The Albergheria is the oldest neighborhood in Palermo. This is where the Phoenicians founded the city, and it hosts the royal palace which all the city’s rulers have called home. Despite this rich history, today’s Albergheria is one of the most run-down sections of Palermo. Nowhere else is the juxtaposition of dilapidated housing and exquisite historic buildings quite so jarring.
The Albergheria occupies the southwest quadrant delineated by the Quattro Canti, and has more than its share of artistic treasures. The Palazzo Normanni, the Casa Professa, the churches of San Giovanni degli Eremiti and San Giuseppe dei Teatini, and the Palazzo Sclafani are just some of the architectural highlights. In the past, it was home to Palermo’s Jewish population, before they were kicked off the island in 1492.
The neighborhood was heavily damaged during Allied air raids in World War II, and has never fully recovered. Cheap housing went up around the tiny alleys and a large immigrant population moved in to take advantage of the low rents. Today, a visit to the Albergheria almost feels like a trip to another continent. Sri Lankans and Africans dominate sections of the neighborhood, and have set up shops and restaurants which are decidedly non-Italian in flavor.
One place in the Albergheria that definitely has Italian credentials is the Ballaró Market, which competes with Il Capo’s as the best in town. Stretched out between the churches of San Nicolò and Carmine, this market has everything you could possibly need for the kitchen. And on the corner of Via Nunzio Nasi is a guy selling the best street food we’ve had in Palermo: panelle, rascature and crocchè, packed into paninis.
The Albergheria is one of those rare neighborhoods which changes its face every time you turn a corner. Will you find a gorgeous church, an African hair salon selling weaves, a market stand hawking six-foot zucchini, or a Bollywood movie store? Despite the urban decay, and in some ways because of it, the Albergheria is an exciting place to spend some time.
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I propose a brindis , toast , for you and for Siciliar
Guys I love your blog articles about my city :)Hope you tried panins with frittola!
Thank you for the comment! Actually panins with frittola was our last lunch we had in Palermo.
In July my husband and I traveled to Italy. It is such a beautiful and amazing country. I wanted to visit Albergheria in Palermo because that is where my people came from. I was a little surprised (and disappointed) to find so many immigrants there. I did enjoy Casa Professora where my mother and father were married, and the cathedral – the church that my grandparents were married- a few blocks away. The Norman castle was also wonderful. Palermo is very different from the rest of Italy. The next day after catching my breath, I was able to enjoy the city for its own beauty. I came to appreciate the Four Corners, the opera houses and people of Palermo. Very disappointed did not have a pannelle while there. Very proud of my rich ancestral history.
Lovely photos. I spent about 9 days in Palermo in 2010. Fell in love with the city. The Quatro Canti is one of my favorite places on earth.
Thank you for this great article. I’ve never been to Italy, and probably never will. But reading this article made me feel somewhat like was really there. You have a very unique writing style that effectively carries the reader across the boundaries of time and space, which, I suppose, is a good thing if your writing a travel blog. I accidentally found this article while Googling “Albergheria”, which was cited in a Wikipedia article as the birthplace of the infamous Count Calglostro. I researched the Count after viewing Orson Welles portray him in Black Magic (1949). My thing is viewing old movies, and I’ve never travelled much. But through your visits, and articles, perhaps I can visit them vicariously. Thank You !!!