Palermo is a jumble of periods and styles from baroque to Moorish,
to sumptuous Arab–Norman. It's Sicily's capital and lies on
the north coast, along a bay known as the Conca d'Oro (the golden
shell) because of its glittering citrus groves.
Street art in Palermo
Palermo prospered under the Arab colonisation,
when the city was home to Jewish and Lombard merchants, Greek craftsmen
and builders, Turkish and Syrian artisans, Berber and Negro slaves.
This medieval city was once the most multiracial population in Europe.
Unfortunately allied bombs destroyed the port and much of the centre
in 1943, but restoration of the city finally began in 1993.
The Cathedral should be seen, as well as the royal
chapel, Cappella Palatina, designed by Roger II in 1130 which is
a good representation of the fusion of Byzantine, Arab, Norman and
Sicilian civilisations. If you don't suffer from claustrophobia,
visit (with the aid of expert pot-holers) the 10th century water
channels made by the Arabs that once provided irrigation for farmsteads
In the Vucciria quarter alleys are bustling with
people selling spices, pine nuts, etc, especially wonderful to see
as night falls and the red awnings are illuminated. Sampling street
snacks is always fun in Palermo's liveliest market, Ballarò,
on Piazza Carmine.
Motobeeps (covered versions of motorbike taxis)
are very cheap, will get you around the city quickly and the drivers
have basic training as guides. Avoid using cars in Palermo for fear
The patron saint of Palermo is enshrined in the
Santuaria di Santa Rosalia, which was built in 1624 above the city
in a mountain grotto. A dreamer had been told to find her relics
and wave them three times around the city to rid Palermo of the
plague. Her saint's day is in July when there's a six-day
extravaganza when Palermo barely sleeps.