Palermo has a Mediterranean climate, with mild, wet winters and summers which are hot and dry.
As with the rest of Italy, Palermo’s main tourist season is April to mid-October, which is when the weather is at its warmest and driest. July and August are the hottest months, with temperatures between 23 and 29 degrees Celsius. As this time is popular with tourists, hotel rates and flight prices usually increase. You should also think about booking accommodation is advance, to avoid disappointment, especially during festive periods, such as the Festino di Santa Rosalia. This is the city’s largest festival which honours the patron saint during the month of July. This is celebrated through shows, concerts, exhibitions, a food festival, religious procession and fireworks. The summer season is also a good time to book a flight to Palermo if you want to spend your holiday enjoying the great outdoors and relaxing on some of the most beautiful beaches.
It is worth taking note that the city is also busy at Easter, Christmas, New Year and during school holiday periods and this can in turn see prices rise.
Autumn to early spring is considered the low season, due to the cooler temperatures and increase in rain, although temperatures are still on average above 10 degrees. If you don’t mind dodging the showers then this could be the perfect time to plan your visit, as there will also be fewer crowds and you are more likely to find cheap flights to Palermo. The weather will least effect you if you wish to spend your holiday tasting delicious Italian cuisine in a whole host of restaurants and exploring the numerous museums, galleries and churches, the city has to offer.
Southern Italy is very different to the North: this is the place where life is lived to the full.
Most visitors to Palermo fall in love with the city. It has a stunning location on the west of Sicily, with access to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, and enjoys warm weather almost year-round.
As with most of Italy, the city has a host of museums and galleries and spectacular churches, with architecture that dates back many centuries and has influences from Roman, Arab and Greek civilisations. And many tourists book flights to Palermo for the cuisine. The food here is exquisite: all local produce that grows on the island’s hills or is caught in the sea.
The Capuchin Catacombs contain the mummified remains of approximately 8,000 ancient inhabitants of Palermo. Capuchin friars started mummifying and embalming the bodies of the city’s nobles in the late 1500s, and the tradition continued for centuries – the last body was embalmed in 1920. After being embalmed, the corpses were hung along the walls of the catacombs, dressed in their finest clothes, which they still model today. It is a spectacle that is equal parts fascinating and spooky.
One of the most fascinating attractions in Palermo is the Museo delle Marionette, a museum dedicated to the art of puppetry. The collections here – the world’s foremost puppet collection – highlight this age-old entertainment. Free puppet shows are staged in the summer, but the museum collection itself is entertainment enough. The antique puppets represent traditional characters of Norman Sicily, such as Saracen pirates, knights, ladies and troubadours. The collection includes English “Punch and Judy” dolls and puppets from the Far East.
In the suburb of Monreale, high on the mountain slope overlooking “Conca d’Oro,” as the valley beyond Palermo is referred to, sits the Monreale Cathedral. The 12th-century cathedral is a mix of medieval Christian and Muslim architecture, and boasts a wonderful mixture of Arab, Byzantine and Norman art. The magnificent mosaics that cover 6,340 square metres of the dome and interior walls are unsurpassed. The adjacent Benedictine abbey features a cloister with 228 carved stone columns, many inlaid with mosaics, depicting scenes from Sicily’s Norman history.
Some of Europe’s greatest archaeological treasures are tucked away in this former church that dates from the 16th century. In addition to showcasing the famous Stone of Palermo, this museum houses iconic Greek and Roman statues. Highlights include two Phoenician sarcophagi dating from 5 BC, and the Pietra di Palermo, a black slab discovered in Egypt containing hieroglyphics that is known as the ‘Rosetta Stone’ of Sicily. One room is devoted to the marvellous finds unearthed at the temples of Selinunte. There is also an interesting section devoted to underwater archaeology.
The remains of the ancient Sicilian city of Solunto lie 10 miles (16 km) east of Palermo, near Santa Flavia on the slopes of Mount Catalfamo. It was first a Phoenician village, then a Greek town before it was sacked by the Romans in 254 BC, who rebuilt much of the original town. As a result, the ruins here are of the Roman style. Sadly, no complete structures remain and the ruins consist mainly of floors and the lower portions of walls and columns. Portions of mosaics and paintings are still visible however, and an impressive view of the Gulf of Palermo can be had from the hilltop above Solunto. There is a small archaeological museum at the site, although most of the artifacts from Solunto are in the Palermo’s Regional Archaeological Museum.
The best way to see Palermo’s medieval centre is on foot. All the sights are close enough that you won’t need more than your own two feet. The rest of the city is another story, and you’ll need to travel via bus or taxi. Buy bus tickets at tobacco shops before you board, and the bus will take you anywhere you need to go, including as far out as Monreale or Mondello. Trips made within a set time period cost a flat fare, or you can buy an all-day pass. For major sights and attractions, you may want to take the Giro Citta tourist bus. The bus travels in a loop, so you’ll get on and get off at Teatro Politeama. Buy your tickets on board. Buses are very convenient, but they can be slow. For a faster trip, call for a taxi or pick one up at a stand. You can also rent a taxi for an entire day.
The main airport which services Palermo is Palermo Airport (PMO) (website: www.gesap.it), which is also known as Falcone-Borsellino Airport and Punta Raisi Airport. It is situated in Punta Raisi, which is 22 miles (35 km) northwest of Palermo.