The art of stroll around
At first, Palermo can be intimidating and confusing, but not more than any other big city. The main historical spots are close to each other in the historical center, limited by the famous Quattro Canti.
Quattro Canti is a good spot to start the exploration of the city or as reference point.
The places I would recommend to visit in this fascinating city are Piazza Pretoria, Piazza Verdi, both near the Quattro Canti and the Cathedral at the end of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele.
Quintessential Palermo- Ballaro Market
Located right in the belly on Palermo’s historic quarter, is the Mercato Ballaro. Ballaro is Palermo at its finest, serving up its best eats, drinks, and fresh produce and seafood in the city. Even though you may feel like you are in an Istanbul bazaar, you are still in Italy, where food remains the key to everything. If you are not in the mood to buy things, and cheap eats is your thing, well you are exactly in the right place! Ballaro is home to the best street food in the city. Try il pane con la milza, which is a sandwich made with some type of cow stomach, or something like that. If you just were completely grossed out with what I just said, try pane panella, a sandwich filled with a chickpea flatbread. Both are true delicacies of this great city.
After a quick and satisfying lunch, you must be ready to explore one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen. Located just off the road from the market, the Chiesa del Gesu' in the Casa Professa, is known around Italy for being an ornate and magnificent work of art. This cathedral is steeped in rich history, and is one of the most important baroque churches in Palermo.
Exploring Ballaro and the Casa Professa can make up a great early afternoon. If you are looking to be relaxed, this may not be your place. The market is usually a bit crowded, but it is crowded with locals, not tourists-this will make you feel like you really are Sicilian.
The Cattacombe dei Cappuccini is easily the most macabre and unsettling "tourist attraction" I've visited. There are some 8000 bodies dangling from the walls, mostly suspended in individual niches and the rest stacked in glass coffins. Originally only the monks were buried here, but later, up until 1881, many others were interred, mainly professionals such as doctors and lawyers. They're remarkably well preserved, all still wearing the clothes they asked to be interred in. The most affecting are the spindly, miniature skeletons of the children. There is also the coffin of Rosalia Lombardo, the last person to be buried here. She was two years old when she died in 1920; the technique used to preserve her died with the doctor who devised it. Today she looks like a doll, the best preserved body there.
It's a very unsettling place to visit and certainly not for children.
Also known as Church of the "Trinita'"(Trinity), it is one of the last notable Norman buildings done in 1191.
From the outside the church presents a great variety of decorating motifs, in particular the elegant game of the blind arches interwoven at the top of the apses.
The remains of the Norman cloisters are on the left of the Church.
Capitale di Sicilia
"Hot, hot, hot!!!"
Don't let the title fool you, I'm not just talking about the weather here. I believe that if you visit Sicilia, you must stay in Palermo more than three days to truly see all this great city has to offer.
I was rather fortunate enough to find lodgings in the city without having previous reservations, but I wouldn't recommend doing this, I was rather naive or just empty-headed.
Palermo has wonderful beaches, night spots, cultural sites, historical sites, etc... I had a particularly interesting evening on a runaway Vespa with one of Palermo's very relentless, very handsome, very determined young man in the Spiaggia di Mondelo. But...I'll leave that story for some other day, once the kids are in bed, if you know what I mean.