Day 1 in Palermo
Welcome to Palermo! Upon arrival, you will go through customs and
immigration. Should you opt to purchase
a transfer to your hotel; a representative will be waiting for you as you exit
immigration. Arrive at your hotel, check
in and do not give in to jet lag! There
is so much for you to see and do.
Once you arrive, we recommend you get your bearings of the city. Palermo sits on Sicily`s north-west coast, overlooked by the ridge of Monte Pellegrino. The historic center, which extends north from the station and contains most of the main sights, is made up of four quarters: La Kalsa, Albergheria, Capo and Vucciria. These are divided by the north-south Via Maqueda and the east-west Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which crosses it at a point known as the Quattro Canti, the `four corners`. Running parallel to Via Maqueda, Via Roma is another important thoroughfare. To the north, the 19th-century `new town` is the city`s main shopping district. As you wander the streets, you will pass churches and buildings built in distinct Arab, Norman and Byzantine styles, each paying homage to the time it controlled the region.
Enjoy a midday snack of a La `brioscia col gelato`, an absolute must when visiting Palermo, but make sure you choose your gelato (don`t call it ice cream!) wisely. Here`s one trick you`ll find useful when judging the quality of gelato - always look at the color of pistachio; if it`s too bright or unnaturally green, go somewhere else. If they don`t have pistachio, definitely go somewhere else! One unusual distinction of gelato in Palermo, is how the Sicilians eat their gelato. Of course, you can find it in a cone or cup like anywhere else, but the preferred way is eating gelato in a brioche.
Linger at the Praetorian Fountain, the gorgeous fountain that dominates the Piazza Pretoria in the heart of Palermo. Amazingly, these statues were created in Florence and transported to this spot in 1574. The statues depict ancient Greek gods including Zeus, Poseidon, and Apollo alongside nymphs, animals and other mythological figures.
Experience the atmosphere of the local markets. There`s something about markets, the energy is infectious, the smells are (generally) mouthwatering, and the colors are delightful. Plus, visiting a market shows you an authentic way of life. The three main markets are Ballaro, Capo, and Vuccaria, each within about 15 minutes` walk of the others in the Palermo city center. Capo and the Ballaro markets are full of aromatic produce, fresh meat, seasonal vegetables and street food stands. While Vuccaria has a bit of fresh foods, you`ll find more household items and packaged goods here. You will love them all, but if you`re short on time, a visit to at least Ballaro market is on the top things to do in Palermo.
Join Palermo`s café-goers for an early-evening aperitivo (typically between 6 - 8pm). Find one of the many cafes offering outside tables where you can sit back and people-watch over a glass of wine or cold beer and small board of assorted sandwiches, or other light snacks. In Italy, wine, food and friends go together.
Finish your day at one of the many delicious restaurants in town before heading back to your hotel for a restful night sleep. One of the best-known places to eat in Palermo is the Antica Focacceria San Francesco on Via Paternostro. Dating to 1834, this is the classic place for street food, which you can take away or eat in the old-world interior. Pay at the till before stepping up to the food counter and ordering your food; there`s a menu and price list on the walls. Local specialties you can try here include pane e panelle and arancine with a choice of filling.
Day 2 in Palermo
up early and start your day with a visit to the Palermo Cathedral. Like many buildings in Palermo, the
Cathedral, originally constructed in 1185, is characterized by a long history
of additions, alterations and restoration. Inside the cathedral are several
royal tombs, including that of Roger II, founder of the Kingsdome of
Italy. The treasury houses a collection
of jewels and religious relics, most notably a gem-encrusted crown from the 13th
century. Because of its architecture marrying Western, Byzantine, and Islamic
influences, the Palermo Cathedral has been designated as a UNESCO World
Heritage Site along with the cathedrals in Cefalu and Monreale, the
Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, the Palatine Chapel, among others.
Next, pay a visit to the Capuchin Catacombs, one of the top things to do in Palermo and also one of the most macabre (great for horror and history lovers!). For over 400 years, the catacombs have been the final resting place for monks, celebrities, and the wealthy laypeople of Palermo. But unlike at many catacombs, you won`t just see bones, you`ll find well-preserved dead bodies displayed on shelves and hanging on walls. It is definitely an unusual attraction, reflecting the monks` belief in the temporary nature of life followed by salvation in Heaven.
As afternoon approaches, take a Palermo Food Tour. This is a great way to get to know a new city (and get recommendations about what to eat while you`re here). There is a fabulous Palermo Street Food Tour, StrEat Palermo, as the name implies, that will show you just how passionate the people of Palermo are about their food. And of course, you`ll get to enjoy many of its famous street foods.
Spend the remainder of your day enjoying a hike (or arrive by bus) to Mt. Pellegrino where you`ll be treated with some stunning panoramic views of Palermo as you travel over a cobbled path to the summit. And once you get there, be sure to visit the Sanctuary of Saint Rosalia. This unusual monument is built into a cave and is definitely worth checking out.
Wind down your day on the seafront enjoying the sunset. Just opposite Antica Gelateria Ilardo you`ll find a beautiful park (Foro Italico), where you can enjoy the breeze of the sea while lying down under a palm tree.
For dinner, dine with the locals in the area of Politeama-Libertà, a popular and elegant area where visitors will find a lot of bars and restaurants, which have a very upscale feel. This area offers several authentic Italian restaurants, as well as steakhouses, Japanese sushi, Mexican restaurants and sandwich shops. The food in this area is is a bit more expensive, but of great quality due to it being less dense with tourists and used more by the locals.
Day 3 in Palermo
Spend the day today soaking up the sun
in Mondello, a seaside fishing village about fifteen minutes
north of Palermo, which has become one of the most touristy places of Palermo.
Here you can enjoy views of the stunning blue water from the sandy white crescent-shaped
beach. And you can grab a table to try out some of the fresh catch of the day.
On your way back to town, we highly recommend a visit to the Cathedral of Monreale. This is one of the top Palermo sightseeing spots located just a bit outside of Palermo, sitting on a hill just 9 miles from the city is Monreale. The massive mosaics inside are similar to those at the Palatine Chapel only much, much larger. Here, you`ll be awed by the 130 mosaic scenes, 200 carved columns, and the imposing 65-foot-tall mosaic of Christ Pantocrator over the altar. Much of the mosaic work is covered in gold (experts estimate as much as 5000 pounds of it). Even if you`re not usually impressed by churches, this one is worth a stop. After your visit, wander the streets and grab a coffee or one of the many fresh juices at stands and cafes around town. The bus ride from Palermo is only about 35 minutes.
Head back to the city center of Palermo to watch an opera at Teatro Massimo. You might remember it from the final scenes of the Godfather, or you might have heard of it for being the third largest opera house in Europe (and the first in Italy). Whatever your level or knowledge or interest, the beauty of this building is simply going to blow your mind! There are guided tours each day, but we suggest getting the full experience of the theatre by getting a ticket to an opera or ballet performance.
Additional Days in Palermo
Should you be able to spend additional
days in Palermo we recommend you take a day trip to the gorgeous city
of Cefalu, about a 50-minute train ride from Palermo. Visit the
beach, grab lunch by the sea, or wander the winding streets. Cefalu Cathedral,
a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, climb
the hill for panoramic views.
Alternatively, spend the day at the once powerful city of Segesta situated high on Mount Barbaro in northwest Sicily. Today, a visit to its main sites includes the beautiful temple and in-tact theater. This is an easy getaway just about an hour`s drive from Palermo.
Your Last Day In Palermo
Depart your hotel for the airport for your return home. We recommend that you purchase a private transfer, if so a representative will meet you at the hotel, in time to take you to the airport for your flight out.