Explore Palermo with us in our overview of our trip.

Palermo, the vibrant capital of Sicily, is a city that’s filled with history, culture, and enough delicious food to have you gain a few pounds. I did just that… a few pounds to be exact. With all the walking we did, I came home a bit heavier but… was it worth it? Oh yes, it was!

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Founded in the 8th century BC, Palermo has witnessed a fascinating carousel of rulers, each leaving their mark on its architecture, cuisine, and soul. Get ready to dive into our whirlwind Sicilian adventure!

Gary and I have been to Sicily several times but have just flown into Palermo and moved along to our next destination. We both wanted to explore this city one day. When I noticed an email about some quick getaway flights… we jumped at the chance. It’s one of the great things about living in Europe. Country hopping is easy, inexpensive most of the time, and fun.

The Norman Palace and Palatine Chapel

The Norman Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built-in the 9th century, this architectural marvel is a testament to the reign of the Norman kings. Imagine yourself walking the halls where once kings and queens lived and ruled.

Since its inception, Norman Palace has served as the seat of power for the rulers of Sicily. These rulers’ influence extended across Europe and the Mediterranean. I was quite surprised at the expansive size of this palace. In addition, on the second floor is the Palatine Chapel. Both Gary and I couldn’t believe the beauty of what we were seeing. The chapel is completely adorned – from the walls to the ceiling of glittering mosaics that tell stories from the Bible. This chapel is a masterpiece of Arab-Norman art. In addition, the chapel is an amazing symbol of multicultural cooperation- where craftsmen of three different religious traditions worked alongside each other.

Explore Palermo with us in our overview of our trip. The Paletine Chapel was breathtaking.
Palatine Chapel

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“Lose yourself without getting lost” – GPSmyCity App

I just found the GPSmyCity App and am quite impressed. We’ve used several apps of this nature but none quite seem to fit the bill for us when traveling. It’s impressive that they have quite a few countries for this app, including Moldova, Poland, India, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan, Malta, Senegal, and Italy! Check out their Palermo Walking Tour. Their philosophy is “lose yourself without getting lost”, which is brilliant when exploring a new city. So, it’s a modern app that has top sights, bars, walks, and more, all on pre-designed maps of the places you travel to. On our blog, they are offering ten 1-year premium memberships of the GPSmyCity app (cost of $18.99 if purchased on App Store or Play Store). Each membership allows one person to use the app for free on up to two devices. The GPSmyCity app has preset self-guided walking tours in over 600 cities around the world.  The 1-year premium membership is handed out on a first-come, first-served basis to up to TEN memberships. We wish you good luck in winning one of the ten free premium memberships! Here’s how to enter:

– click here

– download the GPSmyCity app

– proceed to the Account screen to register GPSmyCity user account

– then go to the “More” screen

– click on “Feedback” to send an email

– in that email, show the claim code, from within the app – the claim code for Our Italian Journey is – OIJ240531

After they receive this email, they will enable your premium membership on your account for a year for you to enjoy.

A great travel app - self-guided walking tours of over 600 cities.

Cathedral di Palermo

Just a stone’s throw away lies the incredible Cathedral di Palermo, a beautiful mix of Norman, Arab, and Byzantine influences. Inside, you’ll find the tombs of Norman kings and queens.

Palermo’s Cathedral is characterized by different architectural styles. This is due to its long history of additions, alterations, and restorations. Construction began in 1184 at the request of Palermo’s archbishop. You enter the cathedral through Gambara’s three magnificent arches. In front of these incredible arches are gardens and a statue of Santa Rosalia, one of Palermo’s patron saints. 

Whispers from the Past: The Catacombes dei Cappuccini

Palermo offers a unique historical experience – the Catacombes dei Cappuccini. First of all, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to visit as many people made it a bit spooky. But I watched a video and felt that I wanted to go and see it for myself.

These catacombs are home to over 8,000 mummified bodies, naturally preserved between the 16th and 19th centuries. As we meandered among the display of bodies, we noticed the bodies were dressed in their Sunday best. Separate sections were for monks and small children. It was odd and fascinating all at the same time. Gary and I had to silently giggle when we arrived at the area set aside for virgins. These bodies all seemed to have nightcaps on their heads… and as Gary noticed, there weren’t many of them. The whole walkthrough took about 45 minutes and in the end, I’m glad we went. Most noteworthy, as we entered, I whispered to Gary that I would never bring a child to this experience. As we were leaving, a woman and child descended the stairs. He was probably about 7-10 years old and I just shook my head to myself. Yet personally, I would not recommend bringing a child.

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Four Corners, Endless Charm: The Quattro Canti

The Quattro Canti is where Palermo’s four main streets converge, creating an architectural explosion. Each corner boasts a different artistic style. This spot is more than just a crossroads; it’s the beating heart of Palermo, steeped in history and bursting with architectural beauty.

Each corner has a fountain at street level, then looking up from the fountains, you see statues representing the four seasons. Above them are Spanish kings staring down at you. Atop them are statues of patron saints of Palermo.

In this pedestrian-only area, stop and enjoy these amazing sculptures and feel the history.

Teatro Massimo

Unfortunately, the opera season hadn’t started and we were a bit disappointed. The season was just about to start a few days after our departure. This neoclassical giant is the third-largest opera house in Europe and boasts incredible acoustics.

We signed up to take a tour, which we highly recommend. This building was beautiful and full of history. It was fun to stand and take a photo in the Grand Box where the movie, Godfather 3, was filmed. The steps outside leading up to the main entrance are also where Michael Corleone’s daughter got shot towards the end of the movie. Another good photo opportunity we took advantage of.

Explore Palermo with us in our overview of our trip. The Teatro Massimo was incredible.

Our tour guide took us to another area inside the teatro, Pompeian Hall, also known as the Echo Room. It all has to do with its incredible acoustics. The sound increases as you near the center of the room. She told us each to try it and I giggled when I saw the few teenagers in our group head right for the center of the room. As the group was leaving, I stood directly on the circle on the floor and said, “Ciao.” I couldn’t believe it as it sounded amplified – as if I had a microphone, and the echo gave me goosebumps. Gary was standing right next to me and could hear the result too. It was truly incredible.

And Then There Are the Famous Markets

Sicilian street markets are known worldwide for their explosion of color. Furthermore, they are also known for an unbelievable selection of fresh products such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. Palermo has three local markets. Vucciria – which means “chaos” in the local dialect which Gary and I found disappointing. This market was the opposite of the other two. A few stands and restaurants filled a small piazza.

Eat and Walk – Street Food Tour with Fabrizio

Email: eatandwalkpalermo@gmail.com

Phone: +39 328 350 8503

Tour on Tripadvisor

Fabrizio, our tour guide, took us to the Capo Market which was awesome. We sampled several things as we walked the one long street. The arancini were out of this world. These fried rice balls come in a variety of fillings, from savory ragù to creamy bechamel and peas.

Another market, Ballarò is the largest one which Gary and I explored on our own. It was huge and sometimes we weren’t sure which direction to take but we meandered through the neighborhood. Gary wasn’t feeling 100% the day we visited Ballaro, otherwise, I would have probably gained another two pounds! We walked, exploring, and looking at everything that was for sale.

These markets are noisy with vendors shouting to attract locals and tourists and to promote their tasty specialties. Sicily is definitely the land with the highest number of street markets.

In Conclusion… Palermo- A City That Stays With You

These were the highlights of our trip, but we also visited several churches, in addition to the Cathedral. We did not get to go to Mondello Beach although I heard it is quite pretty. There is a bus that you can take or rent a car.

Especially relevant… we did enjoy some cannoli, the quintessential Sicilian pastry filled with ricotta cream. This dolce, along with cassata were the best! Cassata is a cake with ricotta with an almond marzipan bright green ring on the outside. Pure bliss!

Take a Trip to Italy!

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Books by Ilene and Gary Modica, Our Italian Journey, When Your Heart Finds Its Home and audiobook, ouritalianjourney.com

Palermo is a city that will linger in my memory for a long time. A place where history whispers from every corner, and where locals wear their heritage with pride. Years ago when in Cefalu, I made a comment to our hotel’s concierge that I couldn’t get through to the airport on the phone and then told him, as if the lightbulb just went on, “Ahhh, probably because it was a Sunday and we’re in Italy.” The man sternly replied to me… “NO, you’re in Sicily.” He set me straight.

I love visiting Sicily, the home of Gary’s grandparents, and where we are now from too. We thoroughly enjoyed our short little Palermo trip and will certainly return. I encourage you to let Palermo weave its magic on you too!

Explore Palermo with us in our overview of our trip.


  1. I started using GPSMyCity earlier this year, for a trip to Brussells and Cologne. Then I used it in Verona. I really thought that it does a very good job of making the content easy to listen to while wandering a city. The same information is available elsewhere – but this app makes it easy to access! I thought that it was worth the price – but even better if free!!!

    1. I’m so glad you commented about the app. The company actually approached us for the giveaway, which always is a nice thing. Very happy you liked it- good to know! Thanks for sharing the info!

  2. Ilene – thanks for the in-depth article on Palermo. We are planning a family trip to Sicily in 2026 and this gives me even more reasons to spend time on the island, and Palermo in particular. Palermo is the port where my grandmother began her journey to the United States and we are looking forward to visiting.

    When you mentioned the ease of getting around, what carrier did you use?

    I have not used this app before, but I will have to give it a look and see if it is going to match up with our travel plans this year, thanks for the offer!

  3. We’ve always skirted around Palermo and so happy we made a trip of it. We did an Ape Taxi one day (wasn’t inexpensive but tons of fun) and the rest when tired of walking, I used my Uber app and it connects to the local taxis in the city… easy! Good luck for the app- hope you win the year subscription. I am going to update this post shortly and include our food walking tour information. I realized I left it off in error. I am gathering names of tour guides in Italy and will be adding him to that too.

  4. Great info on Palermo Ilene! Looking forward to our visit in the fall. The markets sound like quite the experience! 😆. Thanks for the tip on the walking app…what a great idea and way more convenient than our usual ways…downloaded and entered! 🤞

  5. Looks like a lovely trip. We spent 2 weeks in Sicily in 2023 but, since it was our first trip there and we wanted a relaxing stay, we decided to make our bases first in Trapani, then Ortigia–with a bit of time in Cefalu and Taormina. We figured that, once we’re living in Lucca, it would be fairly easy to visit Palermo separately, much like your trip. Always so much more to see! Hoping to meet you when we arrive in Lucca at the end of August.

    1. Thanks Lisa for the comment. You are absolutly correct that once living in Europe – travel is so much easier for little trips. We’ve only just started. Looking forward to your arrival in Lucca and meeting you both!

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