In terms of historical treasures the city of Palermo is the humble rival to Florence or Rome, but unlike its tourist-heavy sibling’s tradition and low-key cool still reign supreme in this attractive Italian city. Here you can explore the simple rustic flavours of Sicilian cooking, with the benefit the fisherman’s fresh catch of the day to enjoy on your plate with your evening meal. Traditional embroidery, coral jewellery and inspiring ironwork are common retail favourites for visitors.
This fascinating city is steeped in history with plenty to offer travellers looking for a slice of Sicilian life. Accommodation is centred beside the city's port, around Via Dante Alighieri and Corso Calatafimi. If you're looking for a top-end stay, Hotel Porta Felice (Via Butera 45) has minimalist-style rooms with five-star views set in a restored palace. Mid-range travellers are well looked after in Palermo with a whole host of fantastic options. B&B Delle Vittorie (Via Bari 52) has a bucket-full of contemporary style, while B&B 10 Serpotta (Via Vincenzo Riolo 10) does classic interiors with excellent facilities.
Traditional local embroidery, beautiful ironwork and coral jewellery are just some of Palermo's top buys. The best streets to begin a shopping hunt are pedestrianised Via Principe di Belmonte, Via Roma and Via Maqueda, where you'll find lots of funky boutiques. But no trip to Palermo would be complete without browsing the city's many markets. La Vucciria, off Piazza San Dominico, is Palermo's most famous bazaar and is great for looking at what the locals are buying, but don't forget to visit Mercato di Capo, off Via Volturno, to capture some sense of Palermo's historic trading past.
In Palermo, it's all about simple, rustic flavours and the freshest fish you'll ever taste. Sant Andrea (Piazza Sant’Andrea 4) may not look like much from the exterior, but the seafood dishes will have you swooning in delight. For full-bodied Sicilian flavours, Cucina Papoff (Via La Lumia 32) can't be beaten, while Palermo local favourite Antica Focacceria di San Francesco (Via Alessandro Paternostro 58) is a cheap and cheerful dining choice for those short of change. For stylish drinking, head to Cambio Cavalli (Via Pantania 54), or to hang out with the hip alternative crowd, have a beer at Rocket Bar (Piazza San Francesco di Paola 42).
This family-friendly local fiesta has plenty of street entertainment. The large float procession, boasting massive papier-mâché characters, winds through the Termini Imerese district of the city and is full of local flavour.
The Solmusic Festival is dedicated to promoting new talent and it's your best chance to catch a caboodle of local musicians in concert. It's held at Palermo's large English Gardens.
Festa di Santa Rosalia
This local religious festival commemorates the city's patron saint with a massive procession, carrying an effigy of Saint Rosalia, through the city streets. It's a colourful and lively event to witness.
Tutti Santi (All Saints Day) is a Sicilian national holiday and a great chance to experience some of the island's local culture. There are massive children parades throughout Palermo featuring vibrant costumes. If you're here during this time, don't forget to grab one of the traditional pastries called 'the bones of the dead' baked especially for the day – all the bakeries in town will be selling them.
Piazza Peranni plays host to a one-week Christmas market during December with a wonderful range of handicrafts, art and antiques available. It's the place to pick up those special gifts.