Sicily the ideal destination for intrepid travelers seeking to experience the kind of place thought to no longer exist.
Fly into Palermo’s Falcone Borsellino makes the most sense for a weekend as you could easily devote all 3 days to the island’s capital city.
Once you have landed, forego the taxis in the Arrivals area and get on the Trinacria Express train to the city center. It departs every 30 mins and will only set you back € 5,80 as you make your way to Palermo.
1st head to Vucciria (chaos), the go-to food market, it is so popular a destination that you are likely to encounter more tourists than natives.
If it is too busy head to Ballarò, which is easier to navigate and just as rewarding. It’s right near the train station, packed with fresh fish and a bustling microcosm of this vibrant city.
No stay in Palermo is complete without pani câ meusa, a street food made of soft, sesame-flavored bread stuffed with veal and ricotta, so find a vendor en route to checking in to your hotel and resist the urge to go back for seconds. Settle in, rest for a bit, and ready yourself for something you never thought you would do.
Sicily is rich in history
The Capuchin Catacombs, home to the largest collection of mummies in the world. It is creepy, and well worth the €3,00 it costs to gain a sense of the unique way that life, death and faith intermingle here.
That may not sound like the best appetite-builder, but Palermo is so inherently appetizing that you’ll be hungry as soon as you are back among the living.
Head to Ristorante Pizzeria 131 for dinner, and rest assured that its name belies a casual elegance befitting Sicily as a whole. There’s more to the menu than pizza, but treat yourself to the sfincione bagherese to see how it is done in this part of the world.
Now that you have gotten a feel for Palermo, it’s time to go beyond the city limits and see what makes Sicily the singular experience it is: old-world charm, arrestingly beautiful views and, of course, seafood. And while it may seem outdated in the ride-share era, renting a car from Europcar is the most efficient way of getting around.
Mondello is just a 10-min drive along the coast, but its white-sand beaches would be worth visiting even if they were on the other side of the island.
Have lunch at L’angolo di Mondello, which has made a name for itself with sardine meatballs and mussel soup. There’s nothing quite like lounging after a meal in Sicily, glass of wine in hand, but don’t linger too long as Corleone is calling.
Nestled among the mountains an hour south is the ancestral home of one of Sicily’s most infamous mafia families. This town of just under 12,000 also lays claim to the compelling Mafia and Anti-Mafia Museum, which you do not need to be a Godfather or Goodfellas fan to enjoy.
There is no better way to truly understand the Mob, especially as all guides are locals who impart their personal experiences and insights to visitors.
Once you are finished learning what even the best Martin Scorsese movie could never teach you, eat under the stars at Gennaro and enjoy the scenic drive back to your hotel.
The last day of a trip always presents a dilemma: Do you tire yourself out marking items off a checklist, or ease into the thought of coming home? The latter is your best bet in Sicily, especially with the demands of leaving your hotel and catching a flight.
Do not besad, though: There’s still plenty to eat. There’s one more kind of street food you can’t leave without trying: the arancina bomba, a fried rice-ball bomb that’s heavy enough to be a meal unto itself.
You will not be hungry for a while after that, but anyone with a sweet tooth will kick themselves for not indulging in cassata, a sponge cake infused with fruit juice and/or liqueur that’s then layered with candied fruit and ricotta. No one likes the inevitable trip to the airport at the end of a vacation, but at least you’ll be ending yours on a sweet note.
Where to Stay
There’s centrally located, and then there’s the Massimo Plaza Hotel. A stone’s throw from the Teatro Massimo opera house, it’s also a mere 10-min walk to the world-famous Palermo Cathedral, which like Sicily itself more than lives up to the reputation that precedes it.
Enjoy your travels