Palermo, the capital city of Italy’s most famous island, Sicily, has a deep and rich history. Once referred to as the “Kingdom of the Sun”, the city is viewed as a cultural melting pot with many waves of invading forces over the centuries leaving their indelible mark. Palermo highlights the many natural wonders and cultural treasures that entice travellers to visit the largest island in the entire Mediterranean.
Palermo, why visit Sicily’s capital?
Surrounded by pristine beaches and spectacular cliffside villages, Sicily has a lot of wonderful things to offer, and the bustling capital, Palermo is a standout.
Considered one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, Palermo, showcases its historic, artistic, and architectural heritage as soon as you arrive. This is clear, the moment you stand in Piazza Vigliena, where the four baroque corners mark the centre of Palermo’s historic quarter, locally known as Quattro Canti. It’s kind of picture-perfect and a great starting point from which to orientate yourself when exploring the city.
What to see and do in Palermo? We share with you, our three highlights.
Awarded the Italian Capital of Culture title in 2018, and host to the prestigious Manifesta contemporary art biennale event, Palermo projects a diverse scope of culture. Prepare to be captured, entertained, and left in awe with Palermo’s offerings.
One cannot miss Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele located in Piazza Verdi, the third largest opera house in Europe. Taking twenty years to complete, this grand architectural masterpiece was built using local stone and marble, and its location marks where Palermo’s ancient quarters meet its new(er) lively city. Whether you attend the Opera or simply do a tour, this is a must-see.
Next, Palermo is famous for its local markets and street food. Wander around the local markets tangled in Palermo’s narrow side streets and alleyways. There are three markets, in fact: Capo, Vucciria and Ballaro. Immerse yourself in Sicilian street food and delicacies – where you will notice a strong Arabic presence, which dates to the 8th century. These bazaar-like markets offer visitors an abundance and variety of local produce, making them famous throughout Italy. Some local specialities to try are;
Panelle: Fired chickpea fritters that can be enjoyed on their own or in a panino. You will find them sold at Panellerie which along with Panelle sell lots of other tasty Palermitana street food snacks like fried potato croquettes, fried eggplant and artichokes. They can be enjoyed in a sandwich or on a piatto misto, mixed plate (pictured below).
Arancina: Sicily is divided in two with western Sicily and Palermo calling them Arancina, while their eastern neighbours around Catania calling them Arancino. The debate has been raging for centuries back to the time of the Sicilian Normans in the 12th century. Palermo’s version of this famous street food of fried and breadcrumbed rice balls with different fillings are round and resemble an orange, which in Italian is arancia. Whereas Catania’s version, Arancino, is conical in form often said to pay homage to the ever present view of Mt Etna. They are readily available from street vendors, markets or deli’s with various versions, the most famous of which are with cheese, butter and saffron or the more popular meat sauce filling.
Sfincione: similar to a crunchy pizza or foccacia bite, Sfincione are often seasoned with herbs, cheese, onion, tomato sauce and anchovies. Beware, they are incredibly moreish and it is hard to stop at just one.
Ok, so when talking about a regional capital it would be remiss of us not mention a monumental church, and this one is something special. Our third must see highlight of Palermo is Cappella Palatina (the Palatine Chapel) which dates to the 11th-century, and is the royal chapel in the grand and magnificent Norman Palace (Palazzo dei Normanni). Built by the Arabs, Cappella Palatina is a breathtaking sight projecting Latin, Byzantine, and Arabic influences, where gold, mosaics and marble coverings span across every inch of its interior. This is a sight to see.
Oh, and one more highlight to squeeze in when visiting Palermo.
Just outside of Palermo, you will find Monreale, a historic hill-town famous for the Byzantine mosaics found in the Norman Cathedral. Referred to as the Duomo, it dominates this small town’s landscape, demanding your time to visit its breathtaking interiors. Found clinging to the slopes of Monte Caputo, enter to experience the most exquisite Byzantine mosaics which cover 6,400 square metres of the Duomo’s walls and ceiling – mosaic’s depicting religious scenes from the Bible.
How to get to Palermo?
Want to learn more about Palermo, the beautiful capital of Sicily? Vita Italian Tours take you to Palermo as well as many other must-see destinations in Sicily, where you will experience Sicilian culture and cuisine at its finest. Join us on the Colours of Sicily tour and immerse yourself in everything Sicilian. If independent travel is more your style, why not let Vita Italian Tours plan a tailor-made self-drive or chauffeur driven private itinerary for you.
Contact us today to plan your visit.
Written by. Dijana – Marketing Manager & Content Creator.