As the capital of the stunning island of Sicily, Palermo was sought after long before it became a sunny holiday spot. At various times the city was dominated by Arab invaders, Normans and French invaders, and many left their mark, in the form of fabulous buildings or crumbling walls.
Arches, mosaics and the marble-strewn style of Sicilian baroque architecture dominate buildings like the Gesu Church and the dulled yellow of the impressive cathedral, while delve down into the catacombs and you’ll find yourself staring at a morbid scene containing over 8000 mummified former residents of the city. You might consider the buildings, though, to be best left for a rainy day: the major draw in Palermo will almost certainly remain the stunning Mediterranean beaches.
Perhaps the best of them is at Mondello, a huge arching, hotel-ridden stretch of sand marked at either end by a rustic, rocky hill and laden with palm trees. In the summer you’ll find it lively, but walk to one of the ends and there’s still ample space to enjoy your own little patch of sand and frolic in the waves. At the other extreme, aside from the catacombs, Palermo has another strange offering to throw at you: the sewers. That’s not half as bad as it sounds: these particular pipes are aimed at transferring drinking water, and are an incredible architectural feat under the city, making the tours and intriguing proposition.
Of course, being an island city, Palermo has a deep love of seafood, one that you’ll find blending with both Italian and Arabic influences in dishes like ‘Paste con sarde’ (pasta with sardines) and Sicilian orange salad. There are a few you might prefer to avoid, too, such as the readily available spleen sandwich, but generally speaking you’re in for a culinary treat that takes off at a slight tangent to the rest of Italy.
Sicily is a genuinely unique place, fusing influences across many generations of make a city that’s different to many others in Italy, but equally compelling. Make the most of the sunny summers or mingle with the locals during the mellow winters, either way, Palermo always has something to offer.
Mondello is a quiet fishing village just 20 minutes away from Palermo center. During the summers it's beach is crowded by locals, and is quite the sight to see! Jutting out of the island on…