If variety is the spice of life, then holidays to Palermo score big on the Scoville scale.
Palermo pitches itself as one of the most culture-stuffed cities in Italy, and it’s hard to argue. It matches the nation’s biggest names for history, and throws in architectural influences from every Tom, Dick and Harry that’s ever popped in. Settlers from Europe, Africa and the Middle East have all tried to stake their claim on this Sicilian city, and the result is a mish-mash of international themes. We’re talking a Norman palace, Moroccan-style shopping souks, a Byzantine chapel and a healthy dose of home-grown character.
Aside from sightseeing, it’s shopping and snacking that gobble up most of your time in Palermo. The Ballaro market borrows its atmosphere from the souks you’ll see in North Africa, so be ready to have your haggling game tested. And amongst the multi-coloured, multi-scented stalls you’ll find street food that will have you salivating. Thick wedges of Sicilian pizza – called sfincione – are sliced into handy squares, and there are enough arancini sellers around to fill a ball pit.
When you’ve ticked off culinary and culture, it’s time to call in at the seafront. Palermo’s planted right on Sicily’s north coast, so you’re spoilt for choice on the beach front. Most sun-seekers saunter towards Mondello Beach, and for good reason – this bowl-shaped scoop of shoreline has the whitest sands and clearest waters around. Plus, it’s got a nature reserve peeking over its shoulder, up on a craggy clifftop where you’ll get bonus widescreen views of the city.