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About city What to see Gallery Where to stay

Palermo is not as majestic as Rome, as charming as Paris or as vibrant as New York. In terms of size and population, it’s not even a big city. However, here are a few things the sunny capital of Sicily is short on: bad weather, long queues in supermarkets, steep prices and that self-important hurry, so characteristic of big cities. The good news is that this 3000-year-old Mediterranean city is not going to yield to the winds of change anytime soon.

People go to Palermo in order to enjoy its spirit, rather than to explore architectural wonders or look at world-class art. It’s a city where, for at least a few days, you’ll be able to pretend you’re a true Italian – you’ll drink strong, thick-as-mud coffee in the morning; stroll – rather than elbow your way - to a fresh food market; eat a big portion of ice cream at any time of the day like a real Sicilian; and as the sun starts to set, you’ll eat a plate of pasta and seafood, and return to your rented apartment in a narrow, Italian street.

Street vendor of food pushes his cart along the Via Maqueda of Palermo
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Street vendor of food pushes his cart along the Via Maqueda of Palermo

Just like all the other cities popular with tourists, Palermo is known for its lively night life. Don’t expect uproar by the clubs to build at 8 PM, though, because that’s when the locals only begin to eat their dinner. But don’t worry, either – your patience will be rewarded.

During the theater season, opera and ballet performances will vie for your attention and the streets will fill with the sounds of live music. Palermo is regularly visited by many famous performers.

Palermo, Piazza Pretoria, also known as the Square of Shame
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Palermo, Piazza Pretoria, also known as the Square of Shame

Night club dance floors are at their fullest during the tourist season, while the bars in Palermo belong to a different category altogether. Italian people can’t even imagine their lives without sipping on a glass of aperitif before and after a large dinner. That’s why Sicilian bars offer an especially wide array of alcoholic cocktails and are constantly full of customers.

However, for all its “touristy” attractions and quaint Italian spirit, Palermo also has a different face; it’s a chaotic, often smog-drenched city with an African and Arabic flavor and dizzyingly hot summers. If you ever tire of just wandering around, Palermo has many other things to offer.

Men selling fish on the local market in Palermo, called Ballaro
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Men selling fish on the local market in Palermo, called Ballaro

First on this list are beaches and the sea, where tourists can be seen almost year-round. The bottom of the blue lagoons harbours seaweeds, which draw fish closer to the shore. Just outside of Palermo, there are many excellent sites for snorkeling enthusiasts, where they can find crystal-clear, warm water, protected coves and colorful fish.

Palermo shore
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Palermo shore

Palermo is also just under 300 kilometers away from Mount Etna. Even though the last eruption of its volcano happened in 1928, it’s active to this very day, but as Etna is under constant supervision by scientists, tourists can safely come here and inspect the craters and the petrified lava rivers with their own eyes.

After returning from your hikes around the island, Palermo will finally feel like home. Before leaving, you’ll collect your laundry, which you had hung in the balcony, and while passing a café, you’ll order your last sugary, traditionally Sicilian desert called “granita”. That just might be what the life of an Italian feels like.

Where to stay

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