Palermo-Trapani Guide

Palermo top

Wonderful city, one of the most beautiful in the world were only for the chance to walk the old town and its surroundings, noting works that cover 3000 years of history and a dozen different peoples: prehistoric, Phoenician walls, the Arab-Norman buildings, gardens and traces of mosques, Aragon doors, baroque architecture, narrow streets and neighborhoods of the Islamic imprint ... Palermo is a must even in its most intimate and everyday life that is popular in the markets of Vucciria and Ballarò. Palermo means "all port" and is entirely enclosed by a chain of mountains to the south while to the north, is "the most beautiful promontory in the world" (as defined by Goethe): Monte Pellegrino between prehistoric, beautiful landscapes, forests, sanctuaries ... crowns this beautiful town. Palermo is also a paradise for food and culture lovers: restaurants, chip shops, bakeries, museums, exhibitions and its continuous live Architectural exposure will make happy even the most bored of visitors.

Come with me to Palermo, travelling friends (click on the images to enlarge)


Palermo is a city that spreads between the mountains to the south and the sea to the north. Stands in the midst, and this position makes it very unique in itself. In this splendid engraving of 1720 Palermo is surrounded by walls and doors throughout. It 's still so, not with all these doors and walls, but in its essence. This is now the center of Palermo, the "beautiful". The new city has been developing all around. But this old town, with all the best things we have in this engraving, is there even today.


Top right, the engraving above, hints at a summit: the Monte Pellegrino, which is located on the sea side, opposite the chain of mountains that closes Palermo in the south. It 's a promontory, the first town in Palermo, since prehistoric times. It 's a little postcard of Palermo.


An unforgettable walk to the top will take you to the shrine of Santa Rosalia, where are preserved inside a cave, the relics of the patron saint of Palermo. Evocative.


Inside a cave on Monte Pellegrino (in the picture, seen from the sea), the one of the Addaura, engravings have been found. Dancing men and animals, as in a rite.


The 'Art "makes its entrance into the world, from Sicily. They are, think for a while, the most ancient representations of this kind, as made by an artist rather than a caveman, we are in the Paleolithic, 10,000 years BC. At the center of the figure there are two men that we do not understand very well what they do. They are a real puzzle for archaeologists. What do you think these ancient Sicilian are doing?


In Sicily you always end up eating! The region is a leader on Italian food. Palermo is full of chip shops that sell this street sandwich, that so reminds me of my childhood: pane e panelle, a paste of fried chickpeas. Take a bite for me too.


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Inside the walls, starting from Porta Felice and arriving at Porta Nuova.


I know very well that you will surely have a map, but I still want to guide you for a visit in the historical center of Palermo, starting close to the sea, from the north, from Porta Felice (1600).


Piazza Marina is the heart of the Palermo of the palaces. Indeed, we believe that the city has plenty of wonderful historic buildings, even starting from the year 1100, as in this figure, the Steri from the fourteenth century, the palace of the Inquisition! We can still see the graffiti of the poor prisoners! We begin to see the Arabic Palermo, the mullioned windows, the pointed arches.


The square hosts century old trees, like this one.


How many museums are there in Palermo! This is the Abatellis, next to Piazza Marina, fifteenth-century palace and a splendid example of Catalan Gothic architecture. Inside the museum there is also this pillar of universal painting: The Annunciation by Antonello da Messina, one of the milestones of Italian Renaissance painting. The absolute form, magnetic gaze and the hand suspended in an abstract dimension make it a masterpiece.


p.s. A little secret: our chef, Silvana Recupero, is also a talented painter. For example, she has perfectly reproduced this painting (using the same technique of Antonello, see) and most importantly, when she came with us for the exploration of Palermo, has spent almost a day in front of this work (which the director had especially arranged for our chef). These artists!


Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum: 15,000-year history. The figure shows a metopes of Temple C of Selinunte (VI century BC)


Do not forget to eat all the time in Sicily! The island pastry is the best in the world. Cannoli, Cassata and Co. should not get out of your mind.


Walking up the Via Vittorio Emanuele at a certain point, inside Arab-like alleys, a legendary market can be found: the Vucciria. A casbah of food, screams, and colors. Continues the Arabic Palermo (in this regard I would remind you that Palermo is the Sicilian city with the largest Fatimid footprint. Palermo became the capital of the island just at the time of Muslim rule replacing Syracuse, the largest Siceliota city, in this role).


Palermo is full of churches. This is the one of the Martorana, in the beautiful Piazza Bellini. It dates back to 1143! Its mosaics and marbles at Greek cross leave us with the mouth wide open. The churches of Palermo are one of the great pride of the city.


Another break of food, but linked to the aforementioned church. In 1537 Charles V visited Palermo. In the garden of the Church there were orange trees but in July there are no fruits. The nuns showed him a beautiful and well tended garden, made oranges with almond paste and colors, giving the garden a more striking and beautiful effect. They invented the fruits of martorana (marzipane). The monastery took its name from its founder, the noblewoman Eloisa Martorana. Hence the expression "Martorana fruit”, a characteristic of the Sicilian pastry.


This is the sixteenth century Fontana Pretoria. It arrived in 644 pieces and then were patiently assembled on site. The fountain rotates around a central basin surrounded by four bridges of stairways and a fence of railings and consists of three concentric basins from which it takes the opening game of water that is poured from the top by a Bacchus. When I was young I was very impressed by that huge fountain with all those statues!


At the corner of Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda here's Palermo Baroque opening with the seventeenth century Piazza dei Quattro Canti or Theatre of the Sun


Here Casa Professa, one of the most beautiful baroque churches in the island. The interior decoration - "whose walls are covered with marble, inlaid, with statues and arabesques without an end, which must have cost immense copy of money for the ambitious Lojolei (from Ignatius of Loyola), who made every other temple obscured in the city by their beautiful church.


Palermo is full of focaccerie and outdoor sellers of the entrails of animals: stigghiola, quarume, spleen, lungs ... The king of this offal is the sandwich with the spleen (“pani ‘cca meusa "). This is a very popular traditional dish of Palermo, which was originally food for the poor and humble people. The taste is heavy, almost nauseating. But when you got it ...


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Almost at the end of Corso Vittorio Emanuele stands powerful and solar the magnificent Cathedral of 1185! It was built by the Norman King William II in the stead of what was to be a mosque. In Catalan Gothic style, in it lies the tomb of Frederick II, the Stupor Mundi, the king who founded right here in Palermo a school of writers who have laid the foundations of the Italian language. The cathedral leaves visitors absolutely amazed by its beauty. It 's a masterpiece.


The Palace of the Normans. It has always existed as a power center of Palermo. This site has been occupied by phoenicians, romans, arabs, and then normans. An overlap of peoples who made this site, the highest in the area between the walls, their center of power. The Palace of the Normans, in this latest version, in the eleventh century. Majestic, magnificent is also known as the Royal Palace, just because it was the residence of all the Kings of Sicily. A book would not suffice to describe its wonders.


On the first floor of the Norman Palace there is the Palatine Chapel, one of the greatest jewels of Norman art in the world. Perhaps the most sublime! The Palatine Chapel is a three-aisled basilica dedicated to the Saints Peter and Paul. It was built at the behest of Roger II and was consecrated April 28, 1140 as a church of the royal family. Wooden ceiling, mosaics, Arab-style paintings, wooden stars with representations of animals, dancers and scenes from life of the Islamic court. Here you should try a famous ice cream of Palermo!


A short walk from the Norman Palace, a work from the eleventh century are the red domes of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, a former mosque. Giulio Carlo Argan, an art historian, writes: "The Normans who establish their dynasty in Sicily in 1072, destroyed the monuments, not the tradition of Byzantine and Arabic architecture. San Giovanni degli Eremiti in Palermo (1132) is Arabic in clear relationship between cubic bodies and hemispherical domes. Certainly, more than the one of a Christian church, the church refers to the spatial conception of Islamic mosques and that argument is even more emphasized by the East domes of bright red color.


Porta Nuova closes Palermo to the south within the walls. This is the latest version of around the year 1600. It is reflected by the opposite Porta Felice, from where we started, from Corso Vittorio Emanuele (the Cassaro), whose left and right sides define the historical Palermo, the one inside the walls.


Outside the walls


The Favorita Park and Mondello. The Parco della Favorita or Favorita royal estate is a forest within walking distance of the city of Palermo, with the outline of Monte Pellegrino as its background, the fishing village of Mondello is city sand beach, with its fish and nightlife is the gathering of the Sicilian capital. The Park is accessed from Piazza Leoni and was once populated by many animals, being a hunting ground of its founder, King Ferdinand IV. Behind the Favorita there is the nineteenth-century Chinese style house in the photo.


Catacombs of the Capuchins. Macabre-religious tourism. Stuffed and visited by travelers of all time, lie the basement of the convent of the Capuchins. About 8000 priests, many of whom seem to spy on you in this museum of horror. But the real star is the mummy of little Rosalia Lombardo, who died in 1920. The child appears intact (albeit only for the face). It gives the impression that she is asleep, so as to give her the nickname of "Sleeping Beauty".


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The solace palace of the Zisa (the beautiful) buildt by the Normans, was the summer residence of King Genoardo It was in the Genoardo, Garden of Eden, I mean gardens rich in water and vegetation, on the outskirts of Palermo. Twelfth century. As usual the characteristics of Islamic architecture are evident given workers were arabs.


More Solace, as above, was the Cuba, in 1180 approximately. Also rectangular, compact and full of artificial lakes, parks, various delicacies.


The gardens of Palermo. Palermo is a green city, full of public gardens: Villa Giulia and the Botanical Garden over all. The image shows the Ficus symbol of the Botanical Garden.


Monreale top


Monreale is famous all over the world for its cathedral with gold mosaics, executed between the twelfth and the mid-thirteenth century by local craftsmen in part, and in part from Venice, formed at the Byzantine school. The cathedral itself has a Byzantine cloister fine example of Romanesque art. Five stars.


Cefalù top


It is an absolute symbol of artistic and touristic Sicily. Arabic village flattened by the sea. The verticality of its Norman Cathedral (photo) of the eleventh century propels the traveler in the Middle Ages, at the time of the Inquisition. Cefalù, between an alley and the other, is dominated by a huge boulder that seems to have landed from space in the middle of the country: the Rocca.

Following this road up to above is a triumph: walls, beautiful landscapes, a mysterious megalithic temple, and on, over the castle.

Between an alley and the other, the beautiful Cefalù also has a rich Museum (the Mandralisca), a medieval wash house, several doors of the walls, and a beautiful Osterio (fortified palace).

Hotels, restaurants, shops and so on, add to the happiness of the traveler.


The Opera dei Pupi top

L'opera dei pupi

Theater that has enthralled the Sicilians of 50 years ago. Today, sometimes, you can still see these representations where these Christian heroes challenge the Saracen enemy by sword and with the inevitable handsome women as a backdrop. Contact me and I will tell you where you can see their deeds.


Himera top


A short walk from Termini Imerese, there are the ruins of one of the most important cities of the past: Himera (fifth century BC). Ribbons of the city, a Doric temple and a beautiful museum. The pot of gold from the Greek era (phiale) is one of the finds of the site.


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Caccamo top


It has a fairy-tale castle, one of many that dot the island. It also has a beautiful square where there’s a church with catacombs and a former Mount of the Pawns. But the castle, again, is something like ... Scotland.


From Bagheria to Cefalù top

Da Bagheria a Cefalù

The coast from Bagheria to Cefalu, near Palermo, is sandy. There are many private structures (strands) where you can rent chairs and umbrellas. Bagheria, now a popular offshoot of Palermo, in ‘800 became a holiday destination for many rich aristocrats from Palermo, who built a series of luxury villas in the landscaped gardens of the place. Today, instead of the gardens there are a few buildings but fragments of these fabulous villas remain.

In San Nicola l’Arena, near Trabia, there is a lively marina. In Termini Imerese a nice museum in a beautiful main square. The area is also characterized by a massive presence of the '500-'600 coastal towers to protect the island from pirates.


Solunto top


On mount Catalfano, a stone's throw from Bagheria, lie the ruins of the settlement of the first Phoenician and then Roman Solunto (eighth century BC), which together with Mozia and Palermo were the stronghold of the people of East that faced many battles in Sicily against the Sicelioti (Greeks of Sicily). The ruins are impressive.


Le Madonie top

Le Madonie

The Madonie are mountains close to the northern sea of the island. They are a Regional Park in which gravitate a series of charming villages, surrounded by forests, flora and the usual Sicilian artistic and archaeological frenzy. It would take a separate book to describe all emergencies of the Madonie. The two Petralia, Castelbuono, Pollina, Geraci, Polizzi, Isnello ... must be an undisputed goal of the traveler. The sandstone projects back to the Middle Ages. Churches, castles, rivers, beautiful landscapes. And: traditions. Here the old ways remain almost intact, both in continuous and joyful festivals, as in the table. For example, I suggest a cake: the Sfoglio. To underline the extraordinary presence of ancient religious buildings: hermitages, monasteries, churches ... In the photo Gibilmanna sanctuary, nestled in the woods. One last point: you can ski in the Madonie and, at worst, not even 30 minutes and you get to the sea. And this is one of the great attractions of Sicily, in a moment from the sea you can get into the woods and fields and at the same moment you leave the "nothing" to the "whole".


Ficuzza and its neighborhood top

Ficuzza e dintorni

Another green space is the one that runs inland from Palermo, where between grain and woods, the usual villages perched atop cliffs color the landscape: Corleone, Prizzi, Piana degli Albanesi, etc. all have different points of interest. Piana, for example, in addition to being renowned for cannoli, is an Orthodox enclave. Corleone has one of the most beautiful territories in Sicily. Just think about the Ficuzza forest, dominated by a rock of over 1600 meters (Rocca Busambra) and by a village where an Italian king, in 1800, built a hunting lodge (photo). The endless fields of grain give more unforgettable emotions.


From Palermo to Castellammare del Golfo top

Da Palermo a Castellammare del Golfo

One village after another bordered by the sea and the beautiful island beaches. Always the major points of interest and the sixteenth-century coastal towers to be your escort. In Carini there’s a fabulous castle; in Capaci a cave with prehistoric engravings; in Alcamo a mountain full of charm between the castle and the woods, then there is the curious little island of Female (photo), the lively summer resort of Terrasini ...


The surroundings of the Zingaro top

I dintorni dello Zingaro

The white limestone of Castellammare del Golfo introduces this area full of charm and sun. Beautiful views of mountains sloping down to the sea. Cliffs, beaches, unforgettable colors. San Vito Lo Capo, Scopello, Custonaci ... are one of the most popular destinations in Sicily. The Zingaro (photo) is the link joining these places, an earthly paradise near the sea of Sicily. Not to be missed.


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Segesta top


One of the oldest cities in Sicily, with the ruins of a theater and a temple of the fourth century BC. In the eternal war with Selinunte, the majesty of its ruins indicates its ancient power. A journey through time of great emotion, in one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in Sicily.


Wine top

Il vino

Here there’s a high production of excellent wines among the best in Sicily, suitable land for the elisis of Bacchus: the Marsala, and many fields are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Nero d’Avola with regard to the red wine: Alcamo for the white one.


Erice top


A dip in the Middle Ages through the streets, alleys and stone of Erice. Here there was the most famous ancient temple of love, that of Aphrodite, who attracted sailors of the Mediterranean Sea with her eternal flame at the top of the mountain. Here the bare hierodule, the handmaidens of Aphrodite, were devoted to the sacred prostitution. Erice is beautiful and special. The castle is the stuff of fairy tales.


Trapani top


City between two seas and the city of salt because of the numerous saline. Quite popular, is the capital of the province. Several beauties like the sixteenth-century palace of the Giudecca, countless churches, and scenic walks to the sea including the walls of Tramontana, 1 km long and running along the old defensive walls of 500 years ago, and also the avenue of Sirens, near the Tower of Ligny. Also worth a walk in the park of Villa Margherita through the nineteenth century ficus and the beautiful tower of the Colombaia, perhaps originally Punic, located on the islet. The octagonal tower of the castle dates from the fourteenth century.


Couscous top


Trapani is the land of couscous. In San Vito Lo Capo, a renowned festival attracts chefs and eaters everywhere, but it is probably Mazara del Vallo home to this Arab-Sicilian food.


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Archipelagos of the Egadi: Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo top

Arcipelago delle Egadi: Favignana, Levanzo e Marettimo

Off the coast of Trapani (7 km), reachable within 1 hour of navigation, there are the three Egadi islands: Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo. They are a paradise for lovers of the sea. Inhabited since ancient times, especially Favignana and Levanzo. The food in these places of holiday and student spirit is always aplenty!

Arcipelago delle Egadi: Favignana, Levanzo e Marettimo

In Levanzo is the Grotta del Genovese, don’t miss it, with engravings of 11,000 years ago. These seem to dance like some young people today. All returns!


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Mozia and the Stagnone top

Mozia e lo Stagnone

Mozia is a small island just inside the so-called Stagnone, on the coast of Marsala. It was one of three major sites of the Phoenicians (over Palermo and Solunto) and the ruins of this ancient civilization are still visible today in the small island (45 sq km). Mozia is a private property and its interior is also a small museum.

Mozia e lo Stagnone

Mozia, we said, is within a stagnone (lagoon), this low stretch of sea, like a pond where the salt is extracted in saline. At the very least suggestive. The Stagnone is one of the few natural habitats in the world for the Posidonia, a rare kind of seaweed, similat to the green of a garden. In times of low tide, the Stagnone turns into an immense prairie.


Marsala and Capo Boeo top

Marsala e Capo Boeo

Mars allah "the port of Allah" occupies the western tip of Sicily. In its historical center is clearly a strong impression of Islam. The city has exceptional archaeological evidence both outdoors and indoors (eg Punic boat preserved in the Pepoli museum). Spread on the sea is a delight for its cuisine and its famous namesake liquor wine. Of great value is also the Museum of Tapestries. Piazza della Repubblica with the seventeenth-century cathedral is well worth a visit immediately. Marsala is one of the three points of the Sicilian triangle: in fact here is Cape Boeo.


The Belice top

Il Belice

The Belice is a hilly area of the province of Trapani, characterized by a very bucolic landscape and the effects of the earthquake that struck in 1968. Many of the villages were destroyed (often rebuilt on a different site) by the strong earthquake still lie silent creating an eerie atmosphere in the valley. Ancient Poggioreale, the most striking example, is an entire abandoned town, worthy of a film such as "survivors. " Ancient Gibellina have been all cemented in the place where it was, such as to bury it! All in the midst of infinite and undulating wheat fields and vineyards.


Mazara top


Some things, who knows why, become eternal. Whether habits or songs. Mazara (Cape Granitola) was the site where the Arabs landed for the first time giving the start to the 2 centuries of dynasty of the island. Even today the town has a very strong Islamic atmosphere, with its sudden alleys, and the white limestone of its buildings. The beautiful cathedral, its famed couscous, its fish and its fishing vessels. Great attraction is the museum of the Satyr, a bronze statue of the III-II century BC (in the photo an engraving of our chef).


Selinunte top


A unique feeling the one of Selinunte and its temples dominating the sea of Africa. It was one of the great cities of the Greek era (fifth century BC) and the splendor of its buildings leaves no doubts. Wonderful place from which you would not ever go. Even in the hot summer (but the sea is a step away).


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The Quarries of Cusa top

Le cave di Cusa

The quarries of Cusa are the single witness of a site where the stones of the temples were worked. For this type of work, slaves were used. Here the slaves were building a temple, when suddenly the site was abandoned (see in the photo two blocks of templar columns surround the chef Silvana).

Giovanni e Silvana

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