Palermo has been named “Italian Capital of Culture 2018”. From 2016 Palermo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is still an exotic mixture of many cultures, including Roman, Carthaginian, Byzantine, Greek, Arab, Norman, Swabian and Spanish. Many of the monuments still exist giving the city somewhat unique appearance.
The old town of Palermo is one of the largest in Europe, full of references to the past. The city also hosts its rich vegetation of palm trees, prickly pears, bananas, lemon trees and so on. The abundance of exotic species was also noticed by the world-famous German writer Goethe who in April 1787 visited the newly opened botanical gardens, describing them as “the most beautiful place on earth”.
The exterior demonstrates the Gothic style of the 13th-14th centuries whilst the dome itself provides an insight into the style of the 18th-century. A highlight of the collection is the cap-like crown of Constance of Aragon, which was removed from her tomb in the 18th century.
The Teatro Massimo is one of the largest theatres in Europe and it represents the high point of a typical unapologetically Italian-style theatre. The atmosphere of watching a show in this venue is unparalleled, with a colour scheme of red and gold and impressive acoustics to accompany performances.
PALAZZO DEI NORMANNI AND CAPPELLA PALATINA
Built in 1130, year of King Roger II’s crowning, inside the Norman Palace, it is definitely one of the most famous sights in Palermo. Covered in dazzling Byzantine mosaics (like to those in the church of the Martorana and in the Monreale Cathedral), it is a symbol of the political and cultural union operated by the Normans.
Famous markets in the capital city include the Vucciria, Ballaro and Borgo Vecchio, all of which bring something different to the table when it comes to the purchasing of Italian goods, old and new. A price-buster’s paradise, each market is full of all kinds of treasures and is a great way to integrate yourself and connect with the Palermo locals Monday through Saturday, as well as sampling some of the incredible street food on offer.
FOOD AND DRINK
As mentioned previously, the infamous outdoor markets are the best place to get a taste of authentic Sicilian cuisine, with opportunities to try a variety of traditional dishes at fairly low cost. Highlights and specialities include pane e panelle, chickpea-flour fritters served in bread, crocche, potato croquettes with anchovies and cheese, and if you’re feeling brave, pane con la milza, which is essentially bread with the spleen.