Seven tips for Palermo and Cefalu in Sicily

1. Historic must-haves

On the popular island of Sicily, your holiday does not have to revolve around the beach or the pool alone. Both the capital Palermo and Cefalu, around an hour’s drive away, are great places to combine a city and beach holiday. Travel between cities can be folded by rental car or train.

There are interesting sights in both cities that will delight tourists interested in history and culture.

ShutterstockPalermo, Italy
The Palazzo dei Normanni is an impressive building worth seeing on holiday.

The crown jewel of Palermo is the royal palace Palazzo dei Normanni, which dates back to the 8th century and is now the seat of the Sicilian Parliament. Next to the palace is the chapel Capella Palatina. Palermo Cathedral is another magnificent building worth visiting on site.

A slightly darker history is offered in the catacombs of Cappuccini, an attraction approaching the macabre with its mummified bodies.

A must-visit in Cefalu is the city’s handsome Duomo, which features Normandy influences. The mosaic details are especially delightful in the cathedral. Construction work on the Duomo began in 1131.

2. Admire Cefalu from a bird’s eye view

Located on the north coast of Sicily, Cefalu is a lesser-known gem, offering a good alternative to Taormina, for example, crowded with tourists. The undeniably charming town has a historic center, a nice harbor area and a pretty coastline.

Filmmakers are delighted to learn that parts of the 1988 Italian classic were filmed in Cefalu Paradise cinemawhich has been awarded an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

ShutterstockCefalu, Italy
The picturesque city of Cefalu also opens up from the top.

The most beautiful views over the city open from the top of La Rocca, which is quite easy to hike to – although during the hottest summer months, a few steep climbs may feel heavy. Prepare with sturdy shoes and a bottle of water.

3. Soak up the city shores

The coastal towns of Palermo and Cefalu are the perfect setting for a beach holiday.

The hustle and bustle of the city of Palermo, for example, can be escaped to the beach of Mondello, one of the most beautiful in the area. About an hour from Palermo you will find the beach of San Vito Lo Capo, with its white sands and clear waters worth a visit.

ShutterstockCefalu, Italy
The beach at San Vito lo Capo is a prime example of the area’s long sandy beaches.

Charming Cefalu has one of the best beaches in all of Sicily. With the summer holiday season, the beaches are easily congested, but holidaymakers traveling in the spring and fall can experience the best of the city.

4. Museum tour in Sicily

For lovers of culture, there is a surprisingly good selection of museums in Sicily. Museums worth visiting in Palermo include the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, the local archeological museum and the Puppet Museum. In Cefalu you can visit the art museum in Mandralisca.

During your holiday, you should also check out the local theater, opera, ballet and concert offerings.

5. Meals are one feast

As in any place in Italy, the role of food and local specialties should not be underestimated in Sicily. Lunch and dinner are the highlights of the day, tasting the island’s offerings. Sicily uses a lot of local food such as eggplants, tomatoes, olives and pistachios.

A typical local delicacy is arancini i.e. a deep-fried rice ball, which can be filled with, for example, meat, cheese or vegetable filling. These pallerias can be easily enjoyed even as a snack from the street streets throughout Sicily.

ShutterstockPalermo, Italy
Local restaurants offer explorations of the region’s food traditions.

Fresh fish and seafood are popular in Sicily, and seafood is often served with pasta. Sardine pasta is a staple in Sicily that can be found on the menu of almost every restaurant.

For dessert, you should order a portion, for example cannolia, which is a classic Sicilian sweet treat. The dough tube is filled with sweetened ricotta cheese, and fruit or chocolate crumbs are often used as decorations.

6. Shopping is an issue in Italy

On an Italian holiday, shopping is an issue. The best shopping opportunities can be found in the capital Palermo, where in addition to chain stores and branded stores, there is also a great selection of local markets. The most authentic Sicilian shopping experiences can be found on the market.

Examples of markets that are interesting for tourists in Palermo include Vucciria, Il Capo and Ballarò. For example, you can buy food, clothes, souvenirs and handicrafts from the market.

The market will remain closed on Sundays and opening hours will be shorter on Wednesdays. Bargaining and Southern Italian chaos in the market are part of the spirit of the game.

7. Experience the mystical Etna

A trip to Sicily would be left without help without an excursion to Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe. Rising to about 3,350 meters, Etna is also the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps.

ShutterstockEtna, Italy
The majestic Etna creates its own tone in the Sicilian landscape.

Day trips to Etna are organized from all over Sicily – from Palermo to the mountain is about 250 kilometers and from Cefalu the journey folds a little faster. When heading to Etna, you should also dress warmly during the summer months if you plan to take part in mountain hikes.

Text: Maria Hietala
Photos: Shutterstock

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