Don Tano, here again, today to satisfy the curiosity of the hundreds of fans who email me every week. One of the main tourist attractions in Palermo is the Vucciria Market, and that’s what everyone wants to know about.
Well, many years ago it was just another outdoor market where locals could find vegetables, fruit, fish and meat, all at very competitive prices. Today the old market has almost disappeared entirely and you’ll find only a few sad fish mongers but I don’t think they worry too much about freshness. Maybe that’s why they don’t hang a sign that says “Fresh Fish.” You should rely on your nose, that’s the best bet. What I started to say was that during the day, there’s not much going on for tourists. If you want to know what to see in Palermo, have a look at the free self-guiding walking tours I’ve created.
Okay, so you’re wondering why I mentioned Vucciria in the first place and why it’s so famous. Well, I’m gonna tell you. When the sun goes down in the west, the Vucciria market comes to life and I mean, like the Americans say, it begins to rock. Around 8 pm the wild side of Vucciria comes to life, starting with aperitifs that segue into dancing that lasts till the sun rises above the crumbling buildings in Garraffello Square.
In the case of doubt, that was no typo. In southern Italy, we have our aperitif at 8 pm and enjoy our dinner sometime after 9 pm.
Actually, Vucciria consists of two squares in close proximity. Piazza Caracciolo and Piazza Garraffello. You can eat and drink in the Piazza Caracciolo and in the other, you dance…and you can drink as well, naturally.
This square is the epicenter of Vucciria and street food peddlers who serve up their delights on the many illegally placed tables that fill the square. But hey, you can fill up royally on a dish of meat or fish for between 10 and 15 euros. Now I’m not promising high-class dishes and service in the most sanitary condition, but this is part of what makes the area so charming and interesting.
As night falls, the area awakes as many of the local inhabitants head for one of the best known alternative bars in Palermo: The Taverna Azzurra. Taverna Azzurra is renowned for the wine called Sangue (blood), as well as for its low prices. You can do a lot of serious drinking while spending only a few euros.
Piazza Caracciolo is a great place to view a melting pot of strange and interesting characters. Here rich and hip people democratically rub elbows with the poor and penniless university students. This colorful blend of diversity and different cultures comes together here in a wonderful mix of music and poetry.
Now this is the famous crumbling square surrounded by destroyed buildings. One of the greatest tourist attractions — curious visitors come here from all the four corners of the earth. Right in the center of the piazza, you’ll see the famous Garraffello fountain built in 1591. Still kicking today, it has become the symbol of the square.
The artist Uwe Jaentsch converted the square into an urban theater in a decayed building on which is written Uwe ti ama (Uwe loves you). And a crucifix hangs beside and below the wrecked sign of the national bank.
This square is one of the most famous places for wild nightlife mostly because there is a complete absence of rules. Throughout the entire city of Palermo, bars and nightclubs must close at 3 am thanks to an order issued by the municipality of Palermo. But here DJs play music that shakes the crumbling buildings until 6 in the morning.
Now while this is a surreal must-see place to spend a pleasant night where you’ll probably see something ‘different’, you’re gonna have to be careful and not isolate yourself from the crowd around you. This area is home to skillful pickpockets and they can take a bag, cell phone or wallet right from under your nose. Never underestimate the abilities of these rascals.
If you bring children along to Sicily, you should probably avoid places like the Vucciria market at night and spend your time enjoying the other delights in the city center. If you stop at one of the places I recommend, you can easily walk to Vucciria. If you don’t want to walk or have difficulty walking, you can hop one of the following buses: 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 105, 125.
One final word of caution: I want to remind you again to be alert and don’t bring along a lot of valuables. Palermo is not a dangerous place and no one is likely to touch you, but these highly trained pickpocket masters blend into the crowds every place you turn. And they’re as adept with their fingers as a concert pianist.
Have fun and I’m gonna write some more interesting stories about Sicily and especially Palermo.