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Palermo leaves your senses in a daze. There’s the high-pitch chatter of the locals, car drivers honking, the buzz of scooters, the screeching pink of the oleanders that line the boulevards, the sky-blue of a Madonna’s robe in a roadside shrine, and bright colours of washing flapping from the balconies. There’s a surprise around every corner: the pungent aroma of strong coffee wafting from a bar in an alley, a chapel festooned with mosaics, street signs in mysterious Arabic lettering, or a towering marble statue over a fountain in the piazza – Palermo is truly somewhere where you’ll never be bored.
Main City Rome
Surface 158.9 km²
The Antica Focacceria San Francesco serves traditional Palermitano gastronomy such as sarde a beccafico - sardines stuffed with breadcrumbs, pine nuts and raisins. Since it opened in 1834, the restaurant’s tasty dishes, lively atmosphere and Liberty décor have attracted the rich and famous, including Giuseppe Garibaldi, Paul Newman, Hillary Clinton and Sofia Loren. Another reason to visit this charming locale is to support its brave owner, Vincenzo Conticello, who refused to pay the mafia protection money in 2005, and whose testimony against his would-be extortionists meant they went to jail. Conticello has had 24/7 police protection ever since.
Palermo is best known for the wonderful sunny days tourists almost always find there. Still, it's not unusual to have as much as a whole week of rain in Palermo during the winter or spring. What can you do in Palermo when it rains?
Sicilians can spend hours discussing food, debating the sweetness of a tomato or the best way to fillet a sardine. So head to Palermo’s Vucciria market, the concentration of this most important ingredient of local life. Among the hollering stallholders and narrow souk-style alleyways, you’ll be buffeted between the sights and smells of seasonal produce: spicy peppers, writhing snails, blood oranges, salty sea urchins, prickly pear fruit and Etna walnuts. Be adventurous and try some street food like pani c’a meusa – calf spleen served in bread with grated cheese and lemon - gritty in texture, but it tastes better than it sounds.