Quick bite: Join our full-day food tour of historic Palermo and eat your way through the city’s history and rich culture. With more than 10 full tastings in three different markets, explorations of local neighborhoods and visits to historic sites, this tour takes in iconic Palermo as well as lesser-known hidden gems.
It’s easy to fall for the markets of Palermo: sundrenched side streets filled with lemons so bright, ricotta so creamy, capers by the basketful, and, let’s not forget, street food like nowhere else. Vendors in the Ballarò market howl, competing for the attention of hungry shoppers from tables spread with freshly cooked octopus and smoking grills loaded with offal. Stand after stand offer a paper cone of crispy battered and fried seafood, but you can also sit down for a plate of homemade eggplant caponata, studded with pine nuts and raisins. If a thick cut of grilled swordfish doesn’t tempt you, then, carry on, there’s probably a man sitting on an overturned bucket shucking fresh sea urchins just around the corner.
Though the visceral pleasure of Palermo’s edible delights are always close at hand in the colorful street markets of the city, Palermo has so much more to offer beyond the markets. In the eateries of residential neighborhoods and cafes of modern business districts, in small hidden places where Palermatino gather, the dimensions of a real working and eating city, in all of its beautiful complexity, come into view.
On this 5-hour culinary tour of central Palermo, we will explore the city through its iconic dishes and lesser-known traditions, from humble street food to high-art pastries, contrasting the bustle of market life with calmer neighborhood dining culture. We will begin with coffee and pastries in an elegant cafe, absorbing the daily life of Palermo’s upper crust. We’ll then stop by the kitchen of one of Palermo’s best-known female entrepreneurs, greeting the chef and trying her famous anchovy panzerotti. From there we will munch our way through the lively Capo market, with a street snack of fried fish and stuffed sardine rolls, on the way to visit the workshop of one of Palermo’s last puppeteers to see how he brings Sicilian history to life through his craft. In the shadow of a Norman-era Church, where Byzantine and Arab influences come together, we’ll sample one of the city’s best arancina and panelle – fried rice balls and chickpea fritters – both with roots in Arab cooking. In the bakery of a Catholic convent, where nuns have taken an oath to guard their recipes, we will sample the sacred sweet cassata cake. Then, in the Ballarò market, we’ll go from stall to stall as local shoppers do, learning about Sicilian agriculture and sampling local pistachios and other nuts, candied fruits and fresh seasonal fruit juice. No visit to Ballarò would be complete without a bite of stigghiola, grilled lamb intestines, a humble but delicious snack. We’ll make our way to our final market, Vucciria, for a glass of minerally white wine from Mount Etna, to accompany a snack of octopus at a local taverna. Having made our way through three markets and contrasting districts, learned the history behind our bites and met the warm people upholding local culinary traditions, we will finish our time together in the Sicilian fashion, with an artisanal gelato, the sweet finish that unites this city.