Ciao, Palermo!

Sicily Travel Guide

Jürgen and I pulled into Palermo at 6pm on a balmy Saturday evening in September, and were at a pizzeria exactly seventeen minutes later, forks in hand, napkins tucked carelessly into collars. Suitcases could be unpacked later; sitting down to an authentic Sicilian pizza was something we’d been looking forward to for too long.

Palermo is one of Europe’s most ancient cities, with a tumultuous history going back 2700 years. Labyrinthine alleyways are packed with churches, ruins and palaces constructed in a variety of styles, depending on who happened to be in charge at the time they were built. Phoenicians founded the city in the 8th Century BC, and it belongs to Italy today, but Palermo has been ruled by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, French, and Austrians. Most of these groups have left permanent footprints on the city, through its architecture, food and language.

Around 700,000 people call Palermo home, making it the largest and most important city in Sicily, the island eternally being kicked into the Mediterranean by Italy’s boot. In Palermo, Sicilian rivals Italian as the main language on the streets and in homes. The city is most infamous as the stronghold of the Mafia, whose nefarious dealings continue today, despite the recent momentum behind anti-mob community groups.

Alongside its magnificent architectural heritage and shady underworld, Palermo is renowned for its cuisine. The pizza and pasta, of course, are legendary, and the seafood is also top-notch. Raucous street markets sell fresh fruits and vegetables, along with Sicilian specialties like arancini: breaded balls filled with meaty tomato sauce, rice, and mozzarella. Filling the windows of the city’s many pasticcerías are desserts such as frutta martorana (colored marzipan that looks like fruit) and cannoli, which are fried dough tubes filled with a sweet ricotta-based cream. Before arriving, we tried to seriously trim down the waistlines, because we weren’t about to hold back on the rich, Sicilian goodness.

Though Palermo offered plenty to keep us occupied, we didn’t neglect the other treasures of Sicily during our three months. Trapani, Mount Etna, and the ancient ruins of Syracuse were just a few of the day trips we’d be undertaking. Sicily is huge and though we weren’t be able to get to all of it, we tried and hit the highlights.

A quick glance at the index will reveal that we actually lived in Palermo for well over 91 days. During the last half of 2011, we happened to have a lot of personal obligations that took us out of Italy — weddings, visits with family and friends, and jobs. So, we extended our stay; we didn’t want to give short shrift to one of the Mediterranean’s best cities.

google_ad_client = “pub-1580149437633664”;

/* 300×250, created 9/19/11 */

google_ad_slot = “0176613871”;

google_ad_width = 300;

google_ad_height = 250;


This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. lucia

    You will love it or hate it!that’s Palermo!but the food is definetly somethinh to love!ENJOY IT.

    1. Juergen

      So far we are loving it – we are having a really good time and are really excited to explore more of the city and tings around it.

      Do you have any tips for us? What is your favorite place to eat in Palermo/Sicily ?
  2. Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    I was so confused by your title (because I live in Palermo in Buenos Aires).  I thought maybe your plans had changed, and I might get to meet you :-)Love the photos of your ‘hood.  Looks like a beautiful and fun place.

    1. Juergen

      Hehe maybe that’s why we chose Palermo as well. Living in Buenos Aires had a great impact on us. Are you getting ready for your Bolivia trip?

  3. Amer

    You guys are living a dream life there! How amazing is it to live in Italy? it’s everyone’s dream. Enjoyed your Palermo posts. Am looking forward for more!

    1. Juergen

      It’s incredible to be here – loving it and the food! Especially the fried kind, delicious and fattening. 

  4. Tess

    Great to see that you are back, looking forward to visit my friend and family when seeing these photos and especially going to Sicily or somewhere else in Italy. That pizza jammiee!!

    1. Juergen

      Thank you for reading. Are you planning a trip to Italy soon? Considering to come to Palermo? Yes indeed, that pizza! We have to eat at least one slice a day 🙂

  5. jan

    All your photos are fantastic, but the first one in this post really grabbed at my heart strings.  That is talent!

    1. Juergen

      Jan, this made my day!!! Thank you so much for this comment.

  6. Keith

    I heard about your site after reading an article in “La Repubblica” (this one: ), and I’ve been sitting here (at work…ugh) and just read all the posts on your site and the photos, and you’re making me so nostalgic (and hungry), and I can’t wait to return to Sicily.  Despite its problems, it’s still my favorite place on the planet!  Great work that you guys did.  Love the photography!  Look forward to reading your travel guides, too!  

  7. Loly Riela-Martinowsky

    I have lived 16 yrs in Palermo, after which I fled head ovr heals.  It’s murderous.  The only things I miss  are my husband and my friends, ah and yes, the hospitality and the food.

  8. Richard

    I loved Palermo. Not sure why, maybe the state of decay and chaos of the city.

  9. Maurizio Piccolo

    I want to live in Italy and Palermo might be the place. Where can I get good info about long-term rentals, shopping, visas?  Your photos and writing are superb.  Loved them – all

    1. Mike Powell

      Thanks! You might want to check out the resource — they have a ton of information about the city, and can help answer your questions.

  10. Tom Angelo

    I just got back from my 2nd stay in Palermo, and I thought 2 weeks was a long time to visit (so did most of the tourists I encountered;  many were just passing through). It’s so great that you were able to spend 3 months there, and really get to know it. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous, and made me “home”-sick for a city that has become like a second home. I was planning on writing my own blog; now I have to find another under-appreciated city! Or maybe I’ll write it anyway, but I doubt it will contain your attention to detail (and my photos were taken on a cheap rental phone). Molto grazie, Tom Angelo 

Leave a Reply