The essentials of Palermo – Planete3w

The essentials of Palermo - Planete3w

Capital and largest city of the island, Palermo is an essential stopover during a trip to Sicily. This was also the first step of our one-week road trip in Sicily. On the program in particular: squares, churches, a market and an impressive cathedral. Without forgetting, pizzerias and a medieval tower. Discover the essential places to visit Palermo without missing anything.

Let’s start the must-sees of Palermo with the Palace of the Normans

Probably Palermo’s most important monument, the Norman Palace was successively a fortress, a Roman fort, a castle of the Arab emirs, a residence of the Norman kings, then the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. In addition to the magnificent Palatine Chapel from the Norman period, there remains the Pisane Tower (which notably houses King Roger’s bedroom), the treasure room and the Tower of Gioaria. A magnificent vestige of Arab-Norman art, the Palace of the Normans is located in Independence Square in the Old Town of Palermo. Count 15.50€ to visit the Palais des Normands.

Admire the Cathedral of Palermo

The other must-see monument in Palermo, which is also a stone’s throw from the Norman Palace, is undoubtedly the cathedral. This 12th century Roman Catholic church, in Arab-Norman style, has been transformed like the rest of the city over time. Muslim cubic base, Catalan Gothic porch, Renaissance dome and Baroque nave. A wonderful mix of genres.

The must-sees of Palermo: the churches

Palermo is certainly the city in which we have seen the most churches per square meter. It’s simple, there are at least 3 per street. Among the most beautiful churches in Palermo, we find the baroque church of Santa Caterina, the small Orthodox church Martorana, San Giuseppe dei Teatini, Chiesa del Gesù or even Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue. Don’t miss the Santissimo Salvatore church which offers a magnificent view of Palermo from its bell tower for €2.50. Clearly, one of the must-sees in Palermo to take a little height, with the Torre di San Nicolo all’Albergheri (5€).

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Finally, Palermo is home to two theatres: Teatro Massimo and Teatro Politeama Garibaldi. Two magnificent buildings that can be visited.

Discover the natural side of Palermo: parks, sea, beaches and mountains

Although there are very few parks in Palermo, nature is close to the Sicilian capital. As you walk around the Palais des Normands, you will discover the small Villa Bonanno park with its beautiful palm trees. North of the historic center of Palermo, you will discover the Garibaldi Garden with its giant ficus trees. Finally, to clear your mind, head for the Foro Italico. A wide promenade by the sea, very busy on weekends, which notably connects the Villa Giuliale to the marina. From the marina, you can go by catamaran cruise to explore the Egadi, the Aeolian Islands or the magnificent Sicilian coast.

Mondello Capo Gallo Monte Pellegrino Palermo

As for the beaches and the mountains, you will have to move away from Palermo a little and go to Mondello. Several buses connect Palermo to Mondello (about 35 minutes). This charming seaside resort is renowned for its beautiful long sandy beach, its turquoise water, its narrow streets lined with street food stalls (in season) and gourmet restaurants, its Capo Gallo nature reserve but also for its many sun lounger and water sports equipment rental shops.

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To enjoy a magnificent panorama over Palermo, Mondello and the surrounding area, I advise you to climb Capo Gallo. A climb of about 2 hours (500D+) offers a breathtaking view. We see in particular the Monte Pellegrino rock whose summit is accessible by hiking or by bus 812. In addition to offering a 360 degree panorama, the summit of Monte Pellegrino shelters the intriguing and popular cave of the Santa Rosalia sanctuary.

The must-sees of Palermo: the squares

Piazza Pretoria Palermo in Sicily (Italy)

As often in Italy, the squares are beautiful and lively places. Usually with a beautiful fountain in the middle. In Palermo, you will inevitably fall under the charm of Piazza Pretoria and its imposing fountain adorned with numerous statues. Piazza Pretoria is surrounded by magnificent buildings including the Palazzo delle Aquile (City Hall, free visit). 100 meters to the south is Piazza Bellini, very popular in Palermo, with its two 12th century churches (Martorana and San Cataldo). The alley Discesa dei Giudici which is between the two squares is home to several good cafés with terraces.

Finally, on the other side of Piazza Pretoria is the Quattro Canti (Piazza Vigliena), a square with 4 fountains at the corners of buildings overlooked by 4 statues representing 4 Spanish kings! Located at the intersection of the two main streets of Palermo: via Maqueda and Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the Quattro Canti was inspired by the square of the four fountains in Rome (intersection Via delle Quattro Fontane and Via del Quirinale).

Shop with the locals in the markets of Palermo

The center of Palermo is home to two colorful historic markets. Markets frequented by locals where merchants put on a show. With their stalls of local products, the Mercato di Ballarò and Mercato del Capo are among the must-sees in Palermo. Fresh pasta, grilled almonds, pesto, eggplant, pistachios, fish or even the famous Sicilian oranges, the markets of Palermo are full of local products. These are also the ideal places to taste Sicilian culinary specialties. Take a seat at the small tables of the Mercato del Capo and let the locals guide you!

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palermo sicily italy

In addition to these two historic markets, don’t miss the Vucciria. Small market during the day, at nightfall, it transforms and attracts all the Sicilian youth to party. Indeed, the Vucciria becomes a very lively “thirst street” in the evening.

The essentials of Palermo: Sicilian gastronomy

Finally, how to visit Palermo without discovering Sicilian gastronomy? A varied gastronomy made from local products (often fresh). There is fish (tuna and swordfish in particular), pasta (Sicilian recipes), meat, and of course pizzas! Here are some Sicilian specialties not to be missed:

  • Arancini: fried rice balls stuffed with various ingredients.
  • Caponata: marinade of aubergines, onions, tomatoes, celery, green olives and capers.
  • Panelle: donuts with chickpea flour and tender aubergines.
  • Pasta alla norma: usually maccheroni or perciatelli, cooked with tomato sauce, fried eggplant, grated salted ricotta and basil.
  • Involtini alla siciliana: small rolls of stuffed meat.
  • Cannolo siciliano: pastry consisting of a shell-like crust of fried dough and filled with a sweet and creamy filling usually made with ricotta.

Take advantage of being in Palermo to rent a car and set off to explore Sicily on a road trip. A magnificent trip of which we keep excellent memories.

And you, did you enjoy visiting Palermo? In your opinion, what are the must-sees in Palermo?

Source of photos for this article: Pixabay.

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