Palermo, the capital of Sicily, witnessed the control of more than 10 great powers, and it showcasts now a variety of architectural styles unique in Italy: from Baroque churches, Norman facades and Romanesque buildings to Liberty palazzi. For many people, urban landscapes could be described as crumbling; some others would be amazed by the intense experience of a visit in Palermo. For culture vulture tourists there is a lot to see. The Cathedral of Palermo was initially an early Christian basilica, then after a mosque, then a basilica again. The primary shopping streets of Palermo, particularly the wide avenue of Viale della Liberta’ and its narrower expansion, Via Maqueda, have wonderful stores of all kinds.
La Martorana is officially Santa Maria dell’ Ammiraglio, a church built in 1143, and with a 16th century facade and a Baroque interior it is also well-known for its mosaics. The word “martorana” has a gastronomic interest as well: martorana fruits, made of marzipan, are produced to look as close to real fruits as possible. They have been given this specific name as the nuns of this church have started the tradition.
But what comes as a real surprise is that streetfood appears to be in the top ten in the world and first in Italy.
Ballaro’ is the biggest of the three open-air markets and it is much more intriguing than the old Vucciria marketplace that you read about in most of the best guide books. Its name comes from French Boucherie which means butchery as hundreds years ago served as a place for the meat trade. The food booths at Vucciria are quite small nowadays, and the popular market appears mostly for the entertainment of tourists. A pretty narrow main street and several side streets are filled up with food stores and outside stalls as well as clothing garments.
Palermo offers a number of chic restaurants in the city centre and Mondello seaside , but there’s definitely plenty of cheap gastronomic wonders in the street. Although small “food artisans” shops are not “Michelin-starred” places, they sell excellent pastries, gelato, and deep fried delicacies.
Let’s take a look at the main dishes appreciated by locals.
Introduced by Arab colonisation, these deep fried rice balls are the main meat and veg filled bites which you will find irresistible.
Barbecue sheep intestines wrapped in leek and served with onion, its smell will drive you crazy!
Pasta con le sarde
It brings together flavors from locals and Arabic, it is a speciality with main ingredients being sardines, wild fennel, roasted breadcrumbs, sultanas and pine nuts. Unmissable.
Pani ca’ meusa
Spleen boiled in lard and eaten on a brioche kind roll with a squeeze of lemon, or, if you like, a substantial smear of ricotta sheep cheese.
Another deep fried exquisiteness, Panelle are chickpeas fritters and are often eaten in bread with cazzilli (potatoe croquets).
This is a traditional regional pizza topped with caciocavallo sheep cheese, tomatoes, olives and anchovies. If you want to eat like a local follow the itinerant “foodtruck”.
Don’t call it gelato! This summer refreshing dessert is made of ice with sugar and fresh fruit or nuts. Popular favours? Coffee, almond, mulberry, pistachio, chocolate, strawberry, peach, lemon.
It is surely the most known Sicilian dessert. A crust is filled with sweetened sugar ricotta cheese or cream. A similar filling is used for the second in popularity cassata siciliana.
Ainsley Harriott, UK chef and tv presenter visited Palermo to try food from street vendors.
When planning your visit, pre-book a taxi with TaxiLeader.net for a peace of mind transfer to city center. Punta Raisi airport is located about 1 hour away from Palermo and shuttle buses have a limited time schedule, so we recommend you to check carefully time and availability of public transport.
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