Palermo was a real breath of fresh air for us: the first summer weekend in which we resumed traveling, appreciating all that is beautiful and good Sicily has to offer. A city to be experienced and discovered on foot, walking through its center where history is told through the splendid buildings that testify to the passage of the Arabs and Normans.

A colorful and lively city, to be discovered also through its flavors and its food and wine specialties. Every day in our stops we have always included a moment dedicated to history and one dedicated to delicatessen: savory or sweet, we are sure that you too will find the perfect snack!

We organized our tour of Palermo in two days, ideally dividing the city into two parts. In this first post, let's discover together the most historic part of the city, located west of Via Maqueda. Here once were the first Palermitan settlements, later marked by the passage of the Arabs. The main attractions are located along Via Vittorio Emanuele, the main street of the Center, which begins with the Porta Nuova, which marked the northern entrance to the city.

We recommend that you start your tour from the impressive Cathedral, which stands on the remains of an ancient mosque. At first glance, it will win you over with its details and variety of styles, ranging from Norman, to the Gothic of the towers up to the Baroque of the dome. The whole manages to create something perfectly harmonious and beautiful.

To visit the interiors, there are different types of tickets. We chose the one for the entire monumental area (10 €) which also includes the treasury, the crypt, the royal tombs and the roofs. Access to the rooftops on a sunny day is worthwhile for the beautiful view from above over the city and Piazza dei Sette Angeli.

A few steps away, just behind the Cathedral, the small Cappella and Loggia dell'Incoronazione is worth a visit. The kings used to look out from here to greet the people after the coronation.

Retrace your steps and cross the garden of Piazza della Vittoria, from here near the statue dedicated to Filippo V, you will see the next stop: the Norman Palace. Inside, we advise you not to miss the precious Palatine Chapel.

Garden of the Norman Palace

Completely covered with a golden mosaic, it impresses with the richness of the decorations. In the dome the image of Christ Pantrocrator and on the walls scenes from the bible. Also noteworthy is the wooden ceiling, carved according to a traditional Arab technique. We did not visit the other rooms of the building (the building is now the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly, they are open only on certain days), but we took a stroll in the beautiful adjacent garden.

A short distance away, the Arabian San Giovanni degli Eremiti is noted for its red domes that emerge from the garden that surrounds it. Only the remains of the pre-existing church remain, but its colonnaded cloister with columns is very beautiful.

At the end of the visit, take Via Porta del Castro, which will lead you to the Ballarò market. In addition to the various refreshment points where you can stop for a quick lunch of panelle, here you will find several picturesque stalls selling fish, vegetables and spices.

The market is really characteristic and the neighborhood around it is also decorated with particular murals. The Chiesa del Carmine borders on the market and can be seen from a distance for its dome with colored tiles (it is only open until 11).

Continuing towards Via Maqueda, the Chiesa del Gesù and Casa Professa are also worth a visit, for the richly decorated interiors in Baroque style. End your visit to this area in Piazza Bolognini, surrounded by period noble palaces.

The first part of our tour ends here. In the next aricle, we will talk about the rest of our visit to Palermo!

Before your trip

  • How to reach it? From the airport we took the comfortable bus service of the company Prestia e Comandè which takes you to the city center in about 30 minutes (€10)

  • Where to stay? We have chosen a structure in a strategic position to visit the city. The small Villena Plaza offers perfectly renovated rooms that they overlook Via Vittorio Emanuele, with a view of the Chiesa di San Giuseppe e Padri Teatini and Quattro Canti. Breakfast is served every morning in the small common room

  • Where to eat? These are the restaurants we have chosen for dinner:
    • Osteria dei Vespri: refined restaurant, perfect for a romantic dinner, uses local specialties in an elegant way
    • Mangia & bevi: typical dishes in a picturesque setting, but the service is not the strong point

  • Where to eat on the go? These are the places for a tasty and typical snack:
    • We recommend the arancine of Ke palle: from classics to alternative fillings, we are sure you will find what is right for you
    • The unmissable dessert for us in Sicily is undoubtedly the cannolo, we found it excellent both from I segreti del chiostro che da Pasticceria Costa The first pastry shop overlooks the beautiful cloister of the Monastero di Santa Caterina and the desserts are absolutely delicious, including cannoli. The second is a historic pastry shop, on Via Maqueda. What is the best? For us the first wins!

  • Where to have a drink? We tried a couple of really special ones:
    • For a special aperitif with sophisticated and unusual cocktails, we recommend the Goccio in the heart of Kalsa
    • For an incomparable view of Palermo, we recommend the terrace of the Hotel Ambasciatori (enter the hotel lobby and ask to be able to reach the terrace for a drink). Booking is recommended if you are not a guest of the property

  • Do I need to book in advance? We bought all the entrance tickets on site and never had to queue for entry, but keep in mind that it was early June. A tip for visiting the churches: many are part of the "Circuito del Sacro", if you keep the first admission at full price, all the others will be discounted. Here you will find the list of churches included in theitinerary