Surrounded by mountains and sea, the Sicilian city of Palermo has obvious charms – indeed, it was named Italy’s Capital of Culture for 2018. And although its unique attractions take a while to reveal themselves, there are historical gems and cultural treasures galore.
This wonderful city contains a delightful mix of faded opulence and super-chic shops and restaurants.
The port of Palermo is situated in the heart of the city and therefore it is as simple as getting off the ship and walking into the centre.
As far as distance is concerned, it is approximately a 15-minute walk to the main shopping area and a leisurely 25-minute walk to the historic old town.
Taxis are available and fares cost from €10.
NEED TO KNOW
Keep an eye on the traffic. Sicilians aren’t the safest of drivers and a lapse in concentration could cause a collision with a speeding Vespa.
The main shopping area in Palermo is the Via Ruggiero Settimo, where iconic Italian shopping houses reside. The Corso Alberto Amedeo is the place to go for antiques and art shops.
Those who enjoy a stroll will find plenty to keep them occupied on Palermo’s streets, but beware of hailing a taxi, as these can be very expensive.
WHAT WE LOVE
Palermo Cathedral: At various times in its rich and complex history, the cathedral has served as a mosque and burial place of Christian kings – hence its encyclopaedic range of architectural styles – Norman, Moorish, Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical.
Santa Caterina: Nestled between Piazza Bellini and Piazza Pretoria in the historic city centre, the church of Santa Caterina looks anything but impressive from outside, but the plain façade hides a brilliant Baroque interior. Built in the late 16th century as a convent (the last nuns left only a few years ago), the building is richly decorated with paintings, marble ornamentation and endless frescoes.
The Catacombs: Not for the faint-hearted, the Catacombe dei Cappuccini houses nearly 8,000 corpses dressed in their Sunday best. The oldest is Friar Silvestro da Gubbio, who was interred in 1599, and the most recent dates from the 1920s. It’s believed that the dry atmosphere in the catacombs allows bodies to mummify naturally, and many are astonishingly well preserved. Costing just €3 per entry, the experience is fascinating, historically and culturally significant.
Ballaro Street Market: This famous market is paradise for lovers of street food. It runs for around seven city blocks, serving up a superb range of local delicacies, as well as clothes – although not in the same abundance as food.
- Street food connoisseurs are sure to love this slice of Sicily
- Take a guided walking tour to see some of the city’s hidden backstreets
- Visit the antique shops to find local goods