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Palermo

Palermo needs a wide-angle lens, practically and metaphorically. Monumental architecture is stuffed into every available piazza, no sooner am I looking at the Palazzo Reale than I am standing in front of the Cathedral! And the history of the city is wide, and deep, practically every European, Middle Eastern and North African culture has had its day in Sicilia. Architecture, music, food, all represent these traditions. Sicilia is a world in an island.

Palermo is one of my favorite cities, and while I have liked all the places I have stayed here, I think B&B Delle Vittorie is a keeper. Located a few steps from via Maqueda, between Teatro Massimo and Quattro Canti. Beautifully prepared breakfast, dozens of choices of small servings so in four days I almost never had the same thing twice (except for the mini-cannoli). The owner is so enthusiastic about Palermo, he will tailor a map marked up to suit your interests. My room was huge and beautifully appointed. And quiet. The first night I heard music in the distance, opened the window to see an orchestra parading up the street 20 meters away.

First morning, I had to buy a phone, some socks, and get a haircut. Living like a local, indeed! The phone turned out to be an Android, which I like a lot (bye-bye, Apple product line). Socks? my shoes were not as well-broken in as I thought, and the seam across the toes of my socks was killing me (think princess and the pea). H&M to the rescue! So, friends, break in those shoes! Palermo is a place that just makes me want to walk one more block (so does Bologna). Weather has been perfect!

The phone was above my budget point, so I decided to have street food for lunch. Stopped at Ke Palle, across the street from my B&B, for an arancino ("little orange" for its shape and color), a rice ball with filling, rolled in bread crumbs and fried. I got the traditional meat sauce-peas-onion one, it was huge (hence the name of the store - it's a slang expression, Roberto or Dario can explain it to you, I am blushing).

One thing I will splurge on every day is a caffe shakerato, sitting streetside and watching the entertainment. Across from Teatro Massimo was a local caffe and the drink was €2. In the piazza of the Caffe del Teatro, it was €3, still a bargain for a major location. One difference in finding a local caffe as opposed to a more touristed one: the folks who swoop in on your table to ask for money while the waiter is busy inside, don't bother at the local places.

Favorite thing this trip: the Navetta, the little city bus that makes a circuit through the Centro Storico, and it's free! Lots of tourists but also lots of Palermitani use it. Great for resting your tired feet or for getting an orientation to the city. A few of the hop on-hop off buses are minis, too, so they probably get closer to landmarks than the full-size buses can. At the capolinea (terminus), one of the drivers asked if I was Italian, and I said "Italo-Americana", to which he joked, what are you doing here? and I said, very seriously, that Italy is not a destination, it's my blood. I thought for a second that we both might cry.

Posted by
6211 posts

Zoe,
I have to ask...what do you think about the Pane con la Milza (I believe that's the name of the beef spleen sandwich)? Or horsemeat? What are your favorite street foods? I don't eat meat, but I'm curious how others find the Sicilian specialties.

Love your positive reviews of Palermo, much needed to balance out the negative perceptions many people have. Keep 'em coming!

Posted by
11613 posts

Thanks, Agnes.

I ate horsemeat once, when I was severely anemic and living in Roma. It's considered a cure of sorts. Not much for organ meats anywhere, I'm really not very adventurous.

Posted by
6211 posts

Do you have any favorite fried street snacks? Arancini, etc.?

Posted by
11613 posts

I found a little potato chain (French fries are very popular now), that had fried spinach and mozzarella balls. Also fried anchovies. I normally stay away from fried foods, but none of these were the least bit greasy.

My favorite thing is a rectangular slice of pizza with mozzarella, zucchini blossoms, and anchovies. For sweet treats, nothing beats a sfogliatelle, in my opinion.

Posted by
6211 posts

I totally agree...I love lightly breaded/fried veggies, anchovies/sardines, and sfogliatelle! And granite too.

Posted by
11658 posts

Italy is not a destination, it's my blood.

Doggone it, woman, now I need a hanky. sniffle
Your fave B&B looks smashing!

Posted by
11613 posts

Kathy, what with the hanky and the knickers, I think it's time to get on a plane!

Posted by
4059 posts

Agnes, I've had the spleen sandwich, and I found it delicious. Reminiscent of chicken gizzard, but without the gristle.

On the other hand, the only time I've eaten horse meat I was -- ummm --- seriously indisposed the next morning. Although it could be the meat was tainted; I can't blame the horse. But the next time I try it, it'll be when I don't have to get on a Rick Steves tour bus the next day! It was tasty, by the way, but nothing special. And we had it in Siracusa, in a tiny, back alley non-touristy place.

Posted by
4059 posts

Zoe, I forgot to compliment you on your report. We, too, love Palermo. I'm always taken aback by the negative things we hear about it.

Posted by
11658 posts

Kathy, what with the hanky and the knickers, I think it's time to get
on a plane!

I know. I'm leaking from all ends.

Posted by
4522 posts

Hi Zoe,

Thanks for sharing one of your favorite cities with us!
I admire your adventurous spirit!

One of these days I will have to go to Sicilia and will pick your brains about all your favorite hotels, b&b's, and places to eat! ;-)

That arancino sounds amazing!

Enjoy the rest of your travel adventures & keep posting!

Priscilla

Posted by
37 posts

Thank you for the information. We are traveling to Palermo Sept 20-22 . What should we see and looking for somewhere to stay. Would be nice to find somewhere were breakfast was included. I read your post about staying at B& B Delle Vittorie any other suggestions? Is renting a car a good idea in Palermo? After Palermo we will be traveling to Catania for 6 days.

Thank you,
Barbara

Posted by
11613 posts

Barbara, I would rent the car on the way out of Palermo. Perhaps take the airport shuttle and rent it there? You can take a city bus (or one of the Ho-hos) to Monreale. The city bus can get crowded, making it attractive for pickpockets at the bus entrance.

In addition to the places I mentioned, there are several interesting things: the Carhedral, the church of Saint Dominic, Capella Palatina and Palazzo Reale, the two big markets, the puppet museum...

Posted by
14003 posts

Will you do me a favor? Have a big glass of blood OJ for me, please?

Posted by
11613 posts

Sure will, Chani. I thought of you when I saw all the wildflowers on the way to Trapani.

Posted by
5537 posts

oh Zoe, I'm so envious!!! Thank you for posting. I've been to Sicily only once, for a far-too-short stay, but not yet to Palermo. I'm definitely pocketing your B&B recommendation and taking notes of all you mention. (I'm not an organ meat person either.)

I have an Android phone too and love it! (not that I'm rabid anti-Apple or anything, I have an iPad and am typing this on my MacBook Air). But I just love the personalization on my Android. There are, very infrequently, apps that aren't available for Android that are available for iPhone (I'm looking at you, Elizabeth Minchilli), but overall I'm happy happy happy with my phone.

Keep us posted on Trapani too! I'm hoping my husband will decide we need to go to Sicily for our 10th wedding anniversary in September . . .

Thanks again for your post. Your first paragraph alone is magical and should be copied into the cover page of your trip photobook!!!

Posted by
11613 posts

Kim, you have to go!

I am in Trapani now, going to Erice tomorrow. New trip report coming soon.

Posted by
494 posts

Enjoying your report. I still haven't made it here yet but I never stop dreaming. Can't wait to hear about Trapani again.
PS: What do you use to write up your reports like now when you're traveling?

Posted by
11613 posts

Diane, I use my iPad mini. I hope you get to Sicilia soon!

Posted by
11158 posts

Barbara, there are few WORSE ideas than having a car in Palermo! If you're starting there, rent it on the way out. I haven't been to Catania, but reports are that a car isn't great there either. A car is handy to see other places on the island.

As for where to stay, I had a great experience at the B&B Bella Vita. My review of it, along with LOTS of other details from my 2014 trip (which was great!) is here in my trip report: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/sicily-palermo-caltanisetta-siracusa-taormina