Tourist offices and kiosks are located at strategic points near the main monuments and at the Palermo airport (tel. 091-591698). The principal office is the Azienda Autonoma Turismo, Piazza Castelnuovo 34 (tel. 091-6058351; www.aapit.it), open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 2pm and 3 to 6pm. In July and August this office is also open on Saturday 9am to 1pm. To make getting your way around less confusing, ask for a map "Carta Monumentale," preferably with an index. Should you need one when offices are closed, you can purchase one at most newsagents and bookshops. For planning ahead before coming to Palermo, visit www.seepalermo.com for updates, news, and a real feel for the place.
The capital of Sicily has an Old City that built up around the old harbor of La Cala, which expanded north toward Monte Pellegrino. The street plan of the Middle Ages is still in effect in the old parts of town, so it's easy to get lost.
Two main roads cut across medieval Palermo, the Old City, virtually quartering it. The first main road is Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which begins at La Cala, the ancient harbor, and cuts southwest to the landmark Palazzo dei Normanni and the Duomo (the Palermo cathedral). Corso Vittorio Emanuele runs east-west through this ancient maze of streets known to the Arabs of long ago. The other street splitting the town into two sections is Via Roma, which runs north and south.
The Old City is split into quadrants at the Quattro Canti, the virtual heart of Palermo. This is the point where Vittorio Emanuele crosses Via Maqueda, an artery beginning to the west of the rail depot, heading northwest. Running roughly parallel to Via Maqueda to its east is Via Roma, which heads north from Piazza Giulio Cesare. Via Roma and the much older Via Maqueda, virtually parallel streets, shoulder the burden of most of the inner city's heavy traffic.
La Kalsa, the medieval core of Palermo, lies to the southeast of the busy hub of Quattro Canti. The residential neighborhood of Albergheria is to the southwest of Quattro Canti. This is the center of the sprawling Ballarò market. Like La Kalsa, Albergheria was heavily bombed in World War II.
Via Cavour divides the medieval core to the south and the New City to the north. Despite its heavy traffic, the more modern section of Palermo is much easier to navigate. At the heart of this grid are the double squares of Piazza Castelnuovo and Piazza Ruggero Séttimo. Palermitans call this piazza maze Piazza Politeama (or just Politeama). At the double square, Via Ruggero Séttimo (a continuation of Via Maqueda) crosses Via Emerico Amari.
Heading northwest from Politeama is Palermo's swankiest street, Viale della Libertà, home to smart stores and tiny boutiques. It is also the street of many upmarket restaurants, bars, office blocks, and galleries. Via Libertà races its way to the southern tip of Parco della Favorita.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.