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Tips on travelling to Palermo from Nicola Barcellona

Nicola Barcellona is a Sicilian through and through. Although he has traveled the world over in his capacity as marketer, manager, and consultant, his home is his beloved city of Palermo.

Having a degree in Marketing, Economics, and Management of Tourism, Nicola works to promote the marvels of his hometown to the entire world. For more information on Palermo, you're invited to visit

How well do you know your country?

I was born in Palermo, near the ancient Vucciria Market. I grew up there, running about through the food stalls and in the streets and by the time I was a teenager, I knew the most remote corners of Palermo, not only its history and its secrets, but also the best and the worst of this beautiful old city.

When is the best time to visit Sicily?

Sicily, and in particular the capital, Palermo, is a great destination for a visit at any time of the year. The weather is nearly always pleasant but the best period of all is from April to October. During this period you can really enjoy the sea. Visiting Palermo at any time of the year is an experience that will leave its mark on every visitor for many years to come.

Should I pack anything special for travel to Palermo?

Not really. But if you’re the sort who likes to enjoy the local nightlife, you might want to bring your most stylish clothes. Here in Sicily, we're suckers for getting dressed up and have the unfortunate habit of judging people by what they wear rather than who they really are.

During the day, you'll probably want comfortable casual clothing, but at night, whether you're a man or a woman, you want to dress with style. If you fail to do so, you risk being denied entry into some clubs, not to mention having people give you a jaundiced eye.

What is the best way to get around Palermo?

Sadly, getting around Palermo isn't as easy as it is in most other large European cities. Travelling by bus is tedious and confusing because public transportation schedules are unreliable. The transit system features several lines out of Old Town and the city center, plus the metro. All are rather useless.

Taxis are expensive. If you do take a taxi, it's imperative that you settle on the price before entering the vehicle. However, I would recommend that you rent your own vehicle to get around the city.

What are the top three attractions in Palermo?

In my opinion, the top three attractions in the area are The Palatine Chapel, the historic and ancient street markets, and finally, the crystal clear waters at Mondello Beach.

It there anything or any place that visitors should avoid?

Well, I'm going to repeat that Palermo's transportation system is not a good way to get around and in general, it can be a frustrating experience, especially for a visitor who doesn't understand the way it works. (I should say the way it does not work.) If possible, stay at a hotel in the city center where you have little need for public transportation.

Is there anything I should know about local traditions or customs?

What I have to say about that is people at the wheel go crazy so watch out when you cross streets.

How safe is it in Sicily? Do you have any safety advice for visitors?

Everybody has heard about the Mafia, but despite its reputation, Palermo is no more dangerous than any other major city. While the Mafia is still strong despite ongoing investigations and arrests of many important Mafia figures, tourists aren't at risk. ISTAT (Italian National Institute of Statistics), has done considerable research and determines that Palermo, one of Italy's largest cities, is the city with the lowest overall crime rate. You may be surprised to learn that the city with the highest crime rate is Milan followed by Bologna and Turin.

Of course, as in any city, if you go out at night, you have to keep your eyes open and avoid dark, empty places. In the old markets where a lively nightlife thrives, you should keep your wallets out of sight and keep a tight grip on cameras. Women alone at night should definitely avoid the Kalsa, Zisa, and Via Vittorio Emanuele areas. And of course, as I said, it is best to stay at a hotel in the city centre which is the safest thanks to a heavy police presence.

Can you recommend some of the best restaurants in Palermo?

Palermo is full of really fine restaurants. Three that come to mind, out of the many, are Perciasacchi (for pizza), Dainotti (for street food), and Trizzano (for fish).

What souvenirs would you suggest?

Well, first of all, you can't leave Palermo without buying your Coppola (a typical Sicilian hat), and then there's a Pupo (an artisan puppet, very charming), and finally, a bottle of Sicilian wine.

Is a visit to Sicily expensive?

When you compare Palermo with other major Italian tourist destinations such as Milan, you'll find that Palermo is not expensive at all.

Can you tell me anything else I should know before I visit Palermo?

Palermo's beauty is sometimes marred by the lack of really proper maintenance of the lovely and often ancient monuments. Some areas of the city are dirty and ill-kept. This can be found in other major cities as well. In any case, my advice is not to pay attention to any negative aspects and focus your attention to the many attractions of our city. In that way, you'll enjoy its true benefits and arrive back home with wonderful memories of our lovely country.