Sicily is not your typical first-choice destination when it comes to Italy. It’s usually Rome, Milan and Venice that attracts the average tourist. But how about Palermo — a small vibrant city on the island of Sicily, which is in the southern region of Italy. There are a wide range of activities and sites that guide books will recommend, however, here is a guide built from first hand experiences that you should definitely do during your short stay of three or four days to keep you occupied and interested.
Get lost in the city
I do not mean it literally. Do make sure to grab a map from your hotel or tourist’s office before you set out to explore. It is quite common for tourists to stick to the main streets when walking around the city, as there is slight hesitance to go off-track. The main high street, via Roma, is very long and seems never-ending. Nevertheless, do not be afraid to wander around and explore the narrow alleyways. You might be surprised when you turn the next corner. One alleyway leads you to Vucciria Market which boasts of little treasures , fresh fruits and veg. The axial plan of the city means that roads criss cross and at almost every street corner you will find a fountain or a piazza. Each piazza is unique and has its very own charms. Street vendors make the most of this opportunity to set up store and entice the passers-by. The best way to get around the city centre is on foot. Not only does this give you the chance to take in the views but you can also plan your own journey at your own pace. You can opt for the bus but as they have a complicated system it’s not widely recommend. Unless you are planning some romantic excursion or only have a day to stay in Palermo, do not go on horse-carriages! They are overly-priced and its not the best way to see the city; the tour is incredibly quick and you will miss out on a lot of things.
Teatro Massimo on Piazza Verdi is a must-see building during your visit. It hosts the opera and on some evenings there are ballet performance. So if you get the chance, go ahead and spend an evening there. Going further away from the main street you will find Palermo Cathedral. It has a blend of Arabic and Baroque architecture and is very beautiful. There are so many sites to see but its up to you to explore the city and discover its charms.
Have a Gelato
A trip to Italy is incomplete without Gelato. If you follow step one of this guide, you will definitely need a Gelato to cool you down from the scorching sun. Stop by the many kiosks selling it in different flavours and make sure that you try the other sweet treats as well.
Grab a cocktail at Qvivi
Located on the alleyways off Via Roma on Piazza Rivoluzione, Qvivi is a music bar which attracts the young crowd of Palermo. The music played here is classic American rock and the bar décor pays homage to famous American musicians such as Elvis Presley. The drinks menu is quite varied and with more than 30 cocktails on the menu, you’re left spoilt for choice. So enjoy a drink under the stars and as you bite into the absolutely delicious lime and pepper crisps. Or simply strike a conversation with the friendly regulars at the bar for an evening well spent.
Visit Mondello Beach
Finally, the last day of your stay should be spent at Mondello beach. Purchase a ticket from a kiosk and hop into bus #806 from Via Liberta (the system for travelling outside the city is much simpler!) to reach Mondello, located just on the outskirts of the city, in over half an hour. Make sure you validate your ticket as soon as you’re on. The beach gets extremely crowded so we’d recommend you get there in good time, perhaps late morning, just before lunch. While you are there, try an authentic Sicilian Pizza with eggs and frankfurters as toppings —mixture of the weird and wonderful!
We’ve come to the end of my guide, hopefully it gives you an idea of what Palermo has to offer and you can even create your very own guide after your visit. It’s a fun getaway destination and the sun is guaranteed. Just don’t get lost both geographically and in translation – if your Italian language skills are not up to par.
Image Courtesy: IOda_ralta, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic; Dedda71, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 unported¦ Wikimedia Commons