PWk: Prod, Tlk: GS2, Datacash: Live
Holidays to Palermo, the urban capital of Sicily, are a cultural delight. From the narrow winding streets boasting building styles from a number of past cultures, to the extensive choice of museums on offer. Palermo’s history is varied due to invasions by Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs and Normans – to name just a few of the most influential - offering an eclectic feel to the city and a variety of architectural styles to enjoy.
Palermo’s chequered history has also influenced its cuisine and created interesting dishes with a fusion of ingredients from the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, Greece and of course Italy. This cuisine can also be attributed to Sicily’s location in the Mediterranean. Classic dishes include pasta con le sarde (pasta and sardines with raisins, saffron and pine nuts) and caponata (slow cooked vegetables with raisins and olives).
Palermo’s natural harbour has been in use for centuries and offers travellers a lively and multicultural environment. Wander around the back alleys and you’ll stumble across one of the lively street markets such as La Vucciria, Mercato Ballaro and Mercato del Capo.
There are lots of treasures that Citalia can introduce you to and many of Palermo’s attractions are hidden ones. From dark and dusty antique shops to those selling crafts such as lace and embroidery as well as locally produced rugs, straw and cane goods. A particularly well hidden treasure, not for the faint hearted, is the Catacombe dei Cappuccini which houses the remains of 8,000 well preserved human mummies.
Teatro Massimo is Palermo’s neoclassical opera house. With magnificent painted high ceilings and a golden hued interior, this is a must see and the largest opera house in Italy. Its popular claim to fame is the shooting at the end of The Godfather III film, which was filmed on the steps leading up to the opera house.
The Cattedrale di Palermo is a prime example of the Arab-Norman architectural style unique to Sicily. The interior is made from carved marble and the panoramic views from the rooftop offer an insight into Palermo’s diverse architectural styles generated over the centuries. The views stretch as far away as the Sicani Mountains.
As well as the cultural delights offered by the town, it’s worth spending some time relaxing on Palermo’s sandy beaches. Mondello is the closest beach to the city centre and offers white sand and crystal clear water, with its ever changing hues of blue and green caused by tidal movement.
For a more reclusive, but equally stunning, beach experience, Riserva Naturale Orientata di Capo Gallo is a short walk from Mondello and only a few kilometres from the town centre. There are some sandy places where you can lie down and soak up the sun, but this is a primarily rocky back to nature area with no modern conveniences nearby.
A tour of Palermo by night offers the opportunity to see where the locals spend their evenings, try some tasty down to earth street food and enjoy the atmosphere created by interesting architectural and artistic areas in the city.
Palermo Airport (PMO) is about 30 minutes from the centre of the city. Direct flights to Palermo are available from London Gatwick and London Stansted and take approxmimately 2 hours 50 minutes.
Sicily offers some of the finest cuisine in the world, making it one of the reasons travellers are keen to visit. Street food is very popular in Palermo and bears references to past cultures that have influenced the city’s cuisine over time. There are many friggitorias (fry shops) to be found, all creating wonderful snacks such as panelle e crocche, a flat chickpea and potato deep fried fritter, believed to be of Arab origin, which can be eaten between slices of bread like a sandwich, or in a roll.
Arancini is another popular street food and is made from stuffed rice balls covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried. The most common filling is ‘al ragu’ – filled with ragu sauce, cheese and often peas. Another version of the arancini is ‘al burro’ (with butter), which is pear shaped, the size of an orange and generally filled with mozzarella and prosciutto. Perhaps the most fascinating and a favourite of Palermo’s street food is the pane con la milza (also known as pani ca meusa). This is a sandwich or burger made from fried beef spleen and served with a slice of lemon and grated caciocavallo cheese.
To end your street food extravaganza, seek out some of Palermo’s best desserts. Cannoli is a long tube-shaped, thin crust, which is deep fried then filled with sweetened ricotta cream and studded with candied fruit. A handy tip to ensure the crispest shell is to make sure the cream is piped to order. Cassata, a candied peel and ricotta filled sponge cake is moistened with fruit juice or liqueur and covered with a marzipan shell. Cassata also refers to a flavour of ice cream that has been inspired by the cake, offering another way to enjoy its much loved flavours.
Founded in 743 BC by the Phoenicians, Palermo went on to be a part of the Roman Republic, Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire for over a thousand years. Named ‘Panormus’ (‘complete port’) by the Greeks, Palermo’s port and coastal location has played a prominent part of its history. Named capital of the Kingdom of Sicily for centuries, the city remains to this day Sicily’s cultural, economic and tourist capital, rich in history, culture and art. Its illustrious history has resulted in an impressive collection of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches and palaces that draw millions of sightseers every day.