You should give Palermo at least 3 days, and even then you will have grasped only some of its highlights. If you have only a day for the artistic monuments of Sicily's capital, here's how the top-five sights rank on a very short A-list:
- Palazzo dei Normanni/Cappella Palatina
- San Giovanni degli Eremiti
- Museo Archeologico Regionale
- Catacombe dei Cappuccini
- Galleria Regionale della Sicilia
The Church That Never Was
One of the most evocative moments you can experience in Palermo is to stand in the church ruins of Santa Maria dello Spasimo on a dying summer day, watching the remains of this late Gothic building catch fire with the rays of the setting sun. This sight evokes the spirit of Raphael, who came here to paint his famous portrait of the anguish of the Madonna before the cross. You'll have to go to the Prado in Madrid to see the actual masterpiece, but the inspiration for it is right here in La Kalsa.
Getting Air in Confined Quarters
In the 1800s, it wasn't proper for a woman, especially if she was widowed, to go for a breath of fresh air along the Foro Umberto, as people might "talk." The solution? Right below Palazzo Butera, a promenade in confined quarters, the Mura Delle Cattive (the Wall of the Captives), was the area designated for these "outcasts," where they could stroll in peace and not attract accusing looks.
See Palermo The Dolce Vita Way
All the walking around town can be very tiring, and some of the tiny side streets can seem off-putting. To get into those tiny little alleyways 1950s-style, entrust your tour to one of the men who drive specially outfitted, three-wheeler ape that get you around town with little hassle. To reach a serious, reputable driver, call tel. 328-1543377.
Experience what it must have been like when the Moors had these baths all over the city. At Hammam, Via Torrearsa 17/d (tel. 091-320783; www.hammam.pa.it), there is an oasis of vigorous scrubs, sensuous steam baths, and soothing massages. Sybaritic doesn't even begin to cover it.
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.