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 as we normally would do). 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.
The Four Corners, or Quattro Canti, can be found at the crossing of the two main streets in Palermo – Via Maqueda and Corso Vittorio Emanuele. The facades, which contain statues and fountains, represent each season, four districts as well as four Spanish Kings.
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!
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.
For lunch, we headed to Al Gabbiano which was suggested to us by a taxi driver – we always love asking taxi drivers for their restaurant recommendations! 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.
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.
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.
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!