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Must-See Attractions in Palermo

Palermo is a magical place. Its secret? Simultaneously intellectual and wild. Palaces, churches, markets, and above all, thousands of wonderful beaches. Here is a brief guide to some of the standout curiosities of the city.

Puppet Theater

In the heart of the city center, the charming “Teatro dell’Opera dei Pupi” welcomes spectators of all ages, and they flock to it! Just as it began, this five-generation Sicilian puppetry tradition, produced by the entire Cuticchio family, tells stories of honor and chivalry handed down since the time of the troubadours. The enchantment, sounds, colors, and masterfully crafted puppets create a sensation that connects visitors to the deepest and most intrinsic culture of Sicily. Viewers also learn about a treasure chest of puppetry history, including a look at the backdrops, puppets, props, and family puppeteers.

Chiesa della Martorana Mosaics

Palermo’s Church of Martorana houses precious mosaics of the twelfth century commissioned by George of Antioch, the Kingdom of Sicily’s fleet commander during the reign of Norman Ruggero II. The dreamlike and golden world of the Norman mosaics will amaze you for the unexpected meeting of different eras in one magnificent building. Surrounded by gold, blue, marble, and multi-colored windows, you will fall in love with this church’s magical atmosphere.

Ballarò Market

Get ready to see all the colors of the world in Ballarò, the oldest and largest market in the city, which dates back to the era of Arab rule from the first through ninth centuries. This market is still the best destination for the sale of the earliest produce and everything that comes from the surrounding countryside as well as regions outside Europe that trade in popular items. There are several theories on the etymology of the word “Ballarò”: some believe it derives from “Bahlara,” the name of a village near Monreale where the goods came from, or from India’s region of Ag-Vallaraja, which sold spices for trade, or perhaps from “Segeballarath,” which means "fair” or “market.” Visit Monday through Saturday from 7.30 AM to 8.00 PM and on Sunday mornings.

Capo Gallo Nature Reserve

The Capo Gallo Reserve is a protected land and marine area on the northern tip of Palermo that offers rocky beaches overlooking a crystal-clear sea. If you are looking for sand, stop in Mondello, but if you want to scuba dive, snorkel, or make some nice excursions along the sea, our advice is to take a day trip here. In addition to the beach of Capo Gallo, you could also visit the Grotta dell’Olio, which can only be reached by boat, and according to many is reminiscent of Capri’s famous Blue Cave.

Norman Palace & Palatina Chapel

Home to Sicily's regional parliament, this marvelous palace dates back to the ninth century. However, it owes its current look and name to a major Norman makeover, during which spectacular mosaics were added to its royal apartments and magnificent chapel, the Cappella Palatina. Designed by Roger II in 1130, this extraordinary chapel is Palermo’s top tourist attraction. Located on the middle level of Palazzo dei Normanni's three-tiered loggia, its glittering gold mosaics are complemented by inlaid marble floors and wooden ceiling, the latter a masterpiece of Arabic-style honeycomb carving reflecting Norman Sicily’s cultural complexity. Visits to the apartments, which are off-limits from Tuesday to Thursday, take in the mosaic-lined Sala dei Venti and King Roger’s twelfth-century bedroom, Sala di Ruggero II.

Barbara Benzoni

 Barbara Benzoni was born in Milan and lives between Rome and Tuscany. She is devoted to USA, the land of courage and innovation. She’s Peter's super-lucky mum and Ale's wife. Cinema, art, good food and only beautiful things are the themes of her existence. With a degree in Italian literature and a Masters in Sports Management she can both enjoys books and basketball matches. In 25 years she has been organizing sport events all over the world and she’s been lucky enough to meet the greatest champs ever. Curiosity in everyday life and people are her drivers. Her personal icon is Mohammed Ali : "It's not bragging if you can back it up".