starting from 42,00 €
B&B Alla Vucciria

Palermo (Sicilia)

Starting from 70,00 €
Mojo B&B

Palermo (Sicilia)

Starting from 45,00 €
Hotel Clelia

Ustica (Sicilia)

Starting from 49,00 €
Da Niní e Calò

Castronovo di Sicilia (Sicilia)

Starting from 17,00 €
Baialuce

Castellammare del Golfo (Sicilia)

Starting from 157,00 €
Fattoria di Gesu

Villalba (Sicilia)

Starting from 45,00 €
Mandra Chiusilla

Collesano (Sicilia)

Starting from 70,00 €
Fattoria Carcaci

Castronovo di Sicilia (Sicilia)

Starting from 35,00 €
B&B CaltArt

Caltavuturo (Sicilia)

Starting from 50,00 €