Decadent, decrepit and elegant, Palermo is the most conquered city in history, chock full of UNESCO heritage sites and a WOW. It is crowded, crumbling and loaded with beautiful people. This capital of modern Sicily also served as the capital of the Sicilian Emirate and rivaled Cairo for importance in the Arabian civilization. Arab, French, Spanish & Greek influences are felt in the numerous churches & palaces and the famed cuisine. Graffiti here has history. Lots of typical modern tags but also drawings from the Paleolithic age & wall scrawl left by prisoners of the Holy Inquisition. Often boiling hot during the day, the city comes alive at night when people take the party to the streets.
STAY: Villa Igiea (https://www.roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/villa-igiea/destination/) is a stunning luxurious turn of the century palazzo recently renovated and restored by the Rocco Forte group with fab Art Nouveau interiors. Built as a private home, it became a hotel beloved by the rich and famous of the Belle Epoque. After some ups and downs (it was a hospital during WWI) it is now back to its original glory with all the necessary modern twists.
Other place to stay: L’Olivella (https://www.olivellabb.it/en/) small, charming b&b run by the many great granddaughter of the silver smiths who originally built the palazzo
SEE: The opera at the Teatro Massimo (https://www.teatromassimo.it/eng/) is the largest opera house in Italy; renowned for perfect acoustics. The final scene of The Godfather Part III was shot here during a massive 20 plus year renovation. The Royal Box and flower wheel painting are particularly notable.
Other things to see: The 17th century Catacombe dei Cappucinni (http://www.palermocatacombs.com) were created when the cemeteries were too full…monks began mummifying people in tunnels and being laid to rest here became a privilege of the rich and powerful. Over 8000 bodies now call it homme, the last was added in the 1920’s.
A Street Market (Ballaro, Capo, Vucciria Lattarini) unless your Italian you will not get any bargains, but they are worth the show, vendors sing, yell and tout… fruit, veggies, fish, meat, cooked food and cheap goods are all for sale!
EAT: SushiLab (no real website) for fashionable people and unconventional Japanese inspired dishes made from the freshest ingredients in unusual combinations. Best to just explain what you like and let them take it from there.
Other places to eat: Gagini Social Restaurant (https://www.gaginirestaurant.com) is helmed by a Brazilian-Italian chef whose unique heritage in reflected in his creative rich cooking
Street Food, you’ll find it everywhere, Forbes voted it the best in the world, fried just about everything is great, cannoli are a must.