A City Guide to Palermo, Sicily

A City Guide to Palermo, Sicily

The Sicilian capital grows on you slowly. Speed up the love affair with our guide to exploring its honey-hued streets, chaotic food markets and late-night negroni bars.

takes a while for Palermo to win you over. Blaring car horns,
a punishing summer sun and little courtesy paid to visitors (you’ll
find few multi-language menus in this proudly Sicilian city) can –
at first – feel trying. But perseverance is rewarded. Once in the
grips of the Cosa Nostra (Sicilian mafia), Palermo has battled
forwards since the 90s, when a series of car bomb attacks shook the
city, and the world.

Since then, a steady resistance against mafia control has
breathed new life into the ancient city. Palermo was recognised as
Italy’s Capital of Culture in 2018 – a remarkable feat for what
had, 20 years earlier, been a battlefield. Today, a gentle wave of
creative ateliers, provenance-led gelaterias and restored palazzo
apartments colour its crumbling, storied streets.

A vendor washes vegetables at a Palermo food market
Overlook Palermo, Sicily

Market life, left, and rooftop views of the city.

For years, Palermo’s neoclassical opera house and Byzantine
cathedrals garnered nothing more than a cursory day trip for island
circumnavigators, but this phoenix-like city deserves a longer
look. Bolder, spicier and sweeter than the rest of Italy, it’s a
destination that has risen from the ashes. Dive in and discover it
for yourself.

Renaissance city: where to eat, stay, drink and shop in
Palermo, Sicily

To Stay

A bedroom at Butera28



As Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote in his famous Sicilian
novel The Leopard, “If we want things to stay as they are, things
will have to change”. He’d surely approve of the work his adopted
son and daughter-in-law, Gioacchino and Nicoletta Lanza Tomasi, the
Duke and Duchess of Palma, have done in restoring the 18th-century
palazzo where he penned the lines. The property has been divided
into 12 luxurious apartments, with an elegant decor featuring
antique furnishings and classic Sicilian tiling. The
apartment-style stays all have fully equipped kitchens, WiFi and
air conditioning.


Via Butera 28, 90133

The exterior of Villa Igiea

Villa Igiea

For a splash-out stay away from the city centre, check in at the
magnificent Villa Igiea, which has been attracting jet-setting
royalty for 122 years. Built by an aristocratic Sicilian family in
1900, “palazzo” would be a more accurate description for this
opulent, peach-hued crashpad: expect original art deco panelling,
marble flooring and sprawling subtropical gardens. The villa, which
offers sea views, is a protected historical building, as is its
dazzling tennis court (built in the 20s) and enticing oval swimming
pool. As such, despite being taken over by Rocco Forte in 2018, the
hotel is full of idiosyncratic charm and character. Ask for a room
overlooking the hotel’s private harbour – it’s ripe for


Via Belmonte 43, 90142

The savoy loft at Palazzo Sovrana


Palazzo Sovrana

Halfway between a hotel and a series of self-catering
apartments, Palazzo Sovrana offers smartly dressed suites in the
heart of Palermo, most with private terraces that offer close-up
views of the city’s opera house, Teatro Massimo. A traditional
Sicilian breakfast is served on the panoramic rooftop terrace,
which doubles as a prime spot for evening cocktails and
wine-tasting events.


Via Bara all’Olivella 78, 90133

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Main photo credit: Alex Segre / Shutterstock.com

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