Local's Guide to Palermo, Sicily
Teresa Nanci Pappalardo
Arts & Culture
Food & Wine
Located on the northwestern coast of Sicily, Palermo is a beautiful multicultural city, and the capital. In addition to being infused with tradition and culture, the city is also filled with beautiful ancient buildings, monuments and historical neighborhoods.
The best way to experience Palermo is to walk through the historical district. There you will find tiny, almost maze-like, streets that lead to restaurants, cafes and markets where you can enjoy Sicilian-style gastronomy at its finest. In the heart of the city's historical center, you will find beautiful buildings reflecting both Arab and Norman style architecture.
While I have lived in Palermo for over 20 years, it still amazes me that on any given day, as I walk through the historical center or throughout the city, I still discover something new and beautiful. But what I love best about Palermo, is that even though it is a big city, it offers everyone a small town feeling of welcoming hospitality.
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Where to stay in Palermo, Sicily
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Excelsior Palace Palermo
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Things to do in Palermo, Sicily
Teatro Massimo: Italy's largest opera house, it is renowned for its perfect acoustics.
Palazzo Normanni: The Royal Palace of Palermo and once the seat of the kings of Sicily during the Hauteville Dynasty.
The Antonio Salinas Archeological Museum: Possesses one of the richest collections of Punic and Greek art in Italy.
Palatine Chapel: The Royal Chapel of the Norman Palace. Combines the architectural styles of Byzantine, Norman and Fatimid.
Quattro Canti: Baroque Square considered the very center of the historic quarters of Palermo.
La Martorana (The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Admiral): With over 230 ancient churches in Palermo, this 12th century Cathedral was originally planned as a mosque. The chapel is known for its beautiful Byzantium Mosaics.
The Capo Market: One of the four main Arabic-heritage street markets where you can find vendors selling fresh fruits vegetables meats and fish daily, as well as a variety of Palermo’s street style gastronomy.
Palazzo Conte Federico: One of the oldest buildings in Palermo, dating back to the 12th century. Built on Punic-Roman walls that originally surrounded Panormus (Palermo). The palace is still inhabited by the family who gives personal guided tours that give guests an inside look of the life of European Aristocracy.
Day Trips from Palermo
While visiting Palermo, I also recommend spending some time in the nearby suburbs. If you want to enjoy a white sandy beach, head to Mondello Beach. While in Mondello, you must have a seat at one of the local restaurants and enjoy the fresh catch of the day and, for the more adventurous types, the fresh octopus. Or, you can enjoy a cool aperol spritz and soak up some sun or watch the sunset at one of the beach side bars.
Another must see suburb of Palermo is Monreale, which is located on the hilltop overlooking the Conca D’Oro (The Golden Valley) and serves breathtaking panoramas of the city below. The Famous Duomo di Monreale is an attribute to the Norman architecture it is known for it beautiful mosaic art.
San Vito Lo Capo, Cefalù, The Temples of Agrigento and Ustica also make great day trips from Palermo.
Places to eat & drink in Palermo, Sicily
Palermo is filled with restaurants, cafes and markets where you can try the local delicacies. Some of the notable items include: fried arancini (the infamous rice balls filled with rich meat sauce or ham and besciamelle sauce), Panelle (a fried chickpea fritter eaten on its own or commonly eaten in a roll), fresh fish and of course you cannot leave Palermo without having a delicious Cannoli filled to order. Here is a list of my favorite places to eat in Palermo as a local:
Il Signor di Carbognano: Hands down best Gelato in Palermo.
SciaVuru: My absolute number 1 place for pizza in Palermo, as well as a variety of choices for local cuisine. If in season, ask for the tuna tartar as an appetizer, it is absolutely exquisite.
Bisso Bistro: Offers a great variety of local cuisine and offers a seasonal menu and fresh homemade pasta daily. It's my favorite lunch spot, but they are also open for dinner.
RoseMa Caffe: My go-to spot for espresso — they offer a variety of options for traditional gastronomy and home style lunch is available as well.
La Drogheria del Buongusto: A must for all your Charcuterie needs and great wine selection as well.
Al Chiosco: A great place for lunch while visiting Mondello beach with a variety of panini, salads and typical gastronomy.
Trattoria da Calogero: In Mondello beach, this is a great spot if you are a seafood lover, as they are known their fresh octopus.
Greg.Eat Ristoranino: Located in another seaside suburb of Palermo, Sferracavallo is worth the 20 minute drive. They offer a local cuisine with a new spin (if you decide to eat here reservations are recommended as they only have seating for around 30).
Lord Green: A great place for cocktails and live music.
I Cucci: A great place for an Aperol spritz while visiting the historic center.
Pizzo e Pizzo: Offers a great selection of wines as well as dining options.
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