Explore Palermo, Sicily's regional capital, and its nearby surroundings on this 7-day tour of the island's northwest. A cultural melting pot, Palermo is home to stunning baroque monuments and bustling markets, as well as a mouthwatering street food scene. You'll begin in Palermo with a visit to the Norman-Byzantine Monreale Cathedral, find your way to the millennia-old Greek temple of Segesta, and spend a day in the coastal town of Cefalù.

Highlights

  • Marvel at the impressive Monreale Cathedral
  • Sample local specialties like panelle and arancini on a street food tour of Palermo
  • Roam the ancient Greek temple and amphitheater at Segesta
  • Look out over the Aegadi Islands from the ramparts of Erice's Castello di Venere
  • Join a cooking class and prepare an authentic 4-course Sicilian meal in Palermo

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Palermo Palermo
Day 2 Guided Tour of Palermo; Visit Monreale Palermo
Day 3 Palermo Street Food Tour Palermo
Day 4 Day Trip to Segesta & Erice from Palermo Palermo
Day 5 Day Trip to Cefalù Palermo
Day 6 Palermo Segway Tour & Cooking Class Palermo
Day 7 Depart Palermo  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Palermo

View of the Palermo cityscape from the Palermo Cathedral rooftop
Enjoy views of the Palermo cityscape from the Palermo Cathedral rooftop

Welcome to Sicily! Start your adventure in Palermo. Sicily's regional capital boasts beautiful Mediterranean weather, colorful history with strong ties to its Roman, Byzantine, Arab, and Norman past as evidenced in its architecture, culture, music, and cuisine. Upon arrival at the airport, you'll be picked up and driven the 45 minutes to your hotel in the heart of the city to settle in. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you like.

The historic city center and medieval streets are easy to navigate by foot with many attractions and restaurants within walking distance. To get your bearings, take a passeggiata along the narrow, pedestrianized Via Maqueda that connects the north of the city to the south. For fine examples of baroque architecture and sculpture, start at the Fontana Pretoria (fountain) in Piazza Pretoria. See art at the Stanze al Genio tile museum and Palazzo Abatellis, catch a performance at the Teatro Massimo, Italy's largest opera house, or relax on Mondello Beach and enjoy the sand and azure sea.

Day 2: Guided Tour of Palermo - Visit Monreale

Monreale Cathedral, Palermo, Sicily
Take in the ornate stonework of Monreale Cathedral

In the morning you will meet your guide for a private half-day tour of the Sicilian capital—a smart way to experience the city's vibrant culture and artistic and architectural points of interest. Quattro Canti (officially known as Piazza Vigliena), Palazzo Reale, the 12th-century Duomo (the Palermo Cathedral), and Marina Square are some examples of the architectural masterpieces you will come across. You'll also visit Capo Market, a great spot to pick up some lunch or a typical snack like cazzilli (pan-fried potato croquettes).

After the tour, you'll have the afternoon to yourself where you might like to consider making the short drive to visit Monreale. On the slopes of Monte Caputo, you'll discover what is thought to be the greatest example of Norman architecture in the world, the Cattedrale di Monreale (Monreale Cathedral). The 12th-century UNESCO-listed cathedral is made up of ornate cloisters and bright gold mosaics that feature scenes from the Old and New Testaments. Admire the Norman-Byzantine art and architecture as you tour this national monument.

Day 3: Palermo Street Food Tour

Italy - Sicily - Butcher shop at Mercato il Capo
Traipse through vibrant Mercato il Capo

One great way to experience Palermo is to join a street food tour. Snack your way through narrow streets, visiting backstreet markets, modest bakeries, old bars, and food stalls for delicious sweet and savory eats. You'll meet your guide in the morning to meander your way to the Vucciria and Capo markets, two bustling open-air markets reminiscent of Arab souks. You'll discover how Sicily’s unique culinary history informs its street food scene as vendors of local produce and seafood promote their goods.

Get in line at neighborhood bakeries, cafés, and food stalls to try a variety of popular Sicilian street snacks: pani câ meusa (sesame-flavored soft bread, stuffed with chopped lard-fried veal and spleen), panelle (chickpea fritters) and arancini (deep-fried balls of rice stuffed with meat, vegetables, and cheese). Sip on sweet Sicilian wine to wash it down, before digging into a seasonal dessert, like cannoli (deep-fried pastry cylinders filled with sweetened ricotta cheese), gelato, or a refreshing granita (a fruity semi-frozen treat).

With a full belly, you'll have the afternoon free to explore the city at your own pace.

Day 4: Day Trip to Segesta & Erice from Palermo

Castello di Venere, Erice, Sicily, Italy
Visit Erice's Castello di Venere for sweeping vistas over Trapani

Depart from Palermo in the morning for a full-day excursion to Segesta and Erice, beginning with Segesta, an archaeological complex located an hour away from Palermo. The first thing you'll notice when you arrive in Segesta is the 2400-year-old Greek temple, which stands alone on its pedestal hill. Nearby you can see the medieval ruins and the ancient Agora, but the next highlight is further up on the hill: the theater, which dates to the 3rd century BCE. Behind the stage, you'll find an incredible panorama of hills and the Tyrrhenian Sea. 

Afterward, transfer to Erice, a medieval city famous for its narrow winding streets, medieval arches, and decorated courtyards. Enter the old city by the Porta Trapani, then walk to the historic city center to reach the 14th-century Duomo, which houses marble sculptures, and the next-door bell tower. Climb the 110 steps to the top for a breathtaking view of the city. From here, follow the old city walls for a panoramic viewpoint, then explore the city's Spanish neighborhood, as well as the Church of San Giovanni BattistaCastello di Venere, and the 19th-century Torretta Pepoli

Make your way back to the city gate, pausing at the Piazza Umberto I to see the ornate palazzi and Museo Antonio Cordici, which displays traditional crafts and trades. Return to Palermo in the evening.

Day 5: Day Trip to Cefalù

Italy - Sicily - Cefalù - Lavatoio Medievale
Visit the historic Lavatoio Medievale

Start your morning with a scenic 1-hour train ride down the coast to Cefalù, a popular seaside resort town with a rich history for a day of self-exploration. Head to the city center to see the city's top sights and start at the Lavatoio Medievale, a 16th-century washhouse that funnels the River Cefalino through a series of stone basins. Nearby is the Porta Pescara, a small gate that opens onto a view of the Cefalù beach and the coastline to Palermo. Take a walk down to the old harbor and stroll along the seaside promenade. 

On the way to the Duomo, take a detour to the 17th-century Bastione di Capo Marchiafava, one of many old defensive fortresses located along the coast. The view from the top of the Bastione is a real treat.  Visit the 12th-century Duomo Basilica Cattedrale (Cefalù Cathedral) to see the Norman-Arabic architecture that is typical of that time period.  And if there's time, climb the Rocca, the promontory above the city. A steep staircase winds through layers of city walls before emerging onto a rocky outcrop with stunning views of the city and open water. 

Stop at a beachside bar for an aperitivo before catching the train back to Palermo. 

Day 6: Palermo Segway Tour & Cooking Class

Fresh vegetables for sale at the Vucciria market
Select fresh vegetables at the Vucciria market

Palermo's narrow medieval streets make automobile travel tricky, so start your morning with a guided Segway tour of the city's top landmarks. Head through the Capo Market, a bustling street-food market that's popular with visitors and locals shopping for dinner. Pass by the Gallery of Modern Art and Palace of the Normans at the Piazza della Vittoria, admiring the varied architecture in the city center. End your Segway tour at Palermo's seafront gardens, Villa a Mare to enjoy beautiful views and a refreshing sea breeze. 

In the afternoon you will learn how to prepare traditional Sicilian dishes during a four-hour hands-on cooking class. Begin your lesson by shopping for fresh, seasonal ingredients at the market, then head to a well-equipped home kitchen in an 18th-century building to start your lesson. Next, you'll learn how to prepare an authentic four-course Sicilian meal, including dessert. Afterward, sit down to enjoy your creation along with a glass of local wine. Buon appetito!

Day 7: Depart Palermo

Italy - Sicily - Palermo - Villa Giulia - Excedra
Enjoy a walk through Villa Giulia

If you have a free morning before departing, head to the Foro Italico. A large public garden along Palermo's seafront is an excellent way to soak in the sunshine and sea breeze before heading to the airport. You may like to first explore Villa Giulia, a sprawling 18th-century complex of botanical gardens and sculptures, then stroll along the Foro Italico to Porta Felice, a 16th-17th-century monumental gateway to La Cala (Old Port).

Depending on traffic, it usually takes 45 minutes to an hour to travel from the center of Palermo to the airport. Best to arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to your international departure (and with some extra time to drop off your rental car).

Map

Map of Palermo and Surroundings - 7 Days
Map of Palermo and Surroundings - 7 Days