Holidaying in Palermo

By | Category: Travel destinations

One of the narrow streets in Palermo

This could be the year to visit the Sicilian city of Palermo as it is officially Italy’s Capital of Culture.

Only three years ago Palermo became a UNESCO World Heritage Site largely because nine of its civil and religious structures date from the era of the Norman kingdom of Sicily.  Yes, it wasn’t just England that was conquered by the Normans.

Think Sicily and you might think the mafia. Don’t let that deter you from holidaying in the city. Palermo has cleaned up its act in recent years, with an energised new generation keen to put the mafia firmly in the past. Having pedestrianised its historical centre, opened up bike sharing schemes and made its traditional street food famous, it now welcomes more visitors than ever before.

As Italy’s capital of culture, the city is well placed to publicise the main event happening in the city this summer – Manifesta, which is the exhibition of contemporary art that Europe supports. This is the twelfth time that the biennial has been celebrated. It opened just over a month ago and runs until November 4th giving those holidaying on Sicily an ideal opportunity to visit.

Calling it an exhibition of contemporary art is to minimise its role. The purpose is to allow new artists and new themes and ideas to be explored. When it says that is “an interdisciplinary platform for social change, introducing holistic urban research and legacy-oriented programming as the core of its model” don’t be put off by the big words. There is a lot to make you think, a few to giggle at and any number of Italian films to see but most have English subtitles.

Gardeners may not think of attending Manifesta – after all what other biennales have a gardening element – but they should as this combines gardening with art. Take Leoni Contini for example. He has an installation-cum-garden entitled Foreign Farmers which is set in the city’s botanical garden and has Sicilian plants and vegetables side-by-side with their counterparts from around the world.

Whilst Manifesta may be a major draw, Palermo has many other attractions. The Teatro Massimo will be hosting an array of performances in 2018. Verdi’s Nabucco, Puccini’s Turandot, the ballet Adam’s Passion as well as a choir performing as part of the Festival delle Letterature Migranti. (it runs from 4-8th of October.)

One thing every tourist should do is to walk around Kalsa, the historic centre of Palermo and where you will find a  umber of astonishing palazzos and other buildings that date back to the thirteenth century. As Palermo can get hot -as hot as East Anglia will be today – there are shady gardens throughout the centre where you can rest.

For both Britons and Irish there are direct flights from Dublin, Gatwick, Heathow, Luton, Liverpool, (the service begins today) Manchester and Stansted.

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