The Editor’s Guide To Palermo, Italy

8 min read

You could spend a lifetime in Sicily and still not discover all her secrets. If you’re after a cultural melting pot of Byzantine mosaics, Arabesque domes and fresh Sicilian cuisine, however, it’s to Palermo you’ll want to head

An eclectic metropolis of different civilisations — it was recognised as Italy’s Capital of Culture in 2018 — this is a city where creative ateliers, provenance-led gelaterias and palazzo apartments rub shoulders with the city’s neoclassical opera house, cathedrals and, the star of the show, street food markets reminiscent of our local souks. Indeed, Palermo is proud of its Arabian origins, and the abundance and variety of food give its main markets (Ballaro, Vucciria and Capo) a unique vibe. Feast on arancini, cannoli, fried fish and aperitivo dishes that will whet your appetite for the rest of the day. Touring them can be a bit daunting, so ask your hotel to book you in for a street food tour to ensure you get your fill.

A must-see when in Palermo, make sure that Teatro Massimo Vittorio is top of your sight-seeing list. The third largest opera house in Europe after Paris and Vienna, Filippo and Ernesto Basile spent 20 years building this architectural masterpiece after the unification of Italy in 1861, and its ornate gold and red auditorium and Rocco Lentini-painted ceiling never fails to impress.

For a splash-out stay away from the city centre, Villa Igiea is an opulent, peach-hued hotspot complete with original art deco panelling, marble flooring and sprawling subtropical gardens. Nestled directly on the seafront, the protected historical building is ripe for superyacht watching. Having opened its doors last summer, the hotel’s meticulous restoration is now complete following the impressive renovation of Palazzina Donna Franca. Situated next to the main villa, this elegant wing is the very location that famously hosted the Florio family’s Cercle des Etrangers. The two floors above it boast 12 new rooms and suites, the most impressive being the Donna Franca Suite: a stunning 144 square metre space complete with huge living area, super king-sized bedroom, beautiful marble bathroom and 96 square metre private terrace overlooking the Gulf of Palermo. Most rooms, however, overlook the palm tree-filled gardens and sea beyond, so you won’t be disappointed.

A world away from the hustle and bustle of the city, relaxation is key here, and when you’re not horizontal by the outdoor seafront pool, head over to the Irene Forte Spa. Fusing the regenerative powers of nature and science, its skincare products and treatments contain nourishing Sicilian botanicals harvested from Verdura Resort’s organic farm. Innovative technology is integrated into advanced facials and body treatments which, alongside the relaxing and indulgent therapies, are carried out by a team of expert therapists.

With much of the hotel spilling out on to terraces above the gardens, you’ll want to eat alfresco at Villa Igiea. Make the Igiea Terrazza Bar your first port of call for aperitivo before heading to the hotel’s main restaurant Florio which, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, is a delightful place to dine. Specialising in local Sicilian dishes, highlights include starters of courgettes parmigiani style and tuna tataki, mains of ravioli Norma and spaghetti pasta with sardines, all finished off with indulgent local desserts. For a real culinary treat, book a cooking class with Chef Davide Mazzarella who whips up the freshest pasta alla Norma in town. Book now

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  • Words by Naomi Chadderton