photo by geomgio

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


Capital of Sicily, founded by Phoenicians under the name of "Ziz" (= Flower, but the meaning is still doubtful), later renamed by Greeks "Panormos" which means "all port", it has reached its golden age during the arab domination (IX-XI centuries A.C.) when became one of the most prosperous cities in the Mediterranean and Europe, known as "city of delights" for its marvelous lavish gardens, as well as for magnificient mosques and palaces. After being conquered by the Normans (1060-1080 A.C.) most of palaces, mosques were destroyed, but the new rulers exploited the cosmopolitan environment of Palermo and the artists, architects, 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, romanic architecture and bizantine mosaics. After being home to one of the most famous Emperors of Middle Ages, Frederik II fo Swabi, named "Stupor Mundi" by contemporaneans, Palermo began its decadence under the influence of several dominations (French, Aragonians, Spanish, Borbons from Naples. In the mid of XIX century, during the so-called "Italian Risorgimento" Palermo was one the leading revolutionary cities in Italy, strongly contributing to the success of the "Mille" (literally "one thousand") patriots' expedition leaded by the famous italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi which ended with the reunification of Italy under the Savoy dinasty from Turin (1860). Nowadays Palermo faces several problems affecting its economic developement, mainly because of the presence of the very powerful criminal organization known worldwide as "Mafia" or "Cosa Nostra". The city economy is based on local government institutions, port, shipbuilding industry, mechanical industry. It is also seat to some importan sicilian winemaking companies (like Tasca d'Almerita, Duca di Salaparuta, Corvo, Planeta, etc.) whose popularity in the world is growing.

Getting there

By plane

Palermo International Airport 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 provide inexpensive transport into the city centre (5 euros). There are 1-2 trains per hour, 50 minutes, €8 (destination Punta Raisi). The usual taxi and car rental services are also available at the airport.

By ferry

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

By Train

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

Traveling around

On foot

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

By bus

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


Palermo unlike Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan and, to some extent, Naples, is not ranking among the must-see-cities of Italy. 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.

  • The Official site of the museums in Palermo

  • the 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.

  • the 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.

  • the Museo Archeologico

  • the Catacombe dei Cappuccini, open daily 9am-12 noon and 3pm-5pm, donation on entry - 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.

  • the Palazzo dei Normanni. Inside, don't miss the mosaics in the Cappella Palatina and the old Royal Apartments

  • the 'street markets', especially near the Piazza del Carmine and Vucciria.

  • 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 it's cloisters too.

  • the Piazza Pretoria, including the Fontana Pretoria

  • The Gesu Church is one of the most architecturally important highly decorated 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 to mark 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.

  • 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.


  • Il Proverbio, Via Discesa 24, tel: +39091 6173267. Close to station and Quattro Canti. Great sicilian food. most dishes are €4-6.

  • Al Chioschetto. Pz. Indipendenza Di Fronte N. 31. Close to the new gate. Excellent fresh panini and salads. They keep all the ingredients in a cooled glass counter, makes the panini from scratch when you order, using only freshly cut pieces of meat.

  • Antica Focacceria S. Francesco , Via A Paternostro, 58, In the small piazza in front front of S. Francecso church, A deservedly popular top quality restaurant serving fine Sicilian food in the open air. Bookings recommended at weekends.

  • Le pergamene, 091 6166142, piazza marina 48, near of the


  • Giorgio's House Palermo , 0039 3472214823, Via Mongitore, The only Bed and Breakfast(In the heart of the Historical center of Palermo)in the world 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 etc., English/Italian Conversation meetings (1/2 times per week)


  • Florio Park Hotel, Contrada Magaggiari, The Florio Park Hotel is a first category hotel complex located by the sea on a beautiful golden and sandy beach. Inside a 4 hectares park , the hotel has 17 pavilions (1 or 2 floors),surrounded with a luxuriant vegetation, that gather 204 rooms and 6 suites. In the central building you'll find the reception desk and the wide and elegant hall, the restaurant , the excursions office, the American bar, the bazaar the TV room.

  • Bed and Breakfast Panormus , 0039-0916175826, 0039-0916175826, Via Roma, 72 - 90133 Palermo, Three stars in historical center of Palermo Near to the central station and well linked to boat port and airport of Palermo Falcone-Borsellino Good service/price ratio. B & B Panormus is in a beautiful liberty palace built in 1915. Moreover, Panormus is near (few minutes by feet) to the most important attractives of Palermo (4 Canti, Massimo theater, Cathedral, Pretoria plaza...), typical market called Vucciria and commercial places. TV color, airconditioned, hair dryer, heat, freezer, reserved bathroom( outside your room, not to ruin the original

  • Hotel Casa Giuditta , Via Savona 10 - Piazza Kalsa, Located in the historical city center of Palermo, opposite the sea. 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.

  • Saint Thorn Guest Club, Via Spina Santa 210, Capo Gallo, 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 mins, airport 20 mins.

  • Le Casette, Via Torretta 7, Sferracavallo, nr Mondello, 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. A good base for visits to Isola delle Femmine, San Vito Lo Capo, up to Erice, Mozia, Marsala, Selinunte, Segesta. Le Casette is 30 meters from the sea and 2 km from Mondello, the famous resort area of the Palermo city coast.

  • Al Giardino Dell'Alloro , +39.091.6176904, +39.091.6176904, Vicolo San Carlo 8, Palermo, On the Via Alloro in the historic center, 1 block from Piazza San Francesco, Excellent central location on a quiet street.

  • Hotel Gallery House, Via Mariano Stabile 136, 90139, Ph. +39.091.6124758 Fax +39.091.6124779. . In the heart of Palermo, Hotel Gallery House offers elegant classy rooms for business or pleasure visits.

  • Hotel Italy. Via Roma 62, 4. floor, 100 meter from the train station. Tel: +39091 6230656, email: Good clean rooms with new bathrooms, AC, TV, and balcony with clotheslines. €60, no breakfast.

  • Hotel Conchiglia D'Oro,Viale Cloe, 9, 90151 Palermo Ph. +39 091.450359, Fax: +39 091.450359 . In Mondello, between Villas and gardens, unwind from the summer chaos, Hotel Conchiglia d’Oro welcomes guests in a sober environment enriched with comfort and service for an excellent stay. Check the web for more infos.

  • Hotel Joli,Via Michele Amari, 11, 90139 Palermo Ph. +39 091.6111765, Fax: +39 091.6111766 . Hotel Joli is a true jewel as far as hospitality is concerned, where rooms adorned with frescoes and the finest decor as well as the most modern services and comfort, provide the traveler the most delightful of stays.

  • Villa D'Amato , +39 091 6212767, +39 091 6212767, Via Messina Marine 180 - 90121 Palermo

  • Villa Cefalà,Via SS 113, 48, 90017 Santa Flavia - Palermo Tel. +39 091.931545, Fax: +39 091.941616 . The Villa Cefalà farm holiday offers charming rooms in a period residence thirty minutes from Palermo overlooking the sea on Sicily's northern coast.

  • NH Jolly Palermo, Foro Italico, 90133, +39 091 6165090 . The NH Jolly Palermo has 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.


  • Excelsior Palace Hotel, Via Marchese Ugo, 3, 90141 Palermo Ph. 0039 091 7909, Fax: 0039 091 342139 . One of the oldest and most renowned luxury hotels in Palermo. 4 star, near the harbour and the English Garden.

  • Grand Hotel et Des Palmes Palermo, Via Roma 398, 90139 Palermo Ph. 0039 091 6028111, Fax: 0039 091 331545 . Large and luxurious 4 star in the centre of Palermo, 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.

  • Quintocanto Hotel e Spa , +39 091.348426, +39 091.348426, Corso Vittorio Emanuele 310 - 90100 Palermo

  • Hotel Residenza D’Aragona, Via Ottavio D'Aragona, 25, 90139 Palermo Ph. +39 091.6622222, Fax: +39 091.6622273 . Elegant and opulent, filled with modern comforts and impeccable services, the rooms at Hotel Residenza D'Aragona are the best for those who are traveling for business or pleasure to Palermo: in the historical center, near the grandiose Politeama and Massimo theaters. Single from 80€ Double from 120€.

  • Hotel Ucciardhome Palermo , +39 091.348426, +39 091.348426, Via Enrico Albanese, 34/36 - 90139 Palermo

  • Hotel Villa Igiea Palermo, Salita Belmonte 43, Palermo Ph 0039 091 631 2111, Fax: 0039 091 547 654 . Stunning 5 star Villa and hotel complex in the hills overlooking Palermo and the bay – the ultimate luxury paradise holiday accommodation. Also offering health spa, tennis courts and a fantastic Greek swimming pool that overlooks the sea from on high!


  • Isola Saporita , 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. You can find the list here:


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, but to Mondello (beach and clubs), Sferracavallo (great restaurants), Monreale.


Palermo's main APT Tourist Office is located at Piazza Castelnuovo 35, open Mo-Fr 8am-8pm and Sa 8 am-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.


  • 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, . Also serves beer and drinks with obscene names.

Get out

Palermo is the main hub for buses and trains in Sicily. The main station - Stazione Centrale is near the centre. 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.

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.

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

Contact & location

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The photos displayed on this page are the property of one of the following authors:

geomgio, Nicola e Pina in Sicilia, Filippo Fiamma, Piero Fontana, Jérôme Bon, Sergio Calleja (Life is a trip), c4r1n3b, Alan Patrick, Leandro Neumann Ciuffo

Some photos courtesy of: , . The photos provided by Flickr, Panoramio are under the copyright of their owners.

This travel guide also includes text from Wikitravel articles, all available at WikitravelView full credits

David Cross, Max, Colin Jensen, Niels Elgaard Larsen, Evan Prodromou and Daniel Cowan, Inas, Tatatabot, Travelbubble, Dedda71, Morph, Ixer, Episteme, Pashley, Nzpcmad and Pjamescowie

This travel guide also includes text from Wikipedia articles, all available at WikipediaView full credits

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