What to do in Palermo and surroundings?
Palermo and province
Palermo city: Decadent beauty. Magical chaos. These are the first words coming into my mind when I think of my hometown. The best way to visit Palermo is walking around the historical centre and getting lost in its tiny, irrational and fascinating streets (be careful with your belongings). Palermo is a jump into the past. You can breathe the History. Palermo is Arab, Jewish, Norman, French, Catalan, Spanish. And, of course, Italian. Palermo is a victim of the Second World War (you can still see some buildings destroyed by American and English bombs).
Pass by PIAZZA POLITEAMA, TEATRO MASSIMO, VIA MAQUEDA, QUATTRO CANTI, PIAZZA DELLA VERGOGNA, PIAZZA SAN FRANCESCO DI PAOLA, PIAZZA MARINA, MURA DELLE CATTIVE, CALA (i.e. the old port) and LUNGOMARE, VIA DELL’ALLORO, PIAZZA DELLA MAGIONE, among other things. Don’t miss the CATHEDRAL, the CHIESA DI SANTA CATERINA and PALAZZO DEI NORMANNI (and inside, the CAPPELLA PALATINA), as well as the amazing Norman-Arabian buildings such as the castle ‘La Zisa’ and the churches of ‘Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio’ and San Giovanni degli Eremiti’. One of the most characteristic (and most beautiful) things to do… the food markets. They are only open in the morning: I would recommend visiting the biggest one, known as BALLARO’, and if you have enough time, the VUCCIRIA and CAPO.
I am talking only about the historical centre because, unfortunately, the rest of the city (especially the 19th century expansion) has been awfully devastated by the speculative overbuilding of the past decades (years of Mafia administration in the 70s – 80s changed the city drastically). Nevertheless, a walk alongside Via Libertà, starting from Piazza Politeama, will allow you to see a number of buildings in art-nouveau style, preserved among other modern structures.
Museums: I would suggest the ‘Palazzo Abatellis’ (a 15th century gothic-Catalan building), where you can find the impressive painting ‘Il Trionfo della Morte’. Among other relevant museums: Museo Archeologico Siciliano and the Galleria d’Arte Moderna. If you are not scared of the (real) walking dead, go to the ‘Catacombe dei Cappuccini’. You will never forget this experience…
Food: the food is general good and cheap. For a good PANINO CON LE PANELLE or PANINO CA MEUSA (a panini with cow spleen) go to FRANCO U VASTIDDARU (corso Vittorio Emanuele) or to FOCACCERIA SAN FRANCESCO (piazza san Francesco di Paola). For a good GELATO AL PISTACCHIO, go to ILARDO (via marina, close to piazza marina). Try the local ROSTICCERIA (you will find unbelievable how cheap it is) in GANCI or SPINNATO. For deliciuos ARANCINE go to Bar Touring in Via Lincoln, right in front of the beautiful Botanic Gardens of Palermo or to Ke Palle. For lunch or dinner in the city center (typical Sicilian trattoria): Bisso Bistrot, Focacceria Basile, Ferro di Cavallo or Al Vecchio Club Rosanero, to name a few. For aperitivo go to La Cala or one of the nice places of Piazza Rivoluzione and Via Garibaldi.
Accommodation: I am not an expert about hotels and B&B in Palermo as it’s my home town but I know that B&B Cosmopolitan is very well located and has good quality/price balance.
Tours: one of the nicest way to discover Palermo is by bike 🙂 You can do an organized tour with Social Bike or rent bikes and go around by yourself. Also, don’t miss the Street Food tour to discover the delicacies of the city!
Around Palermo: from Palermo you can go to Mondello (Palermo’s seaside, full of people but still beautiful), Monreale (to visit the second cathedral with amazing mosaics inside), Bagheria (to visit some VILLAS from the 19th-20th century – Gattopardo style), Cefalu’ (sweet mediaeval town by the sea). Sicily is special also because you have sea and mountains at the same time. I would also recommend to go for the mountains and visit (by car) the nice mediaeval villages of the MADONIE Mountains, especially GERACI, GANCI, PETRALIA and SPERLINGA. If you decide to go to the Madonie, I would suggest booking one of the fantastic AGRITURISMO in the countryside.
Trapani is a cute small town surrounded by amazing places. If you are looking for breath-taking beaches, go to Scopello, San Vito lo Capo and the Egadi Islands (you can easily go to Favignana or Marettimo from Trapani). If you feel like jumping into the Ancient Greek culture… go to visit the Archaeological areas of Selinunte and Segesta. They are amazing. Don’t miss Erice and its astonishing view.
It is worth to visit the VALLE DEI TEMPLI. In summertime it is open in the evening as well… it’s charming! If you are in Agrigento, visit SCALA DEI TURCHI seaside with its beautiful white stones.
The best months to go to Sicily are May, June, September and October