On any visit to Palermo, a day trip to the town of Monreale is essential for a few reasons. Its magnificent cathedral is one of the world’s finest and best-preserved examples of Norman architecture. And the view obtained over Palermo’s valley is incredible. Just a handful of miles from the city, Monreale couldn’t be easier to reach and would be worth the journey just for a walk through its picturesque, sleepy mountain streets.
Palermo is bounded to the north by Monte Pellegrino, a rock jutting into the Mediterranean which Goethe described as “the most beautiful promontory in the world”. Near the mountain’s summit is the Santuario di Santa Rosalia, one of Palermo’s many patron saints. The mountain park and the sanctuary can be easily visited in a few hours, and make a great escape from the noise and traffic of the city.
One of the best birds-eye views of Palermo can be had from the top of the Torre di San Nicolò, near the Ballarò market in the Albergheria. The late-Gothic tower was constructed in the 13th century for defensive purposes, and now belongs to the adjoining San Nicolò church. For a structure built so long ago, the tower is in remarkable condition, and you’d have a hard time finding a better panorama of the medieval city.