Palermo has many charms, starting with the friendly people, continuing with the superb church art and architecture, many lovely parks and piazzas, opera, and a ton of diverse history. To these charms add the Greek temples in Arigento and Selinunte, Erice, Siracusa, Noto and other destinations not far away, and you have a location of major interest to both short and long-term visitors.
Palermo would be a much lovelier city if they could do a better job in the non-tourist areas where they are dreadfully inept at trash removal and street cleaning. There are some buildings in need of demolition or renovation, and exterior cleaning, but given the size and age of the city I am less concerned with those big dollar projects than the daily need to clean up. There is chronic labor unrest, and substandard buildings from the 70’s and 80’s that accompanied the depopulation of rural Sicily. That Sicily largely disabled the Mafia is a vast credit, and it honors those heroes, but corruption of a less invasive type is still an issue. My sense is that with a big push on the clean up Palermo could be a mighty fine place to live given its location, climate, and rich heritage, and while that alone would not solve the other matters, it would cure a lingering source of discontent.
We are near Giardino Inglese. To get there we walk on a few less than well maintained streets, along which you pass some fabulous bakeries and pastry shops, and at least two good restaurants we’ve been to, one being Ristorante di Diego which we enjoyed last Saturday night. Once you get to the parks, you are in a different world – tranquil, clean, beautiful. You might think you crossed a vast ocean between one place and another given the sharp contrasts.
Palermo was heavily bombed in WW2. You can still see some of the effects around the port. However tere are many palaces in good to excellent condition that are hundreds of years old, and you can pay to see some. Baroque architecture is common, especially among the churches. The Arabo-Norman style is unique to Palermo. See my post on the Palazzon Normani
The main street, Via Liberta, is pedestrian only on weekends, from near us down to the center. This makes for tranquil strolling and leisure gazing at the buildings, shops and fast food places along the way. You smell the barbecue wafting from the Ballaro street market. Here, all roads and, as a result all paragraphs, lead to a place to eat.
Palermo is not a top tier city when it comes to art museums. Given its size, around 800,000 people, that is neither surprising nor unusual. There is a very good archaeology museum, the Regional Archeological Museum Antonio Salinas, and there is at least one dig you can visit, Necropoli Punica , taking you back a few thousand years. There are two modern art museums. Neither have the resources for major foreign expositions. You see some of the more well-known Sicilian artists from the 19th c and some of the contemporary artists as well.
From the Museo D’Arte Contemporanea Della Sicilia at the Palazzo Riso:
Check out my posts on several of the more famous churches.
Photos by Peg