Palermo: An explosion of the senses...

Lea McKnoulty takes a four day trip to Palermo - a colourful, energetic and chaotic place to the extreme...

Visit Palermo to Awaken your Senses: Nestled amongst the thrill of living my Italian dream it’s easy for complacency to creep in. Being in a place like Cortona for half the year, the rhythm of daily life is comforting. Walking the hills, strolling the streets, sipping the coffee and eating in the multitude of excellent cafes and restaurants can become all you need really.
But one of the reasons for living this dual life is to explore possibilities and push myself beyond the boundaries of my convenient and comfortable Australian life where everything is so very easy. The last thing I want is for this Italian life to become the same.
With that in mind, my partner and I are embracing the convenience of the local Perugia airport to deliver us to exotic locations. With destinations like Morocco, Albania, Malta and Romania on offer, it’s inviting and easy. Park the car, catch the plane and we are there!
Recently Palermo, Sicily called our names. A short plane ride later and we find ourselves a little underwhelmed as our connecting train from the airport delivers us into an area much like Termini in Rome (not my favourite area). A short walk later and our hotel at first glance too seems wanting. The inspiration I am seeking was alluding me.
First impressions are not always reliable and we are pleased to be proven wrong on both counts. Our hotel, Hotel Posta, though a little dated, is clean, spacious and run by the most wonderful people. Its location lands us just on the outskirts of the historic centre and affords us the luxury of walking everywhere.
The city itself is an explosion of the senses and Palermo is far enough from our norm to be an exotic destination. I’m a tourist again – feeling and being super adventurous and here I am excited by everything I see and eager to explore! I am called to try it all, to be self-indulgent, to let my jaw drop at the scale and adventure of the architecture. It’s a colourful, energetic and chaotic place to the extreme. The people seem overly demonstrative, even by Italian standards, and I often feel I am intruding on people’s altercations until I remember they are actually happening in the street for all to witness and probably are more about emotional exaggeration than any threat of violence.  I had held Palermo in my mind as being a little sleazy, even dangerous, no doubt because of the mafia connection, but I feel very safe here. It is a bit like being in a Carnevale atmosphere with all around me celebrating life.
Palermo food market
Four days anywhere of course does not tick all the boxes but here’s some advice and places to see in no particular order:
•       The hop on hop off bus is as always a good way to start for perspective
•       The Mafia Museum is eye-opening
•        The markets are a visual delight and definitely worth visiting - Vucciria, Ballarò and Capo 
•       Walk the crossroads area of Quattro Canti – it’s the hub of all the action and the streets in all direction are worth exploring
Buskers in Palermo
•        Make time to listen to the buskers
•       The street food scene is fun so try it all – in the markets and regular food outlets
•       I'm not much of a dolce eater but the cannoli…. no words
•       Don’t dress up for dinner - elegance is not a word that comes to mind here
•       Take a tour of Teatro Massimo
Teatro Massimo 
•       A walk along the seafront promenade is a treat - A’Cala restaurant is outstanding!
•       The shopping is good – especially for bright colours
•       Eat lots of seafood
•       Bring comfortable shoes – it’s a very walkable city
•       Palazzo Conte Federico is a grand family palace open to the public and worth the visit
•       Wine bar - Amara Arancia – amongst the chaos offers a little sophistication
•       Late May is good choice for visiting  – beautiful weather
Palermo street scene
This is a bold, life-affirming city to visit so put it on your list for when you need a little awakening from everyday life.
Lea Woods McKnoulty is a writer, poet and workshop facilitator and holds monthly Women’s Circles in Cortona. You can explore more of Lea’s work on her website at and on Instagram and Facebook at and connect with her by email at
Lea McKnoulty, 30/08/2023 09:23:20

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