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A cocktail of Arabic and Norman elements with a pinch of baroque and a spoonful of Italian temperamento.. this is Palermo! If you are looking for cheap air tickets to Palermo, then you’re about to discover a true gem of the Mediterranean, just a 10-minute boat ride from the Italian south. What fame the city gained from the dark age of mafia and movies like “The Godfather” that emerged, in reality does no justice to the city. Palermo’s long history goes back to ancient times and is blended with the cultures of Phoenicians, Hebrew traders, Greek philosophers, Persian artists and Berber slaves. All of them have left their mark on the city’s history, monuments, architecture and culture, largely overshadowing the mafia past. Cheap accommodation in Palermo is the rule and it often comes with good value for money. If you’re looking for a destination that has it all, if you’re travelling alone, with family, friends or your special someone, Palermo will thrill you!
Palermo was founded by the Phoenicians back in 700 B.C. as a trade port. The years that followed the city saw many different conquerors and inhabitants, starting from the Carthaginians, followed by the Romans, the Vandals and the Arabs.
The Arabic era turned Palermo into a beautiful city with elegant architecture, beautiful mosques and street markets. It is said that the beauty of Palermo at the time could only be compared to that of cities like Cordoba and Cairo!The Crusaders arrived and the city was later conquered by the Normans, who chose to continue the peaceful way of enlightenment and harmonious co-existence the Arabs had started. Known as the “Golden Era”, this is the period of time when Palermo gained its iconic medieval architecture, palaces, chapels and baroque masterpieces.
Today Palermo is Sicily’s capital and is famous for its Byzantine mosaics which, along with the mosaics of Ravenna, rank among the top Christian mosaics in the world!Contrary to your experience in Florence or Rome, Palermo’s treasures are well hidden inside the city’s streets and alleys. Be prepared to do a great deal of walking and come across some outstanding sights!
Palermo’s international airport (Aeroporto Falcone e Borsellino) is located 35 kilometres northwest of the city centre and can be reached by buses and trains.
Getting around Palermo
You can get around Palermo by the extensive bus network and by rail. Fares start at 1.00€ and minimum taxi fare is around 2.54€.
Palermo’s cityscape has kept its medieval character. Three street markets mark the boundaries of the city and encircle the historic centre, divided into four districts (mandamenti). Piazza Vigliena or Quattro Canti, dating back to 1580 has been and still is the main reference point in the city, where the four roads that lead to the four historic mandamenti respectively meet.
The square is marked by the facades of four baroque buildings, decorated with fountains, the statues of Sicily’s four Spanish Kings and the statues of Palermo’s four patron saints, Christina, Ninfa, Olivia and Agata.
- Take a stroll around La Kalsa, the historic district with a strong Arabic element. The area is actually named after the Arabic word “Khalisa” which means elected, as it was the seat of the Arabic government. Today it’s a popular meeting place and houses the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia, one of Sicily’s most important museums.
- Continue to Castellanmare, named after the castle that once used to stand there. This is the city’s most badly damaged by the 1943 bombings area, yet it’s still filled with impressive buildings, palaces and churches.
Don’t miss out on a walk across La Vucciria, the city’s most vibrant food market, an ideal opportunity to taste the world-famous Sicilian street food!
- Alebergheria comprises Palermo’s oldest mandamento, a labyrinth of cobbled dark streets, old houses and ruins. This is where you’ll find some of Palermo’s most important sights, like King Charles V’s palace in Piazza Bologni and the historic open air market of Ballarò.
- Next stop, Il Capo, the city’s third and last open air market and the largest of all!
The historic district of Il Capo meets Palermo’s modern centre at Teatro Massimo. This colossal neoclassical building was built within 20 years and now is the city’s most well-known landmark, a symbol of Palermo’s turbulent history and cultural wealth.
If you are fond of puppets, then a visit to the Museo Internazionale delle Marionette is a must in Palermo, the world’s largest museum of its kind! Lots of hand-made puppets, others from the traditional Sicilian “opera de pupi” and exhibits from the Middle East are to be found there!
Italian is Palermo’s official language, though the Sicilian dialect might confuse you a bit. Locals rarely speak English, but they’ll more than welcome to try and communicate with you in every possible way!