Provincial capital and seat of regional government, Palermo is the largest and most important city in Sicily. Its magnificent geographical situation – between the Bay of Palermo on the Tyrrhenian Sea and the mountains that border the Conca d’Oro – and the city itself, richly interwoven by centuries of art, make it an especially attractive tourist destination. Palermo is a lively cultural centre and magical meeting place of Mediterranean civilisations, a place with its own distinctive character and stirring popular traditions.
Originally called Panormos, Palermo was a flourishing Roman free town by the first century B.C. After Byzantine and Saracen rule, it passed into the hands of the Normans; King Frederick II of Swabia made it his capital and a thriving cultural centre. After the unhappy period under the Angevins, its fortunes were raised by the Aragonese. The Spanish, Austrians and then the Bourbons were Palermo’s masters until Garibaldi landed on the island. Thereafter, it became part of the Kingdom of Italy.
|How to arrive|
Falcone Borsellino Airport in Punta Raisi (30 km from Palermo) is linked to the city by the Trinacria Express train and a bus service.
Palermo has connections with Genoa, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Naples, Salerno and Cagliari.
Motorway A3 Napoli–Reggio Calabria as far as Villa San Giovanni and the ferry to Messina; for Palermo, the A 20 and junction with the A 19.
About 300 trains pass through Palermo Station per day.
|How to get around|
Trips into the countryside round Palermo are best made by car. There are car parks in the new part of the city to the north-west.
The bus service – managed by AMAT – has a large number of routes and is the best way of seeing the city. There are two services (yellow and red) especially for tourists with electric minibuses running all day. The ticket for the railway linking the city centre with the airport is valid for the other urban transport services.
Taxi services are provided by Autoradio Taxi (tel. 091/512727) and Radio Taxi Trinacria (Tel. 091/25455). Taxis can be found near the airport, station, theatres and the main piazzas in the city.
- Azienda Autonoma Provinciale per l’Incremento Turistico (Tourist office)
Piazza Castelnuovo, 35 Tel. 091/6058111 Fax 091/582788
Uffici Informazioni Turistiche (Information point)
Piazza Castelnuovo, 34 Tel. 091/583847 – 6058351 Fax 091/586338
- Central Railway Station
Piazza Giulio Cesare Tel e Fax 091/6165914
- “Falcone Borsellino” Airport
Cinisi Tel 091/59169 Fax 091/6525053
Medical Emergency Service 118
Financial Police 091/7430111
Traffic Police 091/6569511
Breakdown service: 116
Fire brigade: 115
Harbour office: 091/6043111
Sea Rescue: 1530
Via Segesta 9 Tel. 091/585073
Viale Scaduto 2/d Tel. 091/6254660
- United Kingdom
Via Cavour 117 Tel. 091/326412
Via Vaccarini 1 Tel. 091/305857
The principal feature of Palermo’s cuisine is fish, not only the fresh sardines in its most famous pasta dish – pasta con le sarde – but also the main ingredient in many second courses. You must also try the classic aubergine caponata and falsomagro (a roulade of cheese, breadcrumbs and dried fruit); also hard to resist are panelle and guastelle, the chickpea and cheese fritters you will find on the stalls in the city centre. You will be spoilt for choice with cakes: ricotta-based cassata, cannoli filled with cream cheese and candied fruit, the “fruits” of Martorana and almond nougat are only some of the most delicious examples.
Typical souvenirs of Palermo can be found in Via Vittorio Emanuele, with its boutiques selling Sicilian ceramics, puppets and carts; for designer-label shopping, on the other hand, the places to go are Via Ruggero Settimo, Viale Libertà and Piazza Mordini. A visit to Palermo usually includes one of the city’s markets: the liveliest and most famous of these is the Vucciria (from the French boucherie – butcher’s shop), spread out round Piazza Caracciolo, and selling a little of everything. Other musts are the large Capo market (Via Sant’Agostino, Via Cappuccinelle and Porta Carini) and the Ballarò, in the old Alberghiera quarter.
(Opera, Ballett, Concerts)
Piazza G. Verdi Numero Verde 800.655858
Via Roma, 258 Tel. 091/7434300
Teatro Al Massimo
(Drama and operetta)
Piazza Verdi, 9 Tel. 091/589575
Teatro di Verdura
Viale del Fante 70/B