(Insider’s) Palermo Guide

Here’s the last post about my Sicilian trip! The Palermo guide. With its inky mix of grit and grandeur, Sicily’s heart-melting capital Palermo inspires obsessive devotion. Here’s where to find the best of it all.

Ballarò is one of the oldest street markets in Palermo, one of the most lively and surely picturesque of Sicily. Its name, Ballarò, recalls its ancient arab origins, as it is Sicily’s outdoor market tradition, which explains their similarity to Arab suqs. This incredible street market is located in the city center, extending from Piazza Ballarò – in the Albergheria district – along Via Ballarò and to Corso Tukory, a few steps away from the central station, so it’s very easy to reach.  Sicilian street markets are known worldwide for being an authentic explosion of colours and enchanting scents of fresh products such as fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. They are always very crowded and noisy but this is their peculiarity: vendors shout very loud – and in dialect, of course! – to attract locals and tourists and to promote their tasty specialties. Visiting Ballarò means having great cultural experience. Walking through the outdoor shops and stands, you will observe the daily life of Palermo locals, a melting pot of different cultures and ancient traditions. The city’s street markets (there are three in total) are also the best place to taste some of the delicious Sicilian street food such as sfincione and panelle, or a plate of deep-fried seafood. Whatever you choose, you will receive an unforgettable triumph of flavors.

Via Ballaro

Started by Elena and Puccia, Magazzini Anita is a store packed to the brim with unique finds from the 1920s to the 1980s. Not only does the store stock up clothes and accessories but one can also find an extensive range of bags and jewelry in her collection of vintage wear that caters to the clothing needs of women at affordable prices. Just one glance at the store from outside and you’ll find yourself being pulled in easily to the assortment of vibrant prints, fabrics and hues. With clothes that can easily be adapted for everyday use, Magazzini Anita is the perfect place to splurge at if you are an admirer of all things vintage.

Via Maqueda 263

Antica Focacceria Di San Francesco was our favourite restaurant in Palermo. Focaccia is the very best of Palermo’s traditional fast foods, a form of hot bread roll filled with meat, cheese or onions. But the place also offers timeless Sicilian cuisine. In summer, eat alfresco in the Focacceria’s outdoor space, which actually is a square opposite San Francesco, one of Palermo’s finest Gothic churches. Great people-watching guaranteed!

Via Allesandro Paternostro 58

The catacombs at the Convento dei Cappuccini, under the monastery of the Cappucins, have fascinated visitors for the past couple of centuries and continue to do so. They are filled with more than 8,000 mummies of former Palermo citizens, hung ghoulishly along the walls in special sections depending on social status (doctors and lawyers have their own zone). This disturbing place says a lot about the social structure of society between the early-17th and late-19th centuries, which probably had more barons and princes per head of population than any other city in Europe. If you’re fine with places like this… it’s a must-visit!

 Piazza Cappuccini 1

Giardino Garibaldi is a well maintained, 19th century public garden, which is only a short walk from the harbor. One of the stand-out features of this garden are the Ficus trees, some of which are more than 150 years old. We enjoyed looking at the monumental trunks and finding shapes of animals in them. A true nature osasis in the heart of a busy city!

Piazza Marina

Osteria Dei Vespri is for those who want to try some Sicilian gourmet cusine. This place has a charming atmosphere and lovely view at Piazza Croce dei Vespri. It is in Michelin selection, and their pappardelle with belly pork and ricotta is a good reason for that.

Piazza Croce dei Vespri 6

Vintage 21 offers a fine selection of pre-owned classics – all kept in a very chic and Italian style.

Via Vittorio Emanuele 418

If you feel hungry after visiting Chiesa di Santa Caterina d’Alessandria, have a sweet meal at Ideal Coffee Stagnitta. Their brioche with pistacchio gelato is so good, just like the pistachio coffee (yes, you’ve read it right!).

Discesa dei Giudici 42-44

Luxury fashion might not really be a thing in Palermo, but there’s always Prada with it’s store located in former palazzo. The original ceiling fresco is still there!

Via della Libertà 1

Photos by Edward Kanarecki.
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Palazzo Dei Normanni in Palermo

The former royal palace of King Roger II in the 1100’s, Palazzo dei Normanni is one of the most famous sights in Palermo. Dating back to the 9th century, the palace owes its current appearance to the embellishments realized by the Normans: covered in dazzling Byzantine mosaics, the Arab-Norman architecture is a symbol of the political and cultural union operated by the Normans. Of course, don’t miss the stunning Palatine Chapel. What I loved about the Palazzo is it’s approach to contemporary art. Right now, there’s an intriguing Ryan Mendoza retrospective, presenting the artist’s ouevre which counterbalances old master techniques with modern-day themes. Then, in another palace space, there’s an amazing temporary exhibition featuring contemporary art classics: Jeff Koons, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Zhang Hong Mei and Andres Serrano. The old meets the new.

Piazza Indipendenza 1

Photos by Edward Kanarecki.
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Palermo is a Vibe

After decades of Mafia domination, Sicily’s chief city – Palermo – is re-emerging as one of Europe’s great capitals. This dazzling city presents intriguing contrasts, from elegant shopping quarters to the ancient and enchanting old city, divided by winding alleys lined with noisy outdoor markets. Its incredible mixture of cultures, architectural styles and culinary flavours is now infused with an optimism that is expressing itself in a frenzy of restoration, nightlife and cultural creativity. Part Punic, part Phoenician, part Roman, part Arab, the city of Palermo is strong stuff. Snugly spectacular in its bay setting by Sicily’s Monte Pellegrino, it looks, as a garibaldino approaching it from the sea once said, like a city imagined by a poetic child. Colorful relics of Middle Eastern domination mix with the Norman and Baroque, so the back of a building might look entirely different from its front or sides. Renaissance palaces next to hovels, 194 churches, and the domed roofs of onetime mosques – all reminders of countless invaders. History is a tumble, a chaos. Palermo is an experience, Palermo is a vibe.

Photos by Edward Kanarecki.
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Ragusa Ibla

Nothing can prepare you for the first view of Ragusa. The oldest part of the city, Ibla, was spilt in two by the earthquake and part of it rebuilt in the baroque style, but hints of the old town still sit alluringly cheek-by-jowl with such formal perfection. As you round the bend on the road from Modica, up the town rises like a giant sandcastle, a thing of part-dilapidated magnificence conceived in a moment of delirium. Ragusa is secretive, mysterious. Walking around, you feel weirdly high up. Even the squares are on a rake – at all times there’s this sense of being on a hill, of walking on air surrounded by silence. In the streets radiating from the immaculate Piazza Duomo, tiny, hidden orange gardens give on to palazzos nuzzling more palazzos with guest rooms and state rooms and saddle-rooms. The highly polished marble floors in the piazza’s neoclassical Circolo di Conversazione – a handsome social club where 18th-century Ragusan gentry gathered to talk and drink – throw up a brooding haze in the late afternoon, if you manage to peer through the windows before a janitor shoos you away and locks up at five o’clock.

For lunch or dinner, try Il Barocco. A few steps from the Church of St. Joseph in Piazza Pola, and by the magnificence of the Duomo, you find this great restaurant with twenty years of history. Since 1992, the Cabibbo family manages the restaurant, offering the authentic tastes of Ragusa. Il Barocco focuses on timeless flavors, fresh pasta and local dishes that have been served in the family for decades.

Via Orfanotrofio 27/29

Nel Garage is a beautiful and very charming concept store with a selection of clothes and accessories from all over the world. You will also find some ultimate Missoni classics, as well as impeccable tailoring for men by Antonio Marras.

Via Orfanotrofio 36

Photos by Edward Kanarecki.
Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!

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From Noto With Love

These past two weeks, I had the most amazing time discovering Sicily – so expect some sun-drenched content coming this week! During our first days on the island, we stayed in one of the most charming towns I’ve ever been to – Noto. In contrast to big European cities, Southern region of Sicily has all the history of Rome along with the small-town breezy seaside charm of the Cinque Terre. Until you are in Noto, though, it’s hard to imagine just how close neighboring historic towns like Modica and Ragusa – and any number of Ancient Greek ruins and unspoiled beaches – are to the town center and to each other. Noto and its neighbors make sightseeing feel serendipitous, but it’s worth staying his for a couple of days to truly absorb the aura of this UNESCO-protected, eighteenth-century Baroque masterpiece of town. It’s easy to cover the town on foot in a single afternoon along its two main arteries, the Corso Vittorio Emanuele and the Via Cavour, which run east to west. Or if you use Noto as your base for exploring the region, as we did, you can walk the streets at a languorous gelato-eating pace at the end of each day, as if you lived there. My Noto guide is coming shortly – for now here are some captured moments (and plenty of cassatina!) of this Sicilian slice of heaven.

Photos by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!

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