Palermo, the capital of Sicily, epitomizes the island's flamboyant and fun-loving spirit. Bustling markets and lively wine bars are the center of life here, where mouth-watering food and top-notch drinks are the norm. The many attractions and wealth of cultural events will keep you busy throughout your trip. With its exotic blend of Byzantine, Roman and Christian influences, Palermo is a feast for all the senses.
Like many places in this part of the world, Palermo has a long and complex history. It was originally founded more than 2,000 years ago by the Phoenicians. Later, it was ruled over by the Roman and Byzantine Empires before the Greeks took over. In the first and second century, Palermo belonged to the Arabs, and following the Norman reconquest it became the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily.
Many people may associate Palermo and Sicily as a whole with the mafia, who indeed have their origins here. However, tourists shouldn't have to worry, as these groups tend to set their sights on poorer neighbourhoods that you're unlikely to visit. Just keep your wits about you (as you would in any city) and you're bound to be just fine!
To get a taste (literally) of local life, head to the Mercato di Ballarò, a massive street market on Palazzo dei Normanni. It's chaotic, loud and extremely atmospheric!
If you're after some history, you don't need to look far. The palatial Palermo Cathedral is a wonder to behold, featuring a myriad of different architectural styles that tell the story of its past. Five minutes away from there is the splendid Palazzo Conte Federico, which dates back to the 12th century and is of Arabic-Norman origin. And a short taxi drive away from the city you'll find the Capuchin Catacombs, a macabre but fascinating burial ground not unlike the Fontanelle Cemetery in Naples.