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Palermo

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Palermo [31] is the capital of the main Italian island of Sicily, located on the north coast of the island.

Understand

Cathedral

The capital of Sicily was founded by Phoenicians under the name of "Ziz" (which means "flower", but the meaning is still uncertain) and later renamed by Greeks "Panormos", which means "all port". It reached its golden age during the Arab domination (9th to 11th centuries AD) when it became one of the most prosperous cities in the Mediterranean and Europe, known as "city of delights" for its marvelous and lavish gardens, as well as for magnificent mosques and palaces.

After being conquered by the Normans (1060-1080 AD), most of palaces and mosques were destroyed, but the new rulers exploited the cosmopolitan environment of Palermo and the artists, architects and masters from different cultural roots giving the birth to a unique architectural style, the so-called "Arab-Norman Style of Sicily", which is an original mixture of arabesque decorations, Romanesque architecture and Byzantine mosaics.

After being home to one of the most famous emperors of the Middle Ages, Frederik II of Swabia, named "Stupor Mundi" by contemporaries, Palermo began its decadence under the influence of several dominations In the mid-19th century, Palermo was one the leading revolutionary cities in Italy, strongly contributing to the success of the "Mille" (literally "one thousand"), a patriots' expedition lead by the famous Italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi which ended with the reunification of Italy under the Savoy dynasty from Turin (1860).

Nowadays, Palermo faces several problems affecting its economic development, mainly because of the presence of the very powerful criminal organization known worldwide as "Mafia" or "Cosa Nostra". The city's economy is based on local government institutions, port, shipbuilding industry and the mechanical industry. It is also seat to some important Sicilian wine making companies (like Tasca d'Almerita, Duca di Salaparuta, Corvo, Planeta, etc.) whose popularity in the world is growing.

Climate

Palermo has a typical mediterranean climate. Palermo has the warmest winter in Italy and one of the warmest in Europe with nights being around 10°C (50°F) and days around 15°C (59°F). It is even warmer than cities like Catania and Syracuse in southern Sicily. That's why Palermo does attract tourists even in the winter that seek an escape from the cold weather in northern and central italy. Occasionally, temperatures can drop down to 5°C (42°F) but any further below is rare. The record low is -1°C (30°F). Although snow is very rare in the city, flurries can occur in the inland suburbs but even they are uncommon. The last significant snowfall was on New Year's Eve 2014. Most of precipitation also falls in the winter.

Spring and autumn are both very pleasant seasons to visit but autumn is much wetter than spring.

Summers on the other hand aren't as hot as Catania and are even cooler than those of cities in northern Italy, such as Florence. The average high in August is 30.5°C (86.9°F) while in Catania it's 32°C (90°F) and in Florence it's 31.5°C (88.7°F). When heat waves hit, the mercury can rise above 38°C (100°F) in some cases. The record high is 44°C (111°F). Summer is also the driest part of the year but August has a substantial amount of rainfall.

Get in

By plane

Palermo International Airport [32] (IATA: PMO) is located some 32 km west of the city at Punta Raisi and has flights incoming from other Italian centres and major European cities on a regular basis. Half hourly shuttle buses (displaying "prestia e commande") provide inexpensive transport into the city centre (€6.10). There are 1-2 trains per hour, 50 minutes, €5.80 (destination Punta Raisi). The usual taxi and car rental services are also available at the airport. You can also book a private airport transfer online in advance.

By ferry

Ferries steam between the port of Palermo and the following Italian ports on a regular basis: Genoa, Civitavecchia, Naples, Malta (Valletta) and Cagliari (Sardinia).

By train

Through trains from Rome and Naples via the train ferry across the Messina straits.

Get around

On foot

Although Palermo is a fair-sized city, most of the interesting sites around the centre can easily be reached on foot.

San Cataldo Church in the centre.

By bus

Get a 24 hour ticket for €4. Many buses run on Via Roma. To go to Pl Indipendenza take bus 109 from the station.

See

Mosaic in Monreale Cathedral
The Orpheus mosaic
Gesu Church

Palermo, unlike Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan and, to some extent, Naples, is not ranking among the must-see-cities of Italy though it's not actually known why ever this happens. Nevertheless for the varieties of its monuments, witnessing its long and rich history, the number of other cultural and naturalistic attractions,it can offer a very interesting experience to the visitors interested in exploring it. In particular, outside from the classical attractions listed below, the area of Viale della Libertà Avenue from the Politeama Theater to Piazza Croci is a great place that shows the Art-Nouveau heart of the City. It can be considered a sort of local Avenue des Champs-Elysées or the Barcelona's Ramblas.

  • Cathedral - honey-coloured and Catalan influenced. Frederick II, Barbarossa's son, died in 1250 and is buried here, far from his ancestral home above Hohenstaufen, Germany. Frederick's sarcophagus is of porphyry dyed with imperial purple.
  • Quattro Canti - the symbolic crossroads at the old centre of the city and the nearby small, but pretty La Martorana church with byzantine mosaics inside.
  • Museo Archeologico regionale Antonio Salinas (Regional Archeological Museum Antonio Salinas), Via Bara all'Olivella 24. The museum hosts one of the richest and most important Punic and Ancient Greek art collections in Italy. The museum is part of the Olivella complex. free entrance.
  • Catacombe dei Cappuccini, open daily 9AM-12 noon and 3PM-5PM, entrance is €3 - the catacombs of the Capuchin convent located on the Piazza Cappuccini, just west of the city centre, contain over 8000 mummified ex-residents from Palermo and its surrounding villages, some merely clothed skeletons, other remarkably well-preserved and lifelike. Well worth a visit, interesting, if slightly morbid. Children may either find it exciting or terrifying and it must be the responsibility of their parents to think carefully before taking them.
  • Palazzo dei Normanni. Inside, don't miss the mosaics in the Cappella Palatina and the old Royal Apartments
  • street markets, especially near the Piazza del Carmine and Vucciria. At the Ballaro there is a huge variety of fresh fruits on offer.
  • Piazza Garraffello near Vucciria on Friday nights a DJ is playing open air if the weather is good. Huge crowd dancing. There are also lots of bars right next to the square.
  • Piazza Pretoria, including the Fontana Pretoria
  • The Gesu Church is one of the most architecturally important in Palermo. Constructed between 1564–1633, it's late date of completion resulted in an abundant use of polychrome marbles on both floors and walls. This form of decoration, which gradually evolved in Sicily from the beginning of the 17th century, was a mark of the beginning of the Sicilian Baroque period, which was to give Sicily almost an architectural national identity.
  • San Giovanni degli Eremiti. Via dei Bernadetti. Tel: +39 91 6515019. Old church ruin and nice garden. The €6 admission ensures that the lovely garden is quiet and peaceful. Open mo-sa 9AM-7PM.
Erimitage
  • Cappella Palatina, Piazza Indipendenza, Tel: +39 091 7054317. Chapel with mosaics. It's one of the artistic gems of Palermo, magnificent mosaics and Arabian-style decorations, among the most beautiful in the world. Open mo-fr 9-11. 45AM and 3-4.45PM. Sa 9-11.45AM. Su 9-9.45AM, 12-12.45PM.
  • The Zisa and the Cuba, Arabic-Norman royal palaces. The Zisa is in Piazza Zisa; the Cuba in Corso Calatafimi.
  • The Church of San Giovanni dei Lebbrosi, the Admiral Bridge and the newly re-opened Favara Castle (at the beginning of the magnificent panoramic road towards Gibilrossa - historic location tied to the italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi- and Belmonte Mezzagno, through wonderful orange and tangerine orchards] are the main sights of the part of the city beyond the river Oreto.
  • Monreale - a village/suburb 8 km west of Palermo, sitting on the hill with a great view back towards the city and the sea. Be sure to visit the Duomo (Cathedral) and its cloisters too.

Do

  • Occhio al boma, +39 368 489 694 (), [1]. On the Sailboat cruise, there is an opportunity for sight seeing, snorkeling, drinking, eat, sun bathing. The staff is very friendly, helpful and patient. Departure from Palermo to Mondello, Sferracavallo, Isola dele Femmine, Porticello
  • Stadio Renzo Barbera, Viale del Fante, 11, 90146 Palermo (c. 5km north of the Central Station, take bus 101 or 107 from the Central Station or along the route), +39 091 690 1211. Most of the year (except Summer). A great place for football matches in Palermo.

History of Sicilian mafia

The Sicilian Mafia is a criminal organization – well known as Cosa Nostra – present in Sicily, since the early 19th century and transformed in the second half of the 20th century into an international criminal organization.

Learn

International House Language Centre [33] is right in the centre near Piazza Politeama (via Q. Sella 70). International House has teachers with years of experience. Each year it welcomes Italian language students from every corner of the globe. Its Italian language courses can be combined with traditional cooking lessons, scuba diving sessions and tours of the city and the island. The school was founded in 1975 and is also a centre of excellence for English language teaching. Free Wi-fi available for tourists and students.

Sicilia [34] language school specializes in teaching Italian to foreigners of any level, from beginner to advanced, as well as preparing them for DITALS exams. Founded in 2005, it also offers cooking classes and guided tours to the students, as well as a crash course in Sicilian language, culture and history. Find it at Via Houel, 19.

Buy

  • Isola Saporita [35], Corso Vittorio Emanuele 504 (opposite the cathedral). tel: +390916527506. Good selection of wine, oil, marmelade, sauces, etc.
  • The "Pizzo free" shops are a group of shopkeepeers that refuse to pay the racket to the Mafia. The Palermitan consumers sustain them by going shopping in their stores. These shops are easily recognisable by a sticker in the shop/restaurant window. You can find the list here: [36]. If you'd prefer your whole trip to be "pizzo-free" there is a special website for travelers here: [37]

Eat

Try specialties of Palermo like panino con la milza or panelle, in one of the many sandwich stands in the old city center.

  • Antica Focacceria S. Francesco, Via Alessandro Paternostro, 58, 90133 Palermo (In the small piazza in front front of S. Francecso church), +39 091 320 264, [2]. A deservedly popular top quality restaurant serving fine Sicilian food in the open air. Bookings recommended at weekends.
  • Eremiti, Via dei Benedettini, 7, 90134 Palermo, +39 329 867 7551. Italian Restaurant
  • Gaetano Vasta la Mimosa 2, Via Generale Cadorna Luigi, 4,/a, 90134 Palermo, +39 091 786 3232, [3]. Pizzeria
  • Il Proverbio, Discesa dei Giudici, 24, 90133 Palermo, +39 091 617 3267. Restaurant Close to station and Quattro Canti. Great Sicilian food.
  • Le pergamene, Piazza Marina, 48, 90133 Palermo (near of the Palazzo chiaramonte steri), +39 091 616 6142. Pizza restaurant
  • Pipi Room, Via XX Settembre, 59, 90141 Palermo, +39 091 332 959. Pizza restaurant

Drink

  • Antico Caffè Spinnato, Via Principe di Belmonte, 107, 90139 Palermo, [4]. Espresso Bar
  • Bosco-Sublime al palato, Via Principe di Palagonia, Palermo, +39 091 226 313. Bar
  • Lucky Bar Ciresi Gioacchino Ciresi Providence Snc, Viale Placido Rizzotto, 2, 90125 Palermo, +39 091 647 4247. Bar
  • Planet, Via Azolino Hazon, 2, 90124 Palermo, +39 091 630 5398. Bar
  • Rosanero, Piazzetta Porta Reale, Palermo, +39 348 585 1805, [5]. Espresso Bar
  • Sabir, Via Quintino Sella, 49, 90139 Palermo, +39 328 866 8128, [6]. Pub

Sleep

  • Addaura, Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo, 1931, 90151 Mondello Palermo (Centre), +39 091 684 9031, [7]. B&B Villa Addaura, bed and breakfast in Mondello, Palermo, is located in a beautiful location by the sea, which is only 10 meters, only 5 minutes by car from Mondello.
  • Novecento, Via Roma, 62, 90133 Palermo, +39 091 976 1194 (), [8]. B&B Original liberty style building in the historical centre, with charme rooms with AC, Wi-Fi, private bathroom (external or also ensuite), central heating, LCD tv, mini bar, frigo, original furnishings of early 1900s.
  • Palermo Erasmus life organization, Palermo city-centre, (), [9]. Free-service for any student who is looking for a cheap room in Palermo city-centre for short-long terms. (,13,36553)
  • Palermo Lincoln Suite, Via Lincoln, 161, 90144 Palermo (Centre), +39 091 617 6750 (), [10]. B&B Just 200 meters from Palermo Central Station, the Lincoln Suite is an intimate property with a peaceful garden. It offers free Wi-Fi and spacious air-conditioned rooms with balcony and private bathroom.
  • Sunshine Hostel Palermo, Via Lincoln, 97, 90133 Palermo, +39 328 327 9897 (), [11]. Hostel

Mid-range

  • 120 Rodionoff B&B, Via Giuseppe Sciuti 120, 90144 Palermo (centre, near Liberta'street), +39 333 709 1711 (), [12]. checkin: after 12:30; checkout: until 10:30. At 120 Rodionoff rooms have air conditioning, central heating, private bathrooms, LCD TV satellite with Astra and Hotbird satellites, free internet both wi-fi and via ethernet cable. The staff speaks English and Russian. €70 a day for a double room. (38.14047622710244,13.351396769285202)
  • Al Giardino Dell'Alloro, Vicolo San Carlo 8, 90133 Palermo (on the Via Alloro 1 block from Piazza San Francesco), +39 091 617 6904 (), [13]. Excellent central location on a quiet street. €35-45 per person.
  • Artemisia Palace Palermo, Via Roma, 499, 90139 Palermo, +39 091 609 0612 (fax: +39 091 605 5766), [14]. Elegant hotel which boasts 18 double rooms and suite. All with private bar, satellite TV with Sky channels, internet connection. Also available a free public parking.
  • Casa Giuditta, Via Savona, 10, 90133 Palermo (in the historical city centre, opposite the sea), [15]. Hotel Offers rooms and self-catering apartments with 17th century style decorations. Fully furnished with all mod cons: a/c, washing machines, kitchen with oven, freezer, dishwasher, satellite TV. Children welcome.
  • D’Amato Palermo, Via Messina Marine 178/180, 90121 Palermo, +39 091 621 2767 (), [16]. Hotel Villa Rooms with sea view, private bathroom, shower, satellite TV and free wi-fi.
  • Florio Park Hotel, Via Impastato Peppino, 41, 90045 Cinisi, +39 091 868 4222 (), [17]. Hotel
  • Giorgio's House Palermo, Via Mongitore 11, 90100 Palermo, +39 347 221 4823. Bed and Breakfast where you can get (if you wish) for free: pick up, By night tours (3/4 times per week), trekking tours (April-May / October-December) day trips (5/6 times per month) to Cefalù, Erice, Etna, Beaches, Zingaro etc. English/Italian conversation meetings (1/2 times per week).
  • In Itinera Atelier B&B, Street: Via della Libertà 58 (centre), +39 349 050 2656, [18]. checkin: after 14:00; checkout: until 11:00. At In Itinera Atelier B&B rooms have Internet Wi-Fi, air conditioning, minibar, TV, DTV led Android streaming TV with pay TV, safe, private bathroom with bathtub or shower and Chromotherapy, courtesy set, private balcony. The staff speaks English. €60 a day for a double room. (38.135566,13.348682)
  • Italia, Via Roma, 62, 90133 Palermo, +39 091 616 9320 (), [19]. Hotel 100 m from the train station. Good clean rooms with new bathrooms, AC, TV, and balcony with clotheslines. No breakfast
  • Joli, Via Michele Amari, 11, 90139 Palermo, +39 091 611 1765 (fax: +39 091 611 1766), [20]. Hotel Rooms adorned with frescoes and fine decor. Fine service, too.
  • Maxim, Via Mariano Stabile, 136, 90139 Palermo, +39 091 976 5471 (), [21]. B&B An elegant Suite Rooms in central Palermo, the Maxim offers refined rooms with free Wi-Fi and an LCD TV. It is 350 metres from Teatro Massimo and a 20-minute walk from Palermo Central Station. Decorated with modern works of art on the walls, rooms are air conditioned and are fitted with parquet floors and contemporary furniture. Each comes with a fridge and a balcony. 1.5 km from Palermo Cathedral and a 10-minute walk from Palermo Harbour.
  • NH Jolly Palermo, Foro Italico Umberto I, 22/B, 90133 Palermo, +39 091 616 5090, [22]. Hotel with 237 spacious rooms and a congress centre with 2 meeting rooms, all equipped with natural light, located on the picturesque gulf of the city and enjoys breathtaking views across the sea.
  • Palermo Sea Holidays, Via Torretta 7, Sferracavallo, 90147 Palermo (30 meters from the sea and 2 km from Mondello), +39 349 610 3555 (), [23]. Casa vacanze. A group of 1 and 2-bedroom self-catering apartments, on Sferracavallo's seafront close to Palermo. Simple but comfortable studios have an outdoor yard, for relaxing during the day and romantic dinners by night. Sferracavallo has good public transport connections to Palermo, and is close to the Capo Gallo nature reserve.
  • Saint Thorn Guest Club, Via Spina Santa, 210, 90147 Palermo (near Mondello). Located inside the 'Capo Gallo' nature reserve in the hills outside Palermo, offering stunning views across Mondello's beach. Free parking in the nearby private street, or inside the villa for €5; swimming pool; free internet. All rooms have en suite baths, TV, hair dryer, a/c, fridge, own outside access. Two rooms have kitchenette, with minimum stay of 5 days. Downtown Palermo is about 15 mins by bus/car, Mondello 10 min, airport 20 min.

Splurge

  • Excelsior Palace Hotel, Via Marchese Ugo, 3, 90144 Palermo, +39 091 790 9001 (fax: +39 091 342 139), [24]. One of the oldest and most renowned luxury hotels in Palermo. Near the harbour and the English Garden.
  • Grand Hotel et Des Palmes Palermo, Via Roma, 398, 90139 Palermo, +39 091 602 8111 (fax: +39 091 331 545), [25]. Large and luxurious hotel in the centre, with exquisite interior design and high quality service. Also one of the oldest and best known in the city. Richard Wagner stayed here from November, 1881 until 20 March, 1882. It was at this hotel that he completed Parsifal on 13 January, 1882.
  • Igiea Palermo, Salita Belmonte, 43, 90142 Palermo, +39 091 631 2111 (fax: +39 091 547 654), [26]. Villa and hotel complex in the hills overlooking Palermo and the bay. Offering health spa, tennis courts and a fantastic Greek swimming pool that overlooks the sea from on high.
  • Mondello Palace Hotel, Viale Principe di Scalea, 90151 Palermo, +39 091 450 001 (, fax: +39 091 450 657), [27]. Mondello Palace Hotel is located in the bathing resort of Mondello, just a few minutes from Palermo city centre and 25 minutes from the city airport. It rises a few meters from the soft and golden sandy beach and is surrounded by a lush Mediterranean park. It is an elegant building with wide, classic halls. There are an open-air swimming pool, free wi fi internet connection and a parking lot inside the hotel. (38.20173,13.32509)
  • Quintocanto Hotel e Spa, Via Vittorio Emanuele, 310, 90100 Palermo, +39 091 348 426 (, fax: +39 091 730 2738), [28]. Hotel (38.11536821035723,13.360941410064697)
  • Residenza D’Aragona, Via Ottavio D'Aragona, 25, 90139 Palermo, +39 091 662 2222 (fax: +39 091 662 2273), [29]. Elegant Hotel filled with modern comforts and impeccable service. In the historical centre, near the Politeama and Massimo theaters.
  • Ucciardhome Palermo, Via Enrico Albanese, 34/36, +39 091 348 426 (, fax: +39 091 730 2738), [30]. Hotel

Stay safe

Beware of pickpockets and motorcycle-riding snatch thieves targeting handbags, wallets and mobile phones.

Women should not walk alone at night in the historical centre of Palermo and travellers could be wary of La Kalsa, the neighborhood between Via Roma and the water, at night. The area is being renewed and gentrified, but is probably still one of the riskier places to be at night.

Vehicle theft is a major problem in Palermo, so the use of private, secure car parks is to be preferred.

Avoid going outside the city center, except for Mondello (beach and clubs), Sferracavallo (great restaurants), Monreale.

Contact

Internet

  • Internet Shop. Via Napoli N, 32. Tel: +39 091 584146. 13 computers, E2.5/hour. Wireless internet.
  • Mediapoint Via Maqueda 221, tel:+39 091 6113332. close to 4CANTI, 4c/min. Picture backup in CD or DVD, memory cards available.
  • Aboriginal Internet Cafe, Via S. Spinuzza 51, close to Teatro Massimo, Tel: +39 091 6622229, [38]. Also serves beer and drinks with obscene names.

Cope

Palermo's main APT Tourist Office is located at Piazza Castelnuovo 35, open Mo-Fr 8AM-8PM and Sa 8AM-2PM. English spoken. A branch of the tourist office also exists at the airport. Get a free map from one of the blue information booths.

Get out

Palermo is the main hub for buses and trains in Sicily. The main station - Stazione Centrale is at the beginning of the historical centre, Piazza Giulio Cesare. Most of the long-distance buses leave from just round the corner. The shuttle to the airport leaves every half hour on the half hour until 11PM from the eastern side of the square in front of the train station even though a new bus terminal inside the eastern part of the station has recently been completed and opened to the pubblic.

By train

Regular, quite fast trains to: Messina & Milazzo for the Aeolian Islands (more and quicker than the busses to these two), Trapani and Enna. Less frequent to other destinations.

By bus

Regular, fast buses to Catania, Taormina, Trapani, Enna, Agrigento, and Syracuse. Loads of other places served too.

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