If you visit the island of Sicily in southern Italy, you can easily spend your time in the big cities like Palermo and Catania, but why not discover their hidden treasures instead? When you think of Sicily, most of us will think of Mount Etna, the ancient capital of the Roman Empire, and the Mediterranean Sea and its famous beaches.
If you visit the west coast of Sicily, you will land in Palermo, one of the most beautiful islands of the Mediterranean.
The beach of Capaci 20 km from Palermo is well known to tourists but has beautiful sand and is a great place for relaxing but what if you wanted to go off the beaten track a little and find some other gems and attractions?
A one day explore
If you only have one day in Palermo, then maybe start with a street food walk. It is a great way to see some of the highlights of the city, go to the markets and taste typical Sicilian street dishes without eating too much at once. If you have time visit the Palermo Archaeological Museum.
Palermo is a huge and diverse area, so take your time and enjoy the beauty of the city, its history and culture. If you have the good fortune to stay longer then an Airbnb in Palermo could give you a good base from which to explore. A good idea in Palermo would be to buy enough food for a picnic and enjoy it in one of its parks, such as Villa Giulia.
The Palatine Chapel
This chapel is close to Palazzo dei Normanni right in the heart of Palermo. It is an incredibly well preserved example of Byantine architecture. It was built in 1132 and was dedicated to St Peter. It is covered with beautiful and intricate mosaics and it is an incredible creation and worth exploring.
The Capuchin Abbey and Catacombs
After visiting the Palatine Chapel you will probably be underwhelmed by the abbey here but underneath it lies the catacombs. This is something very different to the normal tourist attractions.
Underground are catacombs that spread out with examples of burials across time. The monks used to preserve the bodies with embalming and then they would lay them here in their own clothing. The bodies number over 8,000 and are still preserved to this day.
Sicily has beautiful regions that are full of mountains and hills. Monte Pellegrino is right next door to Palermo and lets visitors have a break from the city. From here you can look over the Meditarranean and the city of Palermo. This is a popular spot with the locals too as it is only 9 miles from Palermo city centre. If you feel energetic you could take a bicycle here but there are other forms of transport too..
After the macabre burials at Capuchin Abbey, some light hiking at Monte Pellegrino has hopefully restored your appetite. There are many fine restaurants and cafes in Palermo but if you want to see how a city eats you need to visit its food markets.
There are a few to choose from in Palermo and the centre has 3 main ones. Ballaro, Cap and Vuccira are all ideally located for tourists as they are near many of the top attractions in the heart of Palermo. If it is to your liking there are street food tours available too to let you explore Sicilian food and the locals’ way of eating.
Of course like anywhere, Palermo has its own after dark attractions. The nightlife here in Palermo is not to be ignored, as it is intense, colourful and sometimes out of control. It is easy to stop at Porta Nuova, and you should definitely stop by to see the place after dark, it is one of the best places to go at night in Palermo. After a look around the colourful markets, there are plenty of fun things to do that won’t blow your pocket, so it won’t be long before you take in all of them and you should definitely put it on your list when deciding what to do in Palermo.
The Oratory of Santa Cita
The building goes all the way back to 1510. It was created as a place of worship and when you visit the Oratory you will possibly be less than impressed with the exterior of the building. However the hidden gem lies inside. The building has a much more intricate interior with some of the most incredible architecture crafted from marble. There are examples of angels and Cupid across the walls and is a real hidden gem in Palermo that most visitors will miss.
There are more hidden gems that you can search out yourself such as Palazzo Asmund, which houses a collection of ceramics and artefacts dating back hundreds of years and Santa Maria dello Spasimo an unfinished church in one of the oldest areas of Palermo. Outside of Palermo, Sicily has much to offer and If you wanted something different you could even take a tour of a chocolate factory! Spend your time exploring off the beaten track and you might find your own hidden gems in Palermo and further afield.