Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 29, 2022


We visited Sicily a few years ago. We drove down from Bagni di Lucca, stopping at several places along west coast of Italy on the way down. In Sicily we visited Taormina, Ortigia, Noto, Ragusa, Scicli, Agrigento, Segesta, Corleone and Monreale. At that point a fierce wind nearly knocked us off our feet and after a brief stop in Cefalu we decided to cut our trip short and head home.

We were sorry to have missed the western side of Sicily so this time we flew to Palermo where we stayed for a couple of days before going to Erice, Trapani and Marsala.

Palermo is the capital of Sicily. The sprawling city is over 2,700 years old. It was founded in 734 BC by the Phonoecians. It has seen Carthaginian rule, had Greek colonies, became part of the Roman Empire, and was under Arab and Norman rule, making for a colourful and interesting city.

These days it has a population of 1.2 million people. The central area houses nearly 700,000 people. We stayed in the gritty historical centre where life seems to be lived outside. There are large markets, ancient and dirty streets lined with vendors and thriving pedestrian areas where people gather.

Our hotel was just around the corner from the Mercato del Capo so it was the first place we explored.

There was one place where you could choose what you wanted to eat and then sit down to eat it or take it away.


I would like to say that we tried this excellent looking food, but we did not. We lined up in front of the array of dishes, made our selection and waited to be served. Takeaway customers were given preference and everyone around us was served while we waited. Finally someone spoke to us and we said we wanted a table. He walked off, came back, ignored us and continued to serve other people. We waited for another 10 minutes and gave up. We went to a nearby place where we were served and wished we hadn’t been. The food was awful. It was a huge disappointment.

Not to be put off we wandered down towards the Quattro Canti area past numerous shops with their wares displayed in the street.

The pedestrian area around Via Maqueda and Corso Vittorio Emanuele is buzzing with life. Restaurants and cafes spill out into the street and are full of people eating in a city famous for its food…and enjoying company.

Quattro Canti is considered the centre of the historic centre of Palermo. The crossroad of Via Maqueda and Corso Vittorio Emanuele is encircled by 4 Baroque buildings with figures staring down on the passing parade.

This pedestrian area was busy all day an night, clearly the place to be.

The stunning Fontana Pretoria is close to the Quattro Canti. The fountain was originally built in Florence in 1544, but was sold and transported to Palermo where it was rebuilt in 1574.

We visited the magnificent Palermo Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It was completed in the Middle Ages but has had numerous additions until the 18th century and is a mix of styles.

We wandered into one of the gardens in the city and found Moreton Bay fig trees! For those who are not from Brisbane (where we live in Australia) our city is on Moreton Bay. It was like a little piece of home in Palermo. The oldest and largest one was planted in 1863 and came from Lord Howe Island.

The other street market we went to was the Ballaro, the biggest in Palermo.



We had to try a freshly squeezed pomegranate juice because it is good for you…and delicious.

You might have noticed the long green things. They seem to be a type of zucchini. They were almost a metre long.

There are thousands of dilapidated buildings in Palermo. Some of them must have been magnificent. It is a pity to see them in such disrepair.

There are treasures to be found in the historical centre. We wanted to go to the Cappuccini Catacombs, but they were closed. Perhaps another time.

We stayed at Palermo Inn Boutique in the historical centre. It was well located and comfortable with cheerful and helpful staff. They served the best and most generous breakfast I have seen…and tasted.

There is a great restaurant in Piazza Porta Carina, below the hotel. It was a perfect place for aperitivo or outdoor dining. It was surprisingly cool for late April so we chose an indoor table.

The best thing we saw in Palermo was the spectacular Palatine Chapel in the Royal Palace which I will show you in the next post.

See previous Sicily posts below.



Ortigia, historic centre of Siracusa

Noto, Baroque theme park, Sicily

Scicli, a delightful Sicilian surprise


It’s all Greek to me

Segesta…a temple in Sicily





  1. It’s so strange. We experienced a similar experience. We were enjoying the market, happy eager to buy but many of the vendors were so rude to us… We tried our best Italian but maybe “ foreigners “ not welcome. Who knows ?

    • We were completely ignored, but they weren’t being nice to anyone. The girl beside me took ages to make her decisions and the person serving her was quite unpleasant about it. The food at the other place we went to was truly horrible…it happens.

  2. Love your post Deb……..we did enjoy the architecture in Palermo, but only visited briefly in 1997, as we spent most of our time in Pergusa-Enna for the 50 year celebration of Ferrari on a rally and later to Catania and Taormina ( which I loved)

    • There are some wonderful things in Palermo, but Ortigia is still my favourite place in Sicily.

  3. Hi, Deb. I haven’t seen too many of your posts recently but I’m glad I saw this one. Within a few steps of the intersection of Via Maqueda and Corso Vittorio Emanuele (to the southeast) is the Church of the Martorana in Piazza Bellini. My grandmother’s maiden name was Martorana and her family immigrated to the US from Sicily in the late 1800s. It is a beautiful church with a byzantine interior and stunningly beautiful mosaics. Had I known you were going to be that close, I would have directed your steps to it. Perhaps next time. 🙂

    • What a pity we missed it. We went into a few churches, but not that one. The most amazing place we saw was the Palatine Chapel.

      • Next time, if you ever get back that way! 🙂

  4. Sicily and Palermo specially are fascinating. A mixture of beauty and ugliness in a sort of organized chaos. It has to do with its history and successive invaders. We should remember that for some 600 years they were under Spanish rule (originally the crown of Aragon and then Spain because of the marriage of the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille). At different times it was known as the Kingdom of Sicily and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which included and was based in Naples. The Spanish Crown still holds this title, together with others, as useless as this one. Memories of past splendor!
    In any case, the four kings featured at Quattro Canti are Spanish Kings who held that title, namely Charles I, Philip II, Philip III and Philip IV

    • Thank you for the information. I wondered about those figures at the Quattro Canti. The Palazzo Reale is stunning. The Palatine Chapel is breathtaking and a couple of the room in the royal apartments are stunning.

  5. What a fascinating tour you gave us of Palermo. The Moreton Bay Fig trees remind me of the ones in Eagle Street in Brisbane.

    • I thought of Eagle St too! It was a surprise to see them in Sicily, but we also saw lots of eucalyptus trees.

  6. I’ve been to Palermo a couple of times and agree that it’s sad to see those buildings in disrepair – whilst there we did visit Monreale and the cathedral which was well worth the effort –

    • We went to Monreale last time. It is stunning.

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