Palermo is a city rich in history, tradition and culture. Like many southern capitals it can be very chaotic and sometimes neglected but its trump card is certainly the authenticity within. It’s a place rich in beautiful churches, incredible sites and sumptuous historic buildings that preserve its heritage. In very few places, like in Palermo, you’re mesmerised at every aspect, its sounds, colours and strong flavours as well as discovering the contradictions of a place that is merely suspended between past and present.
A must visit?
The Santa Caterina monastery where you can peek into the cloistered life of the nuns who used to live there and taste Sicilian pastries made with their ancient recipes. The adjoining baroque church is one of the most evocative of Palermo. WEBSITE
A stolen secret?
The Capuchin catacombs and their monumental cemetery. A strong but unique experience that reveals the complex cult of the dead in Southern Italy. Look out for little Rosalia in her glass case, preserved through a secret process that makes her seem as though she’s asleep. WEBSITE
An unmissable excursion?
Do not miss the Cathedral of Monreale with its Byzantine mosaics; but equally fascinating is a trip to the Phoenician island of Mozia, only a ten minute boat trip. Look out for the ancient paved road that connected the island to the mainland, still visible underwater. Upon the island, begin the journey at the Infersa Salt flats, where you’ll witness rolling hills of the most precious salts in the Mediterranean. Nearby, a small museum and a picturesque little restaurant “Mamma Caura” where you’ll find the best dishes of Trapani cuisine. WEBSITE
The best moment of the day?
Returning from Mozia, the most beautiful moment of the day is to watch the sunset from the Doric temple of Segesta, one of the most beautiful sites and best preserved temples in the world. WEBSITE
A relaxing moment?
An aperitif at the Giardino Duca di Serradifalco, followed by a gourmet dinner and home made ice-cream tasting with exquisite and unusual flavours. Priceless to sip a drink among the centenary trees away from the traffic and noise of the city. A natural oasis in the city center where the silence of nature surrounded by soft lights and fragrant flowers is utterly refreshing. WEBSITE
A special experience?
Without a doubt one of the most special experiences is to sleep in The Chandelier Apartment of Palazzo Alliata, a luxury apartment located in one of the historic buildings of Palermo and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the Sicilian aristocracy. WEBSITE
The essence of Palermo?
Visit the Mercato del Capo with many vendors, amongst a whirlwind of voices and shouts, display fruits, vegetables and fresh fish. Here you can also try the delicacies of local street food while sitting at the tables among the traders’ stalls.
Book a jazz concert at the Palermo Brass Group at the ancient Teatro di Santa Cecilia. Sip on your favourite cocktail as you listen to live music and immerse yourself in an old-school kind of atmosphere. WEBSITE
An unforgettable dish?
Taste Spaghetti with Sea Urchins at the frugal restaurant “al Nautilus” in Arenella, a popular district of Palermo. Here you can choose among a daily selection of fresh fish directly from the counter. Perhaps after dinner you can savour a drink on the terrace overlooking the ancient tuna fishery.
The most beautiful landscape?
From Seven, rooftop of the Ambasciatori hotel, with a breathtaking view over the rooftops and church domes. It’s a magical atmosphere where the city lights extend the views across the entire city, from the Port to Monte Pellegrino. WEBSITE
Buy a sea turtle frame (a protected species whose trade is now forbidden) at the workshop of Marcello Meli (via Dante 294). The artisan still works the turtle carapace using a supply that dates back to before the war, certified and guaranteed in compliance with environmental protection laws. Just as beautiful are the marvellous works of silver and corals and the frames of precious shredded wood.
A must drink?
At the Farmacia Alcolica in via Alloro, in the historic center of Palermo. The bar presents itself with an unconventional atmosphere, offering drinks of all sorts and flavours. A eclectic mix of styles, colours, furnishings and tastes that will certainly amaze you.
What to pack for the weekend?
To visit Palermo you certainly need comfortable shoes, casual clothes and a swimsuit and coverup in summer. Do not forget sunglasses and a sun hat as well as a more formal dress for the evenings spent at the jazz theatre or at the opera.
Mondello beach is famous for its crystal clear Caribbean waters, unfortunately, however, in the months of July and August, the coast is very crowded and the cliff on the Addaura side is a better option. Spend the day at the Plait Mare stabilimento, where there is also a beach hut where you can have a lunch whilst admiring the green and blue hues of the sea. WEBSITE
If we’re talking about luxury then you must treat yourself to Villa Igiea of the Rocco Forte hotel group, overlooking the calm sea. Beautiful dinners on the terrace immersed in the unique atmosphere of this building filled with history and magic. But if instead you wish to immerse yourself in the true atmosphere of the historic center, try I Mori di Porta Nuova. It’s a brand new b&b housed within a 19th century building with only 7 elegant rooms. There’s also a panoramic rooftop, where you can enjoy breakfast or private dinners, with an exclusive view of Porta Nuova, where guests can enjoy breakfast or private dinners. Finally, Sui Tetti di Balarm is a small residence set among the roofs and domes of the most beautiful churches. Only four rooms, two of which have a Jacuzzi positioned on the Sicilian majolica terraces.