The main city in Sicily, Palermo is imbued with thousands of years of culture and history.

Founded in the 8th century BC by the Phoenicians, it was christened Panormus (‘all-port’) by the Greeks in reference to its status as a major trading point in the region. Passing into Roman hands in the mid-3rd century BC, the fall of the Empire proved fatal for the its stability, becoming possibly the most conquered city in the world. Up until the Risorgimento saw its absorption as part of Italy in 1860, Palermo was respectively under the control of the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Normans, the Spanish and the Neapolitans.

With Sicily declared an autonomous region in 1947, Palermo has reasserted its independence somewhat and regional ties predominate. However, symbols of its chequered history are visible and make Palermo a remarkable city for the tourist.


Norman architecture is a feature of Palermo, with the Palazzo dei Normanni and the San Cataldo on the Piazza Bellini both fine examples. More exotically, the 12th century castle, Zisa, is an enduring symbol of Egyptian and North African design. This hotch-potch of styles reflecting the tumultuous history of the city is encapsulated in The Cathedral of Palermo on the Via Bonello. Erected in 1185, continual additions and restorations have meant myriad styles are on show. This only enhances the building’s beauty though, with its glorious Gothic portal and incredible 15th century Gothic-Catalan portico.

Nevertheless, the Sicilian Baroque style generally dominates the major cultural landmarks. The Church Of The Jesus (Gesu), completed in 1564, is a must see in this regard, with its curves, flourishes and cherubs.

More uniquely, La Martorana on the Piazza Bellini is a beautiful 12th century church, taking its name from the nuns of Eloisa Martorana, who resided there from 1436 onwards. Blessed with a wonderful Baroque façade and an incredible interior covered with mosaics pertaining to Sicilian history, it simply cannot be missed.

The Museo Archeologico Regionale hosts a collection of Etruscan, Carthaginian, Roman and Hellenistic artefacts, making it of huge interest to all visitors. Fans of art should be sure to check out the Palazzo Abatellis, which contains the Regional Gallery.

Should you happen to visit in July, you won’t be able to avoid the festival celebrating the city’s patron saint, Santa Rosalia, which includes a procession on the main street of Cassaro and firework displays.

Sport is an important part of life in Palermo. US Palermo currently ply their trade in Serie A, playing their games at the Stadio Renzo Barbera with tickets easily acquired. Water-sport aficionados should visit during May, when the city hosts the Merit Cup Windsurf World Festival.


Palermo has its share of markets selling local produce, including the Vucciria market between the Via Roma and Corso Vittorio Emanuele and the Borgo Vecchio market.

For local crafts like the pupi (puppets) and painted pottery, pop down the Via Calderai. If you’re looking for high-street fashion instead, the Via Libert� has a selection of the major Italian labels.

Nightlife and Eating Out

The many restaurants found in Palermo mainly specialise in Sicilian cuisine, but local dishes are still available like pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines and anchovies) and the cassata dessert (ricotta cheese, fruit and almonds). One of the best establishments is Il Proverbio on the Via Discesca.

If you’re looking for fast food, the city is littered with kiosks serving Sicilian specialites like panelled (fried chickpea pancakes).

High culture can be found at the Teatro Massimo Opera House on the Piazza Verdi, which has been recently restored.

The most popular meeting points are generally the market locations, particularly the Borgo Vecchio near the Piazza Sturzo. A number of clubs can be found within the city centre like the Moro in Piazza Pottino.

Tourist Information

AAPIT Tourist OfficePiazza Castelnuovo, 3590141PalermoTel: +39 (0)91 605


Palermo is served by Palermo International Airport, located some 32 km from the centre.

International and domestic flights are available, with Ryanair running from London Stansted. Travelling into Palermo is possible via trains, buses and taxis at the airport.

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