While Palermo might not be among your top Italian holiday destinations, you might be surprised by knowing that it ranked the 9th Italian city most visited by foreigners in 2013. So I guess it must have un je ne sais quoi that attracts tourists. So whether you might be among these tourists or just happen to be there to attend a meeting or visit friends or family, here are some tips on where to stay, eat, shop and what to see.
Where to stay....
If you don't mind being not exactly in the centre of Palermo, and with that I mean being about 30 to 40 minutes walk from the most popular streets, you will love the Hotel Principe di Villafranca. It looks eleant, stylish, clean and comes with a gym.
If on the other hand you want or need to be closest to the top attractions and shops, you should stay at Quintocanto hotel & spa. The latter doesn't have a gym, but if you are going to walk a lot you are sure to burn your calories anyway. This is where I stayed while I was in Palermo to attend a project meeting for work. I loved the hotel, the staff, my room and the breakfast and the location could not have been any better. Because of the location I was able to walk to my meetings, find an hour or two to shop, and be within walking distance from a handful of great cafes and restaurants.
Where to eat......
For a great pizza and the longest pizza menu I have ever encountered you should try Pizzeria Frida located in Piazza Sant'Onofrio. If you are staying at the Quintocanto hotel you can reach it in around 5 minutes by turning right as you are exiting the hotel, taking Via Maqueda on your left, walking strait and taking the third side Street on your left. It is a very narrow slightly downhill Street and at its end you find yourself in Piazza Sant'Onofrio. Look for a restaurant on your left with outdoor seating and you will quickly spot it. I suggest you to use Google maps and print the route so as not to get lost, which is what me and my colleague did when we tried to find it without a proper map. I had the pizza alla norma and I hated it simply because it was full of fresh ricotta while I thought it would be salted ricotta. However, apart from the ricotta it was really good and I am sure all the other pizzas are Amazing since they smelled and looked so. It also very cheap and you get a huge pizza.
If you are looking for a nice place to have your lunch, or a snack or a dessert go to Bar Touring in Via Roma. The arancini and ice cream are really good, and eveything else looks delicious. I also enjoyed the old stylish but cosy atmotsphere, and even when it gets full around lunch time the service is still great. Prices are good too.
For some fine dining which is traditional, tasty and affordable and has a nice and cosy setting (also great for romantic dinners) do not miss the chance to eat at Gulu. This restaurant, located in Piazza Marina, offers fresh fish along with your usual steak and fries but most importantly delicious local food. I had the antipasto della casa which came with the famous panelle palermitane, which are fried pieces of vegetables surrounded with a batter which make them soft but crispy. And as a maincourse I had paccheri with pistacchi di bronte, fresh swordfsh and srimps. The bill was surprisingly low considered the quality and portion size.
While I only had the chance to go inside 2 shops in Via Maqueda, Sephora and Sophie's Accessories,I also suggest Via Roma and Via Ruggiero Settimo. Here you can find various designer and high Street shops including Zara, H&M, Mango, Carpisa and many more.
What to see.....
3. La Cuba
4. Villa Bonanno
5. Giardino Inglese
6. La Zisa
7. Palazzo dei Normanni
8. San Giovanni degli Eremiti
9. Cappella Palatina
10. Teatro Massimo
If you are never heard anything bad about Palermo, then you might not even believe it unless you are unlucky to be a victim that Palermo is very well known for Street robbery, especially bag snatching. Being Sicilian I know this very well. So before Flying out of Malta I was reading about the snatching statistics and I found out that in March 2014 there were 4 cases in the area I was staying. An old man ended with broken ribs and a young woman got punched in her face while trying to steal her mobile phone. This doesn't however mean you are going to be a victim too. You can definitely avoid it. My colleague and I both did although we walked all the time, morning and early night for a long time with bug bags. Here are my tips to avoid being robbed in the streets of Palermo:
1. Know where you are and where you are going. Do your research before you arrive in Palermo or in your hotel room so as to avoid looking too touristy and confused while searching on your mobile, ipad or map.
2. Always look around you and what is happening and who is near you
3. Be aware of motor bikes, especially with 2 men on a scooter as this is usually how they rob you. One is driving and the other grabs and snatches your bag, phone or other gadget off your arm and hand. While doing so you might get hurt.
4. Avoid taking out your technology if you can. The outdoor images in this post are not mine as the only pictures I took while in Palermo were the ones inside my hotel room.
5. Do not wear expensive jewellery, clothing, bags and other show off things as these might attract robbers.
6. Avoid walking on your own. And even if you have company be careful and try to avoid going out early, late at night or being in isolated areas.
8. If you don't need them with you keep all your expensive belongings in your luggage locked up in your hotel room
9. Wear a shoulder bag across your body and preferably under your jacket. A great tip is to choose a bag with a metal chain so that it cannot be cut off with a knife.
10. Wear comfortable shoes so that you can quicken you pace or run if you need to.
All in all, Palermo is a nice city to visit for a short 2 or 3 days trip.