The Capital of Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean
With a population of 1.2m, Palermo is the 5th biggest conurbation in Italy. It is the capital city of Sicily, which lies to the southwest of the Italian mainland. Due to its strategic location, Palermo was under occupation by the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs and the Normans, before becoming part of modern Italy in 1860. Once the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, the city is peppered with architectural reminders of each occupying civilization. Other attractions include Sicilian gastronomy, stunning churches, outdoor markets, elegant squares, lively nightlife and the opportunity to explore the rest of the island. Palermo has struggled for decades to shake off its association with the Mafia and is actively developing its more wholesome elements, in particular the restoration of its magnificent historical buildings.
If archeology, history, magnificent architecture and Roman Catholic heritage are amongst your interests, Palermo will satisfy you. Enjoy high Italian opera at the Teatro Massimo; wonder at the Saracen arches and Byzantine mosaics in the Palazzo dei Normanni; explore on foot a host of beautiful churches, palaces and city squares.
When to go?
Palermo enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The annual average temperature is 18.5 degrees centigrade. At the height of summer, the heat can become uncomfortable. A visit in May could include the World Beach Festival and/or the Avvinado, a wine festival featuring 450 Italian wines. July sees the Santa Rosalia Festival, with parades and processions celebrating Palermo’s patron saint. Palermo is also an excellent place to celebrate Easter.
How to get there?
Palermo Airport, 32 km west of the city, welcomes flights from countries all over Europe, as well as from Tunis and Tel Aviv. There are trains from the airport to the city’s central station. You can also catch a ferry to Palermo from Naples, Genoa, and Malta. For travel within Palermo, there is a metro system.
The Galleria Regionale della Sicilia and the Museo Archeologico Regionale are, respectively, amongst the finest art galleries and architectural museums that Italy has to offer. Palermo Cathedral is the jewel in the crown of the city’s religious buildings. Re-fuel at Pizzerias and Gelaterias (ice-cream parlours). The Oratorio del Rosario di San Domenica and the Oratorio di San Lorenzo contain exquisite statues, mosaics and artwork. If you tire of the city, why not climb up Mount Pellegrino for stunning views of the city and its surrounds. If you want to go higher still, there’s always Mount Etna, at 3,320m Europe’s tallest active volcano!