If you know a thing or two about Italy, you’ll know that Sicily is quite a fascinating island in of itself. Some, including Sicilians themselves, even consider it a different nation from Italy altogether, mostly because of its strong cultural identity.
What would you expect from the biggest island in the Mediterranean? The people here are comparatively more vivacious, friendlier, and definitely more colorful. In fact, the stereotypical Italian, in Western media at least, is more based off of a Sicilian rather than those who live in mainland Italy. Such is a strong and indelible identity that is this beloved state.
If you’re going on a trip to Sicily, you’re likely to land o Palermo, the island’s most well-known town. Here, you get to experience the local life in one of their biggest metropolises. There are so many things to see and do around Palermo that you might not know where to start. Well, don’t be overwhelmed and check out these amazing sites and activities and see if any of them might tickle your fancy.
Visit Palermo Cathedral
As mentioned earlier, Sicily is one of the biggest, if not the biggest island in the Mediterranean. And because of this, many tribes and nations conquered this vast land for their own territories. Such a rich and colorful history is most present at the Palermo Cathedral.
More than just an astounding site, its preserved structure, and amazing architecture and interior tells the stories of who have lived and ruled over Sicily all those centuries ago. Although the facade is mostly from the Renaissance era, remnants of the Moors and the Byzantine empire can still be found inside.
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Experience a Palermo Street Market
Outside the Palermo cathedral, and practically any church or town square for that matter is probably a street market. If you really want to indulge in the local lifestyle of this colorful island, this is the best place to start. Here, you get to see how Sicilians interact, the way they do their business, haggle, cook, and eat.
Since food is incredibly important to them, you get to see these stunning Italians at their most bare. Try to buy items for yourself as well, many of what you’ll find here will make for great souvenirs to bring back home and to spice up your cooking!
Taste Authentic Sicilian Dishes
After going to a street market to see where they buy their ingredients, it’s time to taste their world-famous dishes. Several of the establishments in Palermo are family-owned, which means you won’t have a difficult time looking for a place that serves authentic Sicilian dishes.
Order anything you like and set your taste buds to an amazing culinary journey that’s unlike anything in other parts of the world. Just remember to always be respectful as food and culinary are extremely important to these Italians.
Check Out Palazzo dei Normanni
Similarly to other places in Italy, Sicily used to have its own monarchy and their seat of power was in the Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo. Built back in the 9th century, it’s one of the oldest places in all of Europe.
And despite the renovations, most of its original structures are still present to this day, preserved to highlight the colorful history of Sicily. You’ll get to see the truest forms of Italian architecture, as well as the beauty that shaped the country’s artistry and made it one of the most beautiful in the world.
Watch A Puppet Show
A unique little feature in Palermo is the abundance of street puppet shows. Usually a program for the little ones, it isn’t necessarily a complete Sicilian experience if you don’t watch at least one.
This art form is even recognized by UNESCO as a “masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of all humanity.” The marionette theater is common in other countries around the Mediterranean, but the ones in Sicily are distinct with their dramatic talents and artistic puppets. They often put on shows based on famous stories, such as Romeo and Juliet, and biblical events as well.
Explore The Capuchin Abbey And Catacombs
If you want something a little bit more heart-pumping that might get the hairs at the back of your neck to stand up, go to the Capuchin abbey and see their catacombs. The ones here are far from the one in Paris, as the bodies, almost 8,000 of them, are not just skulls but actually preserved corpses.
Most of them even still wear the garments in which they were buried. But make no mistake, this wasn’t necessarily a death chamber of sorts. The Capuchin Monks believed in the importance of the afterlife and made sure that all those that they’ll bury will still have the bodies they were born into in this world.
Swim By The Seaside
Apart from the rustic elegance of the city proper, Palermo is also near some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean. Mondello beach, for example, is the nearest seaside swimming area where most people have dive off of cliffs and fresh dip in the deliciously salty sea water.
While just a boat ride away is the island of Ustica, a semi-remote island that’s the perfect getaway if you want to spend a day away from other people in the region. San Vito Lo Capo is also another great beach that’s only an hour drive away from the city proper of Palermo.
Make A Wish At Fontana Pretoria
Finally, it wouldn’t be a trip to Italy without making a wish on a fountain, and in Palermo, the only place to do this is at the Fontana Pretoria. Constructed in 1574 by a Florentine architect, this elliptical water structure is a sight to behold.
While it’s not as grand as the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome, the artistry of this fountain is enough to lure you into making a wish. The sculptures that decorate it are the 12 Olympian gods of Greek Mythology: Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, and so on.
Experience Sicily through the vibrant town of Palermo. It’s a cinematic experience that you’ll surely never forget and might even let you go back and do it all over again soon!