Christina Baechle has been providing luxury holidays to Sicily for over a decade. Here she shares some advice for the best things to do in the beautiful city of Palermo.
Eat street food at Vucciria
A trip to Sicily wouldn’t be complete without visiting one of its glorious food markets, and La Vucciria is the perfect place to start. Meet the local traders and let your eyes feast on the fresh produce they have to offer. Trade starts at 4am and it gets progressively busy throughout the day.
Explore the bustling streets at your own leisure or join a street food tour where the more adventurous foodies can taste the infamous Sicilian spleen burger – comprising fried beef spleen, a fresh slice of lemon and local cheese, it’s a real taste of Sicily. Buon appetito!
Visit the Capuchin Catacombs
The Capuchin Catacombs are one of the quirkier attractions in Palermo. Four corridors underneath the Capuchin Church are lined with about 2,000 preserved bodies of monks who were naturally preserved, making it the largest collection of mummies in the world. Make sure you visit the body of little Rosalia Lombardo: a two-year-old girl who died in 1920 and is preserved with the look of a sleeping angel. She is commonly known as the Sleeping Beauty of Palermo and is one of the last bodies to be interred at the catacombs. A little different, perhaps, but a spooky and fascinating insight into Palermo’s history.
See an Opera at Teatro Massimo
You may recognise Palermo’s Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emmanuele from its cameo in The Godfather Part III. It’s the the largest theatre in Italy, holding up to 1,300 spectators, and you should be one of them! If the ballet or opera isn’t quite your thing, but the filmic credentials have you intrigued, the theatre provides four tours a day at just five euros a pop, Tuesday to Saturday. Tickets for performances range from 10 to 97 euros, but the performances are outstanding.
People watch on Piazza Olivella
If you’re looking for a thriving nightlife, look no further than Piazza Olivella. The buzzing piazza is only 100m from Teatro Massimo and is one of Palermo’s nightlife centres. It’s the perfect place to grab an aperitivo with friends or to people-watch in one of the piazza’s many restaurants. Foccaceria del Massimo is a favourite with locals and serves inexpensive but delicious and authentic Sicilian food. Get there early if you can to get a table as open evening starts at 8pm and Saturday evenings can get manic!
Relax on one of Palermo’s beaches
If the hustle and bustle of the city is all getting a bit too much, take a trip to one of Palermo’s beautiful beaches to soak up the sun or take a dip in the sparkling blue waters. If you want to travel a bit further afield, San Vito Lo Capo beach is named by tourists as the ‘Caribbean of Italy’ for its golden sands and crystal clear waters. It’s about an hour and a half drive west of Palermo, but well worth it to try all the delicious seafood the coastal town has to offer. If you’re looking for somewhere a little closer to home, Mondello beach is in Palermo and is popular for sailing and watersports, if sunbathing isn’t your thing. Bellissimo!
Visit Capella Palatina
The Capella Palatina, or the Paletine Chapel, is one of Palermo’s most popular tourist attractions and perfect if history is right up your strada. The glittering, gold mosaics which adorn the ceiling are truly a sight to behold, but don’t miss the paintings of the muqarnas on the painted wooden ceiling as an example of Sicily’s famed craftsmanship. It should be noted that modest dress is required and queues can build quickly, so get there early!
Palermo is the perfect holiday destination for culture vultures, food fanatics and beach lovers alike. For more information, please visit sicily4u.co.uk.