This article first appeared in Fathom in March 2014.
Porta Marina. All photos by Erica Firpo.
Fathom contributing editor Erica Firpo has already told us why she keeps returning to Palermo. Here she breaks down her perfect day.
Eat sfincione ("sphin-shone-ay") for breakfast at any caffe on the side streets off Viale della Libertà. Sfincione is a savory, deep-dish focaccia garnished with a red sauce and anchovies.
Walk around the shops of Viale della Libertà, a long boulevard with Palermo's high end shopping, then meander the side streets shaded by cotton trees and lined with Art Deco houses. Stop in to Giardino Inglese, a lovely mid-19th-century English garden.
Axel Void's Life series.
From the garden, walk to Teatro Massimo, a gorgeous 19th-century opera theater, then on to the historic center. The Vucciria market area, one of the oldest outdoor markets in the city, is also an open-air museum of street art. Look for Axel Void's Life series.
Head down to Piazza Marina for a panino di milza, a spleen sandwich. If that's too much to handle, have panelle, deep fried chick pea fritters, at 'Nni Franco U'Vastiddaru (Via Vittorio Emanuele, 100).
Depending on the time of year, stay in the Kalsa, a neighborhood in Palermo's historic center whose rough-around-the-edges old decadence has become a hub for progressive arts projects. This is the place to catch an avant garde concert in a deconsecrated church or see an installation in a shelled-out 17th century rococo palazzo. Dinner is street food: fish, sandwiches.
The view over Palermo.
If it is extraordinarily hot, make your way to Mondello, the neighboring beach community to the west, for a swim and a plate of fresh sea urchin at Trattoria da Calogero. Mondello is beach time, all the time, though expect chaos at the capanne (beach huts) from June through September. In the winter, take a walk along the water, when beaches are quiet and sun is strong.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotels in Palermo are tough, but these are my favorites.
Villa Igea is probably the best. It's on the water and it has a pool. Excelsior Hilton has a great location and is perfect in the winter. But in warm months, you need a place with pool. Palazzo Ajutamicristo harkens back to decadent of days of yore. Palazzo Sitano is located in the Kalsa, and has a very Y2K male vibe.