All Palermo travel guides say that the Vucciria is the most important city's old market, sidetracking many curious visitors who will leave fascinated but a little 'disappointed'. Once, we would say “i balati ra Vucciria 'un s'asciucanu mai", The Vucciria pavements never dry up, such was the water that was used to keep the fish and other products fresh.
In fact the once very lively and busy market, is now only home to a couple of greengrocers, fishmongers selling fresh fish, some pubs with outdoor tables for lunch on the road (we remind everyone "Aunt Pina" and "Enzo") and Taverna Azzurra, frequented by local drinkers but also a reference point for many young people who flock here after dark, coming from other parts of the city, to drink for a few Euros the famous "Sicilian blood" or the classic "zibibbo".
During the weekend you can dine outdoors in Piazza Caracciolo on plastic tables with an assortment of local delicacies including panelle (made of chickpeas flower and fried), croquettes, bread with spleen (at Rocky) or stigghiole (at Tanino), boiled octopus, fish barbecued swordfish rolls.
If you are lucky you can watch a local guy nicknamed "Sandokan" singing around with a fake microphone, performing surrounded by locals. Along the road which brings from the Piazza Caracciolo to Garraffello Square you can admire the statue of the Genius of Palermo and Santa Eulalia church that houses the Cervantes Institute of Spanish Culture. The Vuccira market inspired the famous painting "La Vucciria of Palermo" Guttuso now kept in the Palazzo Steri.
Garraffello square and the facades of buildings bombed during the last great war, still abandoned and uninhabited, have become sources of inspiration for outdoor contemporary art installations (you can spot there the Austrian artist Uwe's drawings). On weekends Garraffello square is transformed into an open-air (and totally illegal) disco with young DJ, quite an experience...
The market Ballarò of Palermo is the oldest and largest among the markets of the city of Palermo, with fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, meat, fish and even more...
A stroll among the stalls of these market can be a time travel in the City's past. The road is literally overrun with wooden boxes containing goods, vendors constantly screaming and some of them almost singing to advertise the good quality and good price of their products.
Together with St. Chiara neighborhood, Ballarò is a good example of cultural integration and the area is home to a large number of new palermitanos originally from Africa. The night, and not just on the weekend, Ballarò square is filled with young people on wooden tables chatting and sipping Forst beer. Since 1948, Forst beer is one of the symbols of Palermo, although it is produced in the vicinity of Bolzano and on the tree on its label is not really Mediterranean.
For an authentically local experience we recommend a lunch at the Bersagliere: excellent dishes from the traditional cuisine of Palermo at very popular prices. Everything really good:
col tritato in bianco
la pasta con le zucchine
Sunday morning in the early hours of dawn the neighborhood turns into a huge open-air market where they sell used items of all kinds, television sets, pots, old record player, furniture, tables, paintings, shoes, clothing, antiques, movies, music boxes, sofas, chairs, plates, cups, antique phones. If you arrive in the early hours of the day you can make a good business purchasing of very beautiful and old objects (but beware many thing might be stolen!). The main rule is the same as always ... haggle on the price!
Il Capo of Palermo, characterized by the colors and abbanniate (shouts) of sellers, is the fish market par excellence, although there is also so much more, including fragrant spices and splendid churches to visit, among which the Church of the Immaculate Conception with its frescoes, paintings and polychrome marbles.
You'll find lots of stalls for the sale of fish, some are full of noble fish, others only sell poor fish. In any case it is essential an expert eye to see if the fish is really fresh (the same eye of the fish is a good indicator of its freshness and then the color of the gills which should be bright red).
Entering through the door Carini, after a hundred meters, on the left, a window on the street exposes fritters, "croquettes" and fried eggplant; the room inside is a perfect place for a lunch with excellent cheap express dishes which change daily according to the availability of seasonal produces.
Good brown bread of Piana degli Albanesi is sold by a street along the main road.
The road connecting the Cape market with that of the Vucciria is beautiful and it's a path to the hidden city stretches, crossing angles, churches and ancient buildings. Via Sant'Agostino which crosses the street Via Maqueda and then changes name into Via Bandiera, houses one of the permanent market of clothing at reasonable prices.
After all this talk about the markets, you may be wondering to visit them led by a local person and an expert.
If that's the case we recommend:
Streat Tour: Visit the historic markets and taste the typical street food of Palermo with this fantastic walking tour.
Palermo Bike Tour: Bike ride is also a way to visit the markets. An unforgettable experience on two wheels!
There are a couple of shopping centres in Palermo, but they are out of the city centre and to be honest with you, In Sicily you still do the best shopping walking along the main streets! »