Palermo is Sicily’s capital, a historic port city with streets packed with palaces, churches and other old buildings. The mixed architectural styles reflect the civilizations that conquered, lived in and then left Palermo. Arabs, Normans, Byzantines, French and Spanish have all occupied Palermo at one time. With beaches, museums, street markets and a crypt full of mummies, you’ll find much to excite and fascinate.
Head for Quattro Canti in the historic quarter. The square is the intersection of Palermo’s two main roads and has four identical baroque buildings on its corners. Their niches hold statues of the city’s four Spanish rulers.
Visit the 12th-century cathedral for its Arab-influenced Norman architecture, gothic gargoyles and baroque interior. Tour the Church of San Cataldo, a three-domed Arab-Norman structure. Walk through the heavy wooden doorway of the Palazzo Alliata di Pietratagliata to see its gothic décor and architecture.
View ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan artifacts at the Antonio Salinas Regional Archeological Museum. Study examples of medieval art at the Regional Gallery and more contemporary pieces at the Modern Art Gallery. Purchase seafood and souvenirs at La Vucciria open-air market and vintage clothes at Ballaro market. Then relax on one of the beaches.
Explore Palermo’s most unusual site, the Capuchin Crypt, beneath the Piazza Cappuccini. See thousands of mummies, some well-preserved, others in varying states of decay. They line shelves, hang from walls and fill open niches. Look up at bones decorating the ceilings.
Complete each day in one of Palermo’s restaurants. Savor pizzas baked in wood-fired ovens, a local staple, and try other regional favorites such as pasta with sardines and Cassata Siciliana, a traditional cake.
To enjoy Palermo’s museums, architecture, atmosphere and history, fly into Palermo International Airport or come by boat or rail. Take advantage of the city’s position as a major transportation hub to explore Sicily. Greek archeological ruins at Segesta are less than 2 hours away by train. The fishing village Cefalu is a short bus ride away.