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.

What to do in Palermo, Palermo, Palermo Italy, cathedral palermo

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.

What to do in Palermo, Palermo, Palermo Italy, Fontana Pretoria, Renaissance art

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.

VBT Tour Consultants’ Spring Adventures

One of the great things about VBT Bicycling and Walking vacations is that each tour can be a little different for everyone. We recognize the fact that travel experiences can be subjective and so we invite VBT associates to travel with us, and to provide us with their impressions of their VBT vacations. Recently VBT Tour Consultants, Ashley, Amy and Stacey were treated to three different VBT vacations. How about that for a fringe benefit?

In early April, excited, and even a little anxious Ashley set out for Portugal. Of course, Ashley was thrilled to be traveling with VBT, but Portugal is a long way off from Vermont and this was Ashley’s first trip abroad. Upon arrival, however, Ashley’s nerves were set as ease. She was a member of a very welcoming and well-traveled group of VBT guests. This small group of travelers were eager to share their experiences with Ashley, and made her feel comfortable and at home as she explored a new land. “It was nerve-wracking at first, but I lived vicariously through their traveling. I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” says Ashley.

Making her exploration even more enjoyable was the fact that Portuguese locals were just as welcoming and inviting as Ashley’s travel companions. She recalls her visit to Paço de Calheiros, which occurred over the Easter Holiday. Count Calheiros invited all of his guests on a thorough tour of his property, noting its history while walking guests through his self-planted gardens and around his vineyards. After the tour, guests joined the Count for a dinner of soup, bacalhau (a traditional Portuguese dish) and chocolate mousse strawberries and port for dessert. Always a gracious host, the Count included his guests in all of the celebrations as Easter commemoration pressed-on throughout the weekend.

Ashley has returned from Walking Portugal’s Douro River Valley rewarded and ready to explore more of the world. Though she’s not certain where she’ll go next, Italy, Morocco and Egypt are all in contention. And each destination is even further from Vermont than Portugal!

Just about a month after Ashley’s walking vacation in Portugal, her Tour Consultant colleague, Stacey, enjoyed biking Charleston to Savannah: A Southern Reel​. Differing from Ashley’s experiences, Stacey joined a group that was almost entirely populated by former VBT travelers as she explored the U.S. However, the highlights of her Southern Coast bike tour were quite similar to Ashley’s standout experiences in Portugal.

When looking back on her time, Stacey quickly notes how great her leaders and fellow travelers were. “I had lots of fun with the group and we connected really quickly… You can really see how people make friends through VBT,” she noted after explaining that many of the members of her group were long-time friends.

In addition to the tranquil setting of Charleston, the beautiful ocean view she experienced as she rode to Isle of Palms and the area’s Spanish Moss, Stacey really enjoyed connecting with locals, leaders and her travel mates as she explored. The visit to Irvin House Vineyard and Firefly Distillery stands out as a particularly memorable experience.

Located in a rural, woodsy area, Stacey wasn’t quite sure what to make of the setting at first. But after a quick tour of the grounds and a spirits-tasting, everyone enjoyed a lively barbeque in the peaceful forest outside of Charleston. After lunch, the fun continued as the group set off for an old-fashioned Beaufort Social. Everyone got caught up in the spirit. In fact, one of Stacey’s travel mates who “didn’t even dance at his own wedding,” took a turn or two on the dance floor.

After her adventure down South, Stacey returned home to Vermont with a new appreciation for the local relationships VBT has developed in the regions that we visit. After all, it’s great Trip Leaders and other local affiliations that give our guests the opportunity for genuine, local interaction as they travel. And they make for a whole lot of fun!

Capping off our Tour Consultants Spring adventures abroad, Amy headed to Europe in late May to bike The Czech Republic, Germany & Austria. ​A little unsure of what to expect in this particular region, Amy found herself consistently amazed by the beauty of the cities, villages and countryside paths that she rode through. Though she usually joined members of her group for meals and cultural activities, Amy would often cycle by herself, just so that she could stop off the trail frequently to snap photo after photo. From the architecture in Prague to the terraced vineyards of Austria’s Wachau Valley wine region, our bike tour through Central Europe has no shortage in photo opportunities – and Amy has the pictures to prove it!

Amy particularly enjoyed Day 5 of her vacation where she dined in a Bavarian Tavern with the family-owners. The entire group enjoyed the opportunity to eat and chat with locals in their pub and Amy even took the opportunity to sample a regional specialty, fried carp. Despite the number of local dishes sampled throughout the tour, the overarching culinary highlight proved to Austria’s notable wheat beers. Apparently, the brews in Central Europe are widely celebrated for a reason.

In addition to a taste for Bavarian potables, Amy came home amazed at the sheer beauty of The Czech Republic, Germany & Austria. She was impressed with the baroque structures in the cities and river villages, and she was completely taken with the vistas that her biking vacation allowed her.

Get going on your own adventure; call Ashley, Stacey or Amy to plan your vacation with VBT.