Palermo – the ultimate long weekend break

We’ve been to Palermo, in Sicily, once before – for one night only – on our way back from Favignana, an island in Sicily. We’d been looking to book a long weekend away in Italy for a while and it was whilst watching Ainsley Harriot’s Street food Palermo episode that we decided to return for a long weekend.

A mere two and a half hour flight from London and you’re in a place that has the best of both worlds – a city full of history plus magnificent beaches.

We flew out with Ryanair and landed around 9pm local time. After a short taxi ride, we arrived at our hotel – Villa Igiea, which is situated at a marina and about a 15 minute drive to the city centre. We chose to eat at the hotel’s restaurant, Donna Franca Floria, which was over-priced and pretty average. However, the setting was spectacular – we ate outside on the terrace facing the marina whilst listening to music played on the piano.

Unfortunately when we woke up the next morning it was really overcast. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we took the hotel’s free shuttle bus into the centre (instead of hitting the beach). We walked around for a few hours exploring the centre – we had a coffee across the road from the Teatro Massimo, saw the Cathedral, gazed at the Quattro Canti (four corners) and explored the famous Ballaro outdoor food market.

Fontana Pretoria

Fontana Pretoria

The weather then brightened up so we decided to head to Mondello beach for lunch, which was recommended to us by our hotel. We settled on Trattoria Sapori Di Mare Da Giovanni, which was great – quiet, good food, great service and really reasonable.

Mondello is a beautiful beach, surrounded by mountains called Monte Gallo and central to the beach is a magnificent art deco building called The Charleston, which dates back to the 19th century. We spent the afternoon swimming and suntanning, as you do when you’re in Italy by the sea!

The Charleston

In the evening we ventured into the centre for aperitivo and then dinner. We settled on the least tourist looking restaurant in the area across from Teatro Massimo. It was a bit hit and miss to be honest. The setting and service was great, starter was good, pasta was really good, fish course was awful and dessert was even worse! Suffice to say we did our research for the next evening.

Saturday was spent swimming, eating and sunbathing. We hired a scooter so that we had the freedom to travel, although unfortunately I burnt my knee rather badly on the exhaust while getting off – ouch! We discovered a great little spot full of locals on the way to Mondello, pictured below, so started the day with a first swim there.

Palermo beach

For lunch, we headed to Al Gabbiano which was suggested to us by a taxi driver. It was really quiet so we had a fabulous table with an amazing view of the sea. The food was really excellent and reasonable too. They saw my burnt knee and gave me some cream to put on it, which really helped ease the pain and was super nice of them.

Lunch at Al Gabbiano

In the evening we headed back to Mondello beach for an apperitivo. We chose a bar that had tables right on the sand. Despite being 8pm, there were loads of families with small children still swimming and enjoying the warm evening. After drinks, we headed away from the beach to Badalamenti Cucina e Bottega – we found it on Tripadvisor. Despite it being away from the beach and indoors, it’s a culinary delight and was hands down the best food we’d had so far. I really recommend it. The decor and lighting was good too, which you don’t always find in Italian restaurants.

Badalamenti Cucina e Bottega decor

Each region in Italy has it’s own pasta shape or shapes and in Sicily busiate is one of theirs. It’s a bit like a long fusilli and it’s delicious with a sword fish sauce.

Pasta from Badalamenti Cucina e Bottega

Fish main for Badalamenti Cucina e Bottega

After a wonderful weekend in beautiful Palermo, we flew back on Sunday morning to London on Easyjet as it had the most convenient flight times. If you’re looking for a weekend away that’s full of sunshine, great food, lovely beaches and lots of history and culture then book a trip to Palermo!

Want to explore more of Sicily? Visit beautiful Taormina!

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A weekend in Palermo

10 Comments

  1. July 20, 2015 / 11:00 am

    Really nice post. Learned a lot about Palermo. Keep up the good posts

  2. July 20, 2015 / 11:57 am

    Thank you for this super informative post – and actually timely as we are trying to decide where to go for a mini-break! Question: do you need a car to be able to get around? I don’t drive, and this is usually an issue when I’m travelling in Europe – and affects my choice of travelling companions 😉

    • July 20, 2015 / 12:02 pm

      Thanks Rochelle! If you stay centrally you will not need a car. I can recommend a great B&B, which we stayed in the first time we went. It’s right opposite Teatro Massimo and is called Palco Boutique Hotel. There are also plenty of buses that go to the beaches or you could take a taxi. A warning though, the taxis are pretty pricey!

  3. July 20, 2015 / 1:09 pm

    Ooh, can’t wait to hear what you thought of Favignana – I went a few years ago and thought it was one of the best places for a short r&r break I’ve been.

    • July 20, 2015 / 1:11 pm

      Hi Emma, we went for a week and it was amazing! Isn’t Cala Rosso one of the most amazing beaches (well, rocks!) ever? Will post about it shortly!

  4. July 23, 2015 / 8:27 am

    I’m really glad that you enjoyed Palermo, it is a beautiful city. We are pleased to know our beloved city is appreciated around the world for its history, the street food and culture in general. In recent years the city is experiencing a renaissance of culture and music, it is a city for the young!

  5. August 22, 2015 / 10:42 pm

    Your food shots are making my mouth water!! I love Sicillian cuisine and can’t wait to get back there although it might be next year before I make it over there sadly! At least I have some recommendations now, thanks for sharing!

    • August 23, 2015 / 10:43 am

      No problem and thanks for your comment!

  6. August 29, 2015 / 9:59 pm

    What a nice mini-vacation. I spent only one day there- wish it could have been more.

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