- For other places with the same name, see Palermo (disambiguation).
Palermo (Sicilian: Palermu) is on the northern coast of the Italian island of Sicily. It is a city with a thousand years of history, beautiful Arab-Norman architecture, amazing food, and lively neighbourhoods. It is a bit scruffy around the edges, but a visit of a few days will make you want to stay for weeks.
It's the capital city of the autonomous region of Sicily and of its own province. The city's economy is based on local government institutions, port, shipbuilding industry and the mechanical industry. It is also seat to some important Sicilian wine-making companies (like Tasca d'Almerita, Duca di Salaparuta, Corvo, and Planeta) whose popularity in the world is growing.
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Capital of Sicily, founded by Phoenicians under the name of Ziz (= Flower, but the meaning is still doubtful), later renamed by Greeks Panormos, which means "all port". It reached its golden age during the Arab domination (from 9th to 11th centuries AD) when it became one of the most prosperous cities in the Mediterranean and Europe, known as "city of delights" for its marvelous and lavish gardens, as well as for magnificent mosques and palaces.
After being conquered by the Normans (1060-1080 AD), most of palaces and mosques were destroyed, but the new rulers exploited the cosmopolitan environment of Palermo and the artists, architects and masters from different cultural roots giving the birth to a unique architectural style, the so-called "Arab-Norman Style of Sicily", which is an original mixture of arabesque decorations, Romanesque architecture and Byzantine mosaics. After being home to one of the most famous Emperors of the Middle Ages, Frederick II of Swabia, named "Stupor Mundi" by contemporaries, Palermo began its decadence under the influence of several dominations (French, Aragonese, Spanish and Bourbons from Naples.
In the middle of 19th century, during the so-called "Italian Risorgimento" Palermo was one of the leading revolutionary cities in Italy, strongly contributing to the success of the Thousand patriots' expedition lead by the famous Italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi, which ended with the reunification of Italy under the Savoy dynasty from Turin (1860).
Nowadays Palermo faces several problems affecting its economic development, mainly because of the presence of the very powerful criminal organization known worldwide as "Mafia" or "Cosa Nostra".
- 1 Palermo Airport (PMO IATA Falcone–Borsellino Airport) (32 km west of the city at Punta Raisi), ☏ . Has flights incoming from other Italian centres and major European cities on a regular basis. Half hourly shuttle buses, on the :00 and :30, (operated by Prestia e Comandè) provide inexpensive transport into the city centre train station (€6.30, as of July 2018). Purchase bus ticket from the ticket office next to the bus at the airport. From city centre to the airport, purchase ticket from the driver. There are 1-2 buses per hour, 50 minutes, €6.30 one way (€10 return if bought online). The usual taxi and car rental services are also available at the airport. Trenitalia also offers regular service at the airport at the Punta Raisi station located in the basement of the terminal. Cost to take the train to Palermo Centrale is €5.90. A trip to Palermo Centrale takes just under an hour, whether by bus or by train.
Ferries steam between the port of Palermo and the following several Italian ports on a regular basis: Genoa, Civitavecchia, Naples and Cagliari (Sardinia). International routes are available from Valletta (Malta) and Tunis (Tunisia).
Although Palermo is a fair-sized city, most of the interesting sites around the centre can easily be reached on foot.
Get a 24-hour ticket for €4. Many buses run on Via Roma. You can take the "Free Centro Storico" bus to move around the old town; it covers all the main touristic areas. To go to Piazzale Indipendenza, take bus 109 from the station. If you want to go to Mondello, take the bus 806. You can also use the mobile app Moovit to browse all the urban lines and plan your trips around the city.
Because of its variety of monuments, attesting to its long and rich history, and the number of other cultural and naturalistic attractions, Palermo can offer a very interesting experience to the visitor interested in exploring it. The Cathedral of Monreale, the Royal Palace and Palatine Chapel, the Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, the Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, the Church of San Cataldo, the Palermo Cathedral, the Zisa Palace and the Admiral’s Bridge, comprise together with the cathedral in Cefalù the world heritage site “Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale”.
- 1 Palermo Cathedral, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, ☏ . Honey-coloured and Catalan influenced. Frederick II, Barbarossa's son, died in 1250 and is buried here, far from his ancestral home above Hohenstaufen, Germany. Frederick's sarcophagus is of porphyry dyed with imperial purple.
- 2 Palatine Chapel (Cappella Palatina), Piazza Indipendenza, ☏ . M-F 09:00-11:45, 15:00-16:45; Sa 09:00-11:45; Su 09:00-09:45, 12:00-12:45. It's one of the artistic gems of Palermo: a chapel with magnificent mosaics and Arabian-style decorations, among the most beautiful in the world. It is inside of Palazzo dei Normanni. Free.
- 3 Palazzo dei Normanni (Palace of the Normans), Piazza del Parlamento, 1. The oldest royal residence in Europe, the home of the rulers of the Kingdom of Sicily and imperial seat of the Emperor Frederick II. The palace contains the Cappella Palatina, the best example of the Arab-Norman style of Sicily. Nowadays it is the seat of the Sicilian Parliament.
- 4 San Giovanni degli Eremiti, Via dei Bernadetti, ☏ . M-Sa 09:00-19:00. Church notable for its brilliant red domes, which show the persistence of the Arab influences in the 12th century, with its typical Arab-Norman style. The €6 admission ensures that the lovely garden is quiet and peaceful.
- 5 Museo Archeologico.
- 6 Catacombe dei Cappuccini, Piazza Cappuccini (just west of the city centre). 09:00-12:00 and 15:00-18:00. The catacombs of the Capuchin convent contain over 8,000 mummified ex-residents from Palermo and its surrounding villages, some merely clothed skeletons, other remarkably well-preserved and lifelike. Well worth a visit, interesting, if slightly morbid. Children may either find it exciting or terrifying, and it must be the responsibility of their parents to think carefully before taking them. You can arrive via the new tram line that opened in 2015 and a 10- to 15-minute walk. Your visit will not take longer than one hour. €3.
- The Gesu Church is one of the most architecturally important in Palermo. Constructed between 1564–1633, its late date of completion resulted in an abundant use of polychrome marbles on both floors and walls. This form of decoration, which gradually evolved in Sicily from the beginning of the 17th century, was a mark of the beginning of the Sicilian Baroque period, which was to give Sicily almost an architectural national identity. The church has a modest facade and it's hidden in back street in central Palermo, unlike the great cathedral this one you have to look for.
- Quattro Canti - the symbolic crossroads at the old centre of the city and the nearby small, but pretty La Martorana church with Byzantine mosaics inside.
- Piazza Garraffello near Vucciria on Friday nights a DJ is playing open air if the weather is good. Huge crowd dancing. There are also lots of bars right next to the square.
- 7 Piazza Pretoria and the Fontana Pretoria (also known as square of Shame). In 1573 the Senate of Palermo bought a fountain intended for the Palace of San Clemente in Florence, with the intention of placing it in the square. The large central fountain is the focal point for 16 nude statues of nymphs, humans, mermaids and satyrs. In 1860, the fountain was considered the representation of corrupt municipalities, and Palermo nicknamed the square with the nudity of the statues, the Square of Shame (Piazza della vergogna). This may have also been reflecting the prevailing influence of the Spanish Inquisition during that time.
- 8 Praetorian Palace or Palace of the Eagles (Palazzo Pretorio or Palazzo delle Aquile), Piazza Pretoria. The building has an important role in the political life of the city, since it houses the mayor and the offices of the municipality of Palermo. Construction began in 1463. It is open for visits to see the sumptuous meeting rooms, the "Sala Rossa" (seat of the mayor), the "Sala Gialla" (seat of the municipal government), the "Sala delle Lapidi" (seat of the city council), and the "Sala Garibaldi".
- The Zisa and the Cuba, Arabic-Norman royal palaces. The Zisa is in Piazza Zisa; the Cuba in Corso Calatafimi.
- 9 Monreale. A village 8 km west of Palermo, sitting on the hill with a great view back towards the city and the sea. It is home to a historical Norman-Byzantine cathedral, which has been designated as one of several buildings named in a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 10 Monreale Cathedral (Duomo). The cathedral of Monreale is one of the greatest extant examples of Norman architecture. It was begun in 1174 by William II and completed four years later. The church is a national monument of Italy and one of the most important attractions of Sicily. The cloister has 228 small columns, each with different decorations influenced by Provençal, Burgundian, Arab and Salerno medieval art.
- 11 Palermo Botanical Garden, Via Lincoln, 2. Opens at 9am, closes at different times based on the season (e.g. 5pm in Winter, 8pm in Summer). Historical city botanical gardens featuring many collections of plants, trees, and aquaculture. The garden is associated with the neighboring university and contains a number of experimental gardens to test acclimation of plant species to Sicily. €6.
International House Language Centre is right in the centre near Piazza Politeama (via Q. Sella 70). International House has teachers with years of experience. Each year it welcomes Italian language students from every corner of the globe. Its Italian language courses can be combined with traditional cooking lessons, scuba diving sessions and tours of the city and the island. The school was founded in 1975 and is also a centre of excellence for English language teaching. Free Wi-fi available for tourists and students.
The "Pizzo free" shops are a group of shopkeepers that refuse to pay the racket to the Mafia. The Palermitan consumers sustain them by going shopping in their stores. These shops are easily recognisable by a sticker in the shop/restaurant window.
- Isola Saporita, ☏ . Corso Vittorio Emanuele 504 (opposite the cathedral). Good selection of wine, oil, marmalade, sauces, etc.
- Mercato di Ballarò, Via Ballarò, Piazze de Carmine. M Tu Th-Sa 07:00-20:00, W 07:00-13:00. Busy food market in Albergheria.
- La Coppola Storta, Via Bara all'Olivella 74, ☏ . This cap, originally of Sicilian peasants and later of the Mafia, has become a stylish accessory.
Try specialties of Palermo like panino con la milza or panelle, in one of the many sandwich stands in the old city center.
- Antica Focacceria S. Francesco, Via A Paternostro, 58 (In the small piazza in front front of S. Francesco church). 11:00-15:30, 17:30-23:30. - a tourist trap - Main courses €15, fast food €5.
- Il Proverbio, ☏ . Via Discesa 24. Close to station and Quattro Canti. Great Sicilian food, most dishes are €4-6.
- Al Chioschetto. Pz. Indipendenza Di Fronte N. 31. Close to the new gate. Excellent fresh panini and salads. They keep all the ingredients in a cooled glass counter, makes the panini from scratch when you order, using only freshly cut pieces of meat.
- Le pergamene, Piazza Marina 48 (near of the Palazzo Chiaramonte Steri), ☏ .
- Pizza Gaetano, Via XII Gennaio, 1/Q, ☏ . Authentic pizza and pasta dishes. Not touristy at all.
- Pipi Room, V. XX Settembre 59. Antipasto, pizzas, etc.
- Antico Caffé Spinnato, Via Principe di Belmonte 107/115, ☏ .
- Osteria dei Vespri, Piazza Croce dei Vespri 6, ☏ . M-Sa 12:00-15:00, 18:00-24:00.
- Pasticceria Capello, Via Nicolo Garzili 10, ☏ . Th-Tu 07:00-22:00, W closed.
- Pasticceria Capello, Via Colonna Rotta 58, ☏ . Th-Tu 07:00-22:00, W closed.
- Trattoria al Piccolo Napoli, Piazzetta Mulino a Vento 4, ☏ .
- Enoteca Picone, Via Marconi 36, ☏ .
- 1 B&B Novecento, Via Roma, 62, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Original liberty style building in the historical centre, three-star B&B with rooms with AC, WiFi, private bathroom (external or also ensuite), central heating, LCD tv, mini bar, frigo, original furnishings of early 1900s.
- Villa Addaura, Lungomare C. Colombo 1931, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Villa Addaura, a bed and breakfast in Mondello, is in a beautiful location 10 metres from the sea.
- 2 B&B Teatro Massimo, Via Orologio 31, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 11:00. Bed and breakfast Teatro Massimo is an elegant residence in the heart of Palermo, 50 m from the Teatro Massimo, in the pedestrian area of the historical centre. The historic building is completely restored and has an elevator. The B&B offers accommodation in rooms and elegantly furnished apartments. They are air-conditioned, equipped with TV and WiFi.
- B&B Palermo A Casa di Amici, Via Dante 57 - Palermo (on the Via Alloro 1 block from Piazza San Francesco), ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. In the historic centre of Palermo near Al Teatro Massimo. €35-45 per person.
- Al Giardino Dell'Alloro, Vicolo San Carlo 8 (on the Via Alloro 1 block from Piazza San Francesco), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. On a quiet street. €35-45 per person.
- 3 B&B Il Giardino di Ballarò, Street: Via Porta di Castro 75/77 (centre, near Mercato Ballarò), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: after 12:00, check-out: until 10:00. €70 a day for a couple.
- Hotel Casa Giuditta, Via Savona 10 - Piazza Kalsa (in the historical city centre, opposite the sea). Offers rooms and self-catering apartments with 17th-century style decorations. Fully furnished with all mod cons: a/c, washing machines, kitchen with oven, freezer, dishwasher, satellite TV. Children welcome.
- Palermo Sea Holidays, Via Torretta 7, Sferracavallo, near Mondello (30 m from the sea and 2 km (1.24 miles) from Mondello), ☏ . A group of 1- and 2-bedroom self-catering apartments, on Sferracavallo's seafront close to Palermo. Simple but comfortable studios have an outdoor yard, for relaxing during the day and romantic dinners by night. Sferracavallo has good public transport connections to Palermo, and is close to the Capo Gallo nature reserve.
- Florio Park Hotel, Contrada Magaggiari. First category hotel complex by the sea on a beautiful golden and sandy beach. Inside a 4-hectare park, the hotel has 17 pavilions (1 or 2 floors), surrounded by luxuriant vegetation, that comprise 204 rooms and 6 suites. In the central building you'll find the reception desk and the wide and elegant hall, the restaurant, the excursions office, the American bar, the bazaar and the TV room.
- Saint Thorn Guest Club, Via Spina Santa 210, Capo Gallo, near Mondello. It's inside the 'Capo Gallo' nature reserve in the hills outside Palermo, offering stunning views across Mondello's beach. Free parking in the nearby private street, or inside the villa for €5; swimming pool; free internet. All rooms have en suite baths, TV, hair dryer, a/c, fridge, own outside access. Two rooms have kitchenette, with minimum stay of 5 days. Downtown Palermo is about 15 min by bus/car, Mondello 10 min, airport 20 min.
- Hotel Artemisia Palace Palermo, Via Roma, 499, ☏ , fax: . Elegant four-star hotel which has 18 double rooms and suite. All with private bar, satellite TV with Sky channels, internet connection. Also available a free public parking.
- Hotel Italy, Via Roma 62, 4th floor (100 m from the train station), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Good clean rooms with new bathrooms, AC, TV, and balcony with clotheslines. €60, no breakfast.
- Hotel Joli, Via Michele Amari, 11, ☏ , fax: . Rooms adorned with frescoes and fine decor. Fine service, too.
- Villa D'Amato, Via Messina Marine 180, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- NH Palermo, Foro Italico. 237, ☏ . Spacious rooms and a congress centre with 2 meeting rooms, all equipped with natural light, on the picturesque gulf of the city and enjoys breathtaking views across the sea.
- B&B Porta di Castro, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. It is an old building restored and well furnished.
- B&B Lincoln Suite Palermo, Via Lincoln 161 (Centre), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Refined, cheap and central, close to the station. €30.
- 4 In Itinera B&B (near the Giardino Inglese and the Notarbartolo Station), via della Libertà 58, ☏ . Bed and breakfast art and design in the heart of Palermo. Rooms with free wifi, minibar, bathroom with shower or bath and Chromotherapy, air conditioning
- Excelsior Palace Hotel, Via Marchese Ugo, 3, ☏ , fax: . One of the oldest and most renowned luxury hotels in Palermo. 4 star, near the harbour and the English Garden.
- Grand Hotel et Des Palmes Palermo, Via Roma 398, ☏ , fax: . Large and luxurious 4-star in the centre, with exquisite interior design and high quality service. Also one of the oldest and best known in the city. Richard Wagner stayed here from November 1881 until 20 March 1882. It was at this hotel that he completed Parsifal on 13 January 1882.
- 5 Quintocanto Hotel e Spa, Corso Vittorio Emanuele 310, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- Hotel Residenza D’Aragona, Via Ottavio D'Aragona, 25, ☏ , fax: . Elegant and filled with modern comforts and impeccable service. In the historical centre, near the Politeama and Massimo theaters. Single from €80, double from €120.
- Hotel Ucciardhome Palermo, Via Enrico Albanese, 34/36, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hotel Villa Igiea Palermo, Salita Belmonte 43, ☏ , fax: . 5-star villa and hotel complex in the hills overlooking Palermo and the bay. Offering health spa, tennis courts and a fantastic Greek swimming pool that overlooks the sea from on high.
- 6 Mondello Palace Hotel, Viale Principe di Scalea (in Mondello, 7 km from Palermo city centre), ☏ , toll-free: . It rises a few meters from the soft and golden sandy beach and is surrounded by a lush Mediterranean park. It is an elegant building with wide, classic halls. There are an open-air swimming pool, free WiFi internet connection and a parking lot inside the hotel (unguarded). The restaurant is the feather in its cap. It is located in a wide and bright hall, opening up on the garden. Here you can taste Sicilian and international dishes, together with very nice local wines.
Palermo is a quite safe city during the day but it can be an intimidating city at night, especially on week days in the winter, when there are not many students, visitors and locals around. Even if crimes against visitors are quite rare, just remember that:
- You should not go out alone at night, especially outside the main streets and if you are a woman;
- You should book an hotel/B&B in the city centre (the areas around Piazza Ruggero Settimo, Fontana della Ninfa and Piazza Giuseppe Verdi are fine), both for security reasons and also because public transportation between the city centre and suburbs is not reliable at night. Accommodation in Palermo is quite cheap compared to Italian and European standards, even in the best areas.
During the day just remember to be aware of pickpockets on the streets and city buses as well as motorcycle-riding snatch thieves targeting handbags, wallets and mobile phones.
In summer the city centre of Palermo is safe even during the night, as there are hundreds of bars and pubs open all night and many people around. However don't forget to use common sense.
Driving and crossing the streets in Palermo is quite dangerous as the rules of the road are not followed. Also remember that vehicle theft is a major problem in Italy, but, as evinced by latest figures made available by Italian Police, Palermo is safer than Rome, Naples, Milan, Bari, Catania and Turin, but if you want avoid any risk so the use of private, secure car parks is to be preferred. If you've rented a car, your insurance may not be valid if you do not park in a secure car park.
As of Sept 2021, Palermo has 4G from Iliad, TIM and Wind Tre, and 5G from Vodafone.
Palermo's main APT Tourist Office is located at Piazza Castelnuovo 35, open M-F 08:00-20:00 and Sa 08:00-14:00. English spoken. A branch of the tourist office also exists at the airport. Get a free map from one of the blue information booths.
- Bagheria. A small town east of Palermo. There are a handful a beautiful villas there and a museum of renowned painter Renato Guttuso.
- 3 Villa Palagonia, Piazza Garibaldi, 3-90011 Bagheria (PA), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Nov-Mar: 09:00-13:00, 15:30-17:30; Apr-Oct: 09:00-13:00, 16:00-19.00. A splendid richly decorated 18th century villa. Perhaps it's most known for numerous grotesque statues that adorn the garden and its wall. Through them the villa earned its nickname Villa dei Mostri (the Villa of Monsters).