To really get a feel for Sicily’s food culture, visiting an open air market is a must. There are regular markets in pretty much every town on the island with smaller villages only having a market day one or two days a week. Markets only tend in the morning, so begin your day with a pre-lunch visit. We have picked some of the better known everyday markets for to best discover Sicily.
The city of Palermo holds some of the most famous food markets in all of Italy. Vucciria, Ballarò, il Capo, Borgo Vecchio are all places with a long history and regular clientele. These four historic markets each have plenty to offer and still retain traces of their Arab roots. Almost 1,000 years ago, the Vucciria Market was a chaotic bustle of shoppers and sellers: the word Vucciria loosely translated, means confusion. This is the market that inspired Renato Guttuso to paint Vuccirìa di Palermo. Make a quick visit and browse the few stalls laden with bric-a-brac and household supplies.
The Ballarò Market is near the main train station. Busy and loud, the sellers shout and sing the merits of their wares to everyone that passes buy. Take in the glistening piles of fresh fish and be on the lookout for the particular Sicilian cucuzza squash, which can be several feet long! All of this is sure to work up an appetite and this is the best market in Sicily to be hungry. Sample some Palmero style street food like a slice of sfincione, a Sicilian style of pizza or a sandwich of hot and salty panelle (chickpea fritters).
Via Volturno is where you will find the foodie heart of the Il Capo market which stretches out in all directions and not far from the Teatro Massimo. This is another market where centuries-old Arab origins are still evident today. First thing in the morning is the best time to see the market in full swing.
Borgo Vecchio market is near the Palermo port area. This market has stalls that are open 24 hours day.
The deep sea treasures of the surrounding waters are all on display at the Mercato del Pesce di Trapani. Red slabs of tuna and swordfish are cut to order and artfully arranged piles of silvery anchovies and sardines sparkle they are so fresh. Heaps of rosy shrimp and slippery white squid are usually on offer. The real action happens is the earliest part of the day before the sun has really risen but there is plenty to see (and buy) until late morning. The fishermen’s boats are also as picturesque as their catch so make sure to walk along the pier.
Cross over from the splendid Greek influenced city of Syracuse to the island of Ortiga to find the Mercato di Ortigia. Under the shade of enormous overlapping umbrellas are rows and rows of colourful stalls of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Each one is so beautifully organised it is like looking at art than grocery shopping. Situated near the sea, this market sells fish that has most likely been caught only a few hours before. There are also stalls that sell freshly baked bread and all manner of local cheese from fresh ricotta to aged Canestrato.
In the bustling city center of Catania you’ll find the market Fera ‘o Luni near Piazza Carlo Alberto. The farmland here is particularly fertile because of nearby volcano Mount Etna and the produce you see is truly seasonal. From piles of citrus fruits in the winter months, to table after table of tomatoes in the height of summer. There are additional stalls that sell household goods and clothing; and if you’re looking for fish, la Pescheria (fish market) can be found near the main cathedral (duomo).