Travelling alone? Fizzing with energy, Sicily’s capital captivates an intoxicating mix of ancient, modern and startling extremes – Byzantine mosaics juxtaposed with graffiti artwork, baroque palaces cheek by jowl with boisterous markets. It’s a banquet for history buffs – and its feisty soul will leave you hankering for the next trip. Here’s our solo traveller’s guide to Palermo, Sicily.
It’s solo Sicily at its best, pulling you in with its flamboyant, friendly, unpolished character. Packed with historic masterpieces, it’s best explored on foot. Amble through the patchwork of neighbourhoods, pausing at the glittering Palatine Chapel and soaring Arab-Norman Cathedral. Along the way, you’ll find secret piazzas shaded by date palms, and souk-like markets piled with plump aubergines.
This Med island has a devoted foodie following, with flavour-packed dishes drawing on a rich culinary heritage and North African spices adding a kick to Italian fare. Learn to impress your pals with a cookery course in the capital – there are lots to choose from.
Enjoy a cookery class in Palermo, supervised by a Sicilian expert, as part of Culture Trip’s 10-day adventure around the island, La Dolce Vita: The Best of Sicily.
If you tick off one historic sight, make it Cattedrale di Monreale. This showstopper is on a hillside beyond the town, boasting sweeping views of the sea. It’s a masterpiece of Norman architecture, with exquisite medieval mosaics. Head for heights? Climb to the terrace for great photo ops.
When the weather heats up, the Palmeritani make a beeline north for 12km (7.4mi) to Mondello – a sweep of golden sand. Hire a lounger and umbrella as the free public area can get crowded before ambling over to one of the seafood restaurants lining the bay for an Aperol and a plate of grilled shrimp.
Despite its raffish feel, it’s simple to stay safe. The main risks are pickpocketing –be especially careful at Ballaro and Vucciria markets – and traffic. Cross the roads carefully and watch out for locals on whizzy scooters. Violent crime statistics are low and research conducted by the ISTAT (Italian National Institute of Statistics) found that among the 12 largest cities in Italy, Palermo had the lowest overall crime.
Only the brave (or foolish) choose to drive into central Palermo – far less stressful is to stick to public transport or taxis. AMAT runs a fleet of city buses and trams, even linking day-trip destinations such as Mondello and Monreale.
Rather share your adventures with a small group of like-minded travellers? Join Culture Trip’s La Dolce Vita: The Best of Sicily, a leisurely 10-day loop taking in everything from an authentic Sicilian cooking class in Palermo to driving a 4×4 up Mt Etna’s volcanic peak, with plenty of gelato pit stops along the way.