Last weekend, I decided to take a day-off from teaching and take a long-weekend trip to Sicily’s capital city, Palermo.
Palermo is a superbly interesting and cultural destination with unstable history having been constantly passed from one ruling hand to the other: the Normans, Spanish, Romans and Arabians, to name a few. I had be really excited about seeing it, having heard so much about the city from my students and other Sicilians.
Immediately I was entranced by the bustling multicultural city life, but disappointed for the lack of sights. I had been told 3 days wouldn’t be enough time in Palermo, but I felt satisfied from just a day of walking around. (Saying that, we’re very poor and can’t pay to enter any of the museums or other Churches, so this may have been a factor.)
But anyway, Palermo is still an absolute must-see in Sicily, and if you only have a day or two, here are the Top 6 Things You Cannot Miss:
Top 6 Things to Do in Palermo:
1. Try the street food. Anthony Bourdain declared Palermo’s street food as “dangerously serious”, and he was right. Starting from 8pm on a weekend, you’ll see the narrow streets explode with people drinking cheap (only €0.50-€2.00) drinks and snacking on Palermo’s famous fried or charcoal-grilled street foods. After a long day of sightseeing, there isn’t anything more perfect to have with a cold brew (that’s Canadian for beer).
Arancini (fried rice balls), panelle (fried chickpea patties) and sfincione (deep-dish pizza) are for softies. Try the local delicacies like la Milza or Stigghiola if you want something REALLY different! (tip: don’t look at it, just pop it in the bun, squeeze a little lemon juice in there and eat. You’ll thank me later, it’s delicious.)
2. Visit the Cathedral. The city’s best-recognized structure for its beautiful mix-influenced architecture and elegant clock-tower.
3. Take an afternoon trip to Monreale. Definitely worth the long bus ride up the mountain to take-in the glorious panoramic views and check-out the stunning Byzantine mosaics in the Duomo of Monreale – a site that rivals even that of Venice’s St. Mark’s.
4. Take a walk by the sea. If you want to get a really good look at Palermo’s local culture, you’ll find tons it at the park between the harbour and Botanical Garden. You’ll see teenage couples getting intimate, rolling in the grass beside groups of families flying kites, beside dogs off all sizes and behaviours, barking at the wild dogs who are chasing the wild cats. It’s enough to be a spectator sport.
5. Head out at night. There are tons of different clubs, pubs and even lively piazzas to explore into the early hours of the morning in Palermo.
6. Experience the Palerman markets. You’ll really feel Palermo’s Arabic roots when you walk through any of these outdoor marketplaces. The narrow streets are lined with covered tables selling anything from fresh food to clothing, making you feel like you’ve stepped out of Italy and into the middle-east. The Ballarò Flea market near Corso Tukory is especially shocking where the people seem to be pulling anything they can find from the trash and selling it. We even saw a boy selling live chickens. Doesn’t get more local than that.
PS. hide your wallet.
For food, I recommend the Vucciria and Ballarò markets.
My idol, Mr. Bourdian, describes the Sicilian market the best – it’s a game of seduction, and everyone wants to get seduced.
More pictures that will make you want to visit Sicily’s Capital City:
Ever been to Palermo? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comment section below!