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5 Reasons to Visit Palermo

What to do in Palermo, Palermo, Palermo Italy

When you travel to Sicily, begin to explore the ancient island with a visit in one of its oldest cities, Palermo. Boasting some of Sicily’s most notable historical, architectural and gastronomical highlights, the bustling center is the perfect introduction to your Sicilian adventure.


1.  The History

Founded by the Phoenicians, named by the Greeks, coveted by the Romans, developed by the Byzantines and then conquered by the Normans, Palermo has been home to a myriad of ancient civilizations. Fortunately, despite the fact that Palermo was established well over 2,000 years ago, traces of its assorted historical legacy can be found throughout the Sicilian Hub.

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2.  The Architecture

Perhaps the best example of Palermo’s varied heritage is the city’s architecture. The Cathedral of Palermo, located in the city center, exhibits Arab, Byzantine and Anglo-Norman approaches to building. Each civilization adapted existing portions of the church and then molded it into their own representative style of building. In La Loggia quarter of Palermo, the Church of San Domenico is a brilliant baroque structure. Its ornate façade, accented by tall palms, gives way to an impressive interior, featuring large archways and stone pillars. Quatro Canti is the true heart of Palermo and features four nearly identical buildings at each of its four corners. Though essentially an intersection, this famous site is right near the top of the list of things to visit in the Sicilian capital.

3.  The Art

The city’s countless architectural highlights certainly blur the line between functionality and art. Be sure to take the time to wander in and out of the medieval passageways and hidden alleyways of Palermo and as you stroll about the city, enjoy its artistic treasures. No trip to Palermo is complete without a stop at Fontana Pretoria. Located in Piazza della Pretoria, the fountains were originally constructed by Francesco Camilliani in the mid-16th century and were to be on display in Florence. However, the structures were eventually disassembled and brought to Palermo about thirty years after their construction. Now, Fontana Pretoria remains as one of Palermo’s limited examples of Renaissance art.

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4.  The Food

There’s no way around it. If you spend your day ambling through the city, the time will come when your body will demand sustenance. Fortunately Palermo has the perfect remedy – plenty of delicious Sicilian cuisine! Making ample use of the surrounding sea, much of Sicilian culinary tradition combines aspects of mainland Italian cuisine with lots of fresh seafood. Stop into a city trattoria to sample a fish stew, tagliatelle with lobster or stick to a more familiar dish and enjoy Pasta alla Norma: a pasta dish with fried eggplant. Afterward, you should have no trouble finding a small café or bakery to top off your meal with an espresso and one of Sicily’s notable confections.

5.  The Weather

Finally, one of the greatest parts of visiting Palermo is its relatively static, warm temperatures. With little fluctuation, Sicily’s northern regions are mild in the winter and warm up just a bit in the summer. So you’re free to explore in comfort throughout the day, and to continue exploring as the day winds down. Palermo is noted for its warm evenings, allowing extra time for a nice long passeggiata, or evening stroll before turning in.

Join VBT on our Sicily: Biking the Southern Coastal Villages​ and begin your vacation with a Pre-Trip Extension in Palermo to take in the wonders of this ancient Mediterranean city.

3 Ways to Travel Italy

Italy is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Throughout history, varying Italian provinces have developed and responded to their own, unique location, resulting in vast regional subtleties from one location to the next. As travelers, we’re driven to explore the scenery, indulge in the food and immerse ourselves in the warm, exciting cultures of Italy. Below we’ve outlined three of our favorite regions to discover, again and again.

Tuscany

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This is the Italy that you’ve read about, that you’ve seen in magazines, that you’ve longed to visit since you began traveling. With vineyards perched atop billowing hills, cypress lined country lanes, fortified Etruscan ruins and just about all the mouthwatering cuisine you can eat, Tuscany rewards its visitors well. Tuscany is also our most popular destination, and with three distinct vacations in the region, we’ve got a Tuscan Vacation that’s perfect for you. Explore the islands of Toscana on our Tuscany by the Sea biking​ vacation. Make your way from Florence to Rome on our Tuscan Coast tour. Or, gear up for a challenge on our Tuscan Hill Towns by Bike vacation.

“Riding along the Tuscan coast has long been a “Bucket List” item for me. It wouldn’t have been possible without VBT, which set up one of the most well-run tours I’ve ever done. I appreciate the attention to quality, the various outside activities offered and I can’t say enough about our tour guides. I left Italy smiling from the experience and sad that I was saying good-bye to new friends. I will return to VBT without a doubt!”

-Jose M., Tuscany by the Sea

Northern Italy

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Drawing on the influences of its Austrian and Swiss neighbors, Northern Italy features a variety of breathtaking landscapes as well as a unique blend of heritages. High above sea level, Italy’s Dolomite Mountain region offers up a Nordic twist on typical Italian culture, featuring a heartier culinary tradition, crisp green meadows and unforgettable mountain vistas. On our Italy: Cycling the Dolomite Valleys​ vacation, we ride along easy pathways exploring this northerly gem.

Virtually spanning the length of Italy’s crest, the Po River Valley may rest at a lower altitude, but its ethereal beauty rivals that of any European refuge and the Lakes region of Northern Italy has been a popular holiday destination since the Roman era. VBT’s Italy: Po River Valley and Lake Garda biking tour makes its way across the North from Portovenere and Cinque Terre to Verona, taking in the stunning Lake Garda along the way.

“I was able to practice my Italian with the locals, ride through numerous towns and watch their daily routines unfold. It was so much more experiential to travel this way. I felt more connected to the memories I made.”

-Jennifer S., Italy: Cycling the Dolomite Valleys​

Italy’s Splendid South

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Slow down and explore the under-traveled South of Italy. Take some time to taste authentic Neapolitan pizza, sample exotic seafood and unwind over a robust glass of Primitivo. The region’s charm is thoroughly evident in its delectable cuisine and its rich vintner’s tradition. With an incredible view of the Mediterranean at almost every corner, our Amalfi Coast & Capri vacation rewards travelers with some of the best walking trails in Europe. Extending to the southernmost tip of the country, Puglia is perhaps Italy’s remaining unturned stone. And its landscape, dotted with fortified villages and medieval abodes, is sure to captivate your imagination and spirit.

If you care to venture a bit further south, the island of Sicily offers an entirely different Italian experience. Just off Italy’s southwest coast, the Mediterranean island boasts vestiges left behind from ancient Greek, Roman and Arab civilizations. On VBT’s all-new Sicily: Biking the Southern Coastal Villages we’ll our way along the coast, exploring the distinct culture that Sicily treats its visitors to.

“While I have lived in Italy and traveled quite extensively, Puglia was unknown to me. It is a gem, and all the more wonderful to discover it at a slow pace.”

-Mary D., Puglia: Italy’s Undiscovered Coast ​

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With its varied terrain and exuberant people, Italy is a nation filled with contrast and brimming with discovery. With all that in mind, however, it seems as though one feature of Italian culture shines through every part of the country – the warmth of its people. Join VBT in Italy this year for fascinating cultural encounters in one of the most exciting countries in Europe.

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