The recent selection of Palermo as Italian Capital of Culture 2018 piqued our curiosity.
So we decided to take a virtual trip to those cities that have recently held this prestigious title. Before Palermo, there were Mantua, Pistoia and Matera.
Responsible for the selection, a panel of seven experts appointed by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, with the aim of enhancing the cultural and landscape heritage of the chosen cities and, of course, improving the services provided to travellers. It would be interesting to plan a visit to the chosen cities and their surroundings, right now. What do you say? Our tips might just help you... Let’s go!
Since we’ll soon be hearing a lot about this particular city, let's start with Palermo itself, named Italian Capital of Culture 2018 in late January.
What to see and do in Palermo
Palermo began as a Phoenician colony and was fought over for centuries by the Greeks and the Carthaginians due to its strategic location. The Romans, Byzantines and Arabs would also compete for its domination. Clearly the passage of all these peoples has left behind an enormously varied cultural heritage, evident in the city’s monuments and architecture.
Begin your tour at Palermo’s historic heart, where you’ll find the city’s main theatres, Il Massimo and Il Politeama. Explore the beautiful Chiesa della Martorana, an Arabic style church on Piazza Bellini, dating from the Middle Ages, and then take a wander along Via della Libertà, the most elegant part of Palermo.
Two must-see monuments are the Cathedral and the Royal Palace: the first is one of the oldest Christian churches, dating back to 600 A.D., in Gothic style; the second is famous for being the oldest residence in Europe and the most visited attraction in all of Sicily. And what about the Pretoria Fountain, where you can see allegorical statues representing mythological gods and the four rivers of Palermo?
The Ballarò Street Marketis well worth a visit. Here you'll find everything, fresh and colourful produce, street food and above all the true soul of the city.
Like most of the cities in Sicily, Palermo also offers much to discover below ground. We’re talking about the catacombs, used by the Capuchins to bury their monks, which now contain more than 8000 embalmed and mummified bodies. Would you believe they are visited by thousands of tourists each year from all over the world: don’t miss this piece of Palermo history!
What to eat in Palermo
Heading up Palermo's culinary tradition is the city’s street food: all the dishes of the popular cuisine of the city and its surroundings can be tasted in the local markets and on the streets of Palermo.
The famous “pane e panelle”, a sandwich with chickpea fritters accompanied by potato croquettes (“i cazzilli”), can be enjoyed on Piazza Marina and in Vucciria Market, as well as on the seafront. Those with a more experimental palate might enjoy ca'meusa bread, a loaf stuffed with slices of cooked spleen, salt, lemon and slices of cheese.
Leave Sicily without sampling arancini, a local cuisine classic? Never! Warm, fragrant, with your choice of filling ... just the thought makes us hungry.
Moving on to desserts, be sure to try “frutta di Martorana”, a sweet treat of marzipan made with almonds and sugar, whose ancestors seem to date from the Etruscan-Roman period.
But are there restaurants which offer the same delicious flavours? Of course! Here are our agriturismos in Palermo and the surrounding area with restaurants ready to help you discover the local culinary tradition from the comfort of your chair :)
Of course a visit to Palermo is also the ideal opportunity to discover its wonderful surroundings. Depending on the season in which you plan to visit Sicily, different areas have much to offer.
In spring and summer we recommend you relax on the beautiful Mondello beach or in Cefalù.
Not far from Palermo you’ll find Monreale, famous for its magnificent cathedral, and Bagheria, traditional holiday destination of the nobility of Palermo, where a visit to the Villa Palagonia is a must.
If you fancy a walk among nature, take a trip to Monte Pellegrino, where Palermo's residents love to picnic and hike. Heading east takes you to the Madonie Park, a protected area spanning 39,941 hectares.
Photo by Marek Lenik su Flickr.com.
Where to stay on a trip to Palermo
If you’re planning a holiday in the Palermo area, you won’t beat our agriturismos in the province of Palermo. But if you want to extend your visit to the entire region, here are our agriturismos in Sicily.
Why visit Palermo?
History, art, sea, nature and so much life. A holiday in Palermo and the surrounding area offers all of this.