Four of the best things to do in Palermo
For a true slice of urban life on this otherwise relaxed island, Palermo, the largest city in Sicily, is the place to visit. Boasting a bustling port city where Western, Arabic and African cultures have come together to create a truly unique combination of food, scenery, architecture and history. Palermo is often overlooked by those who visit Sicily, seeking out the beaches instead, though it is one of the most interesting and authentic cities in Italy, and is definitely worth a visit if you have the time on your Sicily holidays. Here are just five of the activities you need to try and places you need to visit while in Palermo:
Shop at Palermo’s great markets
One of the best ways to get a snapshot of everyday life in Sicily is to head to the markets, where you’ll be able to interact with sellers and enjoy the traditional sights, smells and sounds of the streets. Vucciria Market is the largest, a souk-like series of stalls between Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Piazza San Domenico, where you’ll find food, clothing, gifts and arts and crafts. Ballaro is the city’s oldest Arab-style market, where you’ll be certain to be caught up in the thrills of the hectic environment and you can enjoy a tasty yet inexpensive lunch from one of the stalls.
Soak up the architecture with Palermo’s museums, churches and palaces
Just like with the rest of Sicily, the architecture of Palermo is influenced by a mixture of cultures, and its museums, churches and palaces are an excellent testament to the Sicily of the past. The Palatine Chapel is one of the best examples of this cultural mix, its coloured mosaics, frescoes of Jesus and carved wooden ceilings are an excellent combination of Arab, Norman and Byzantine art. The Duomo, originally built by the Normans, was also later added to by the Goths, Spaniards and Italians, creating a truly unique building. One other building definitely worth a visit is the Church of Santa Caterina, a Baroque masterpiece with every inch of its interior intricately decorated with paintings, carvings and frescoes.
Try some of Sicily’s best foods
For some of the best Sicilian recipes, Palermo is definitely the best place to be, bringing together some of the best foods from all corners of the island. On a hot day, a gelato is a must, with citrus flavours such as lemon and orange being the locals’ favourites. Delicious cannoli, deep-fried ricotta-filled cones, are also another delicacy that you’ll find hard to top anywhere else. For something more substantial, try a milza sandwich – a Palermo special consisting of crusty bread, local caciocavallo cheese, fried cow spleen and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Visit the Capuchin catacombs
No visit to Palermo is complete without a visit to the creepy yet incredibly popular attraction, the Catacombe dei Cappuccini. Lined up along the walls of the catacombs are over 8000 corpses, fully dressed with frozen lifelike facial expressions. Originally a cemetery for the friars of the Capuchin monastery, the catacombs eventually grew into a museum of the dead. Located on the outskirts of the city, near Piazza Cappuccini, the catacombs are a fascinating place to visit and you’ll never see anything like it anywhere else.