Palermo, Sicily’s capital, is an ancient city, being over 2.700 years old, and it has always played a huge role in Italy’s history, architecture and gastronomy.
Thanks to a series of urban redevelopment works, it has seen its historical center come back to its splendor and today Palermo is a lively and welcoming city.
On July 4, 2015 its uniqueness has been certified and it has conquered the Unesco title. In particular, the Arab-Norman architectural style, the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale have been added to the list of the World Heritage sites.
These are only a few things you cannot miss in Palermo.
Which are the others, you are saying? Well, read on to find them out!
Top 5 Palermo cultural spots
It’s extremely difficult to list every single cultural attraction of Palermo: being such an ancient city, over the years it has collected many noteworthy landmarks, from churches to squares.
Let’s have a look at our top 5!
- Kalsa, the Arabic district. During the Islamic domination, it was the fortified citadel where the emir and its ministers used to live. Today, it still maintains its oriental, magic atmosphere. One of its number one attractions is the S. Teresa alla Kalsa church, a baroque church built between 1686 and 1706.
- The Capuchin Catacombs. Probably the creepiest thing you’ll witness in Palermo. In 1599, the Capuchin religious order mummified one of their members, recently dead brother Silvestro of Gubbio, and placed him in the catacombs. From that moment on, lots of friars, first, and local luminaires, after, asked to be put in the catacombs after their deaths. Today, the catacombs contain about 8000 corpses and 1252 mummies lining the walls.
- The Chinese Palace. Designed by Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia, it was built as a hunting lodge for King Ferdinand III of Bourbon. It is another testimony of Palermo’s many architectural styles: its lines and colors have an oriental look, and make it a unique attraction. It should be visited both on the inside, with its beautifully decorated rooms, and the outside, because of its wide, green and enjoyable gardens.
- Piazza Pretoria. Also known as Square of Shame, it stands near Kalsa and it is particularly famous for its fountain, built in 1575 and angrily pointed to by church goers because of its nudity. Since 1869, it has been considered as the representation of the corrupted municipalities.
- Mondello. It’s time to relax, to take a rest from culture and to enjoy some moments of peace and sun. Go to Mondello: a bit far away from the city center, it is the most famous beach, described by King Ferdinand III of Bourbon as “a corner of Eden”.
If you still feel the need to be surrounded by culture have a look at the villas near the beach: they are characterized by a Liberty style, which makes them an important landmark in the Italian modernism movement.
Don’t forget about food: what to eat in Palermo
Shame on us. Don’t forget about food, we said. But, seriously, how could you?
Palermo’s every corner is full of amazing scents that will lure you into the pasticcerie or ristoranti. Then what? It will be difficult to find someone who speaks English fluently, so you’ll have to know what to order in advance: in this way, you won’t risk to lose your temper with gesticulations and spellings.
- Arancine, stuffed rice balls, coated with breadcrumbs and fried. They are usually filled with ragù, but they also have a veggie option with mozzarella and tomatoes.
· Panella, believed to be of Arabic origins, it’s basically a chickpea fritter eaten between bread, like a sandwich.
- Granita, ice-cream to drink. The best option you have to beat the heat! A tip for the sweetest teeth among you: try it with whipped cream!
- Cannolo, a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough, filled with sweet ricotta. Its smaller version is called “cannulicchio” and it’s no longer than a finger.
You can eat these delicacies almost anywhere in the city, but if you wish to try something particular and super local, then head to one of Palermo’s historical markets. Ballarò, Vucciria and Il Capo are some of them: in their countless stalls, you’ll find almost everything, from fresh fish to sweet desserts.