There is a great deal of stunning places you can reach from Palermo. There are many towns and villages outside the city worth visiting; for some of them a day trip is enough, while others require spending at least one night out. The following are the best places to visit near Palermo.
If you’re looking for new places to explore outside the city I recommend taking a rental car if you don’t want your trip to turn into a nightmare.
Places to visit near Palermo: Piana degli albanesi
“La Piana” is a mountain village located in the province of Palermo, 30 km away from downtown. Until 1941, it was known as Piana Dei Greci due to the professed Byzantine-Greek religious ritual. It is one of the best known and most populous Arbëreshë (Albanians in Italy) communities and the largest center of the Greek-Albanian colonies of Sicily.
Over the centuries, it has been considered to be one of the most active localities of the Albanians of Italy, preserving the historical memory of ancient Albania and the typical features of the Eastern heritage. Besides being the core socio-cultural, religious and political hub of the communities, it has maintained its ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious origin over time.
Piana Degli Albanesi won fame mainly due to its food; the village is believed to make the best Cannoli of the entire island. Don’t be frightened by the confusing road signs – if any – or by the unusual accent of the Sicilian-Albanian inhabitants. The Cannolo and the breathtaking view are worth the trip by themselves.
Indeed, the name Corleone evokes the collective memory of “Don Vito Corleone“, the main character of The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece with the extraordinary Marlon Brando. The village – about 55 km away from Palermo – has been always linked to the Mafia, and not only because of the movie; the greatest Mafia bosses in the history of the Mafia came from Corleone. You can visit the Mafia Museum and go over all the events that happened in Sicily over the last few centuries. But Corleone is not only the town of the Mafia: history, tradition, nature and archeology are the four ingredients that make Corleone an undiscovered gem.
The village rises on the Ficuzza Wood, one of the most extraordinary examples of its kind, made at the end of ‘700 by Ferdinand the Bourbon through the unification of various large estates for the purpose of hunting and agricultural experimentation. It is worth visiting the botanical beauties, which relate different species of trees and the buildings built in the woods, including the Palazzina Reale. Also, the village is a tourist destination for many pilgrims who look into the miracles that have occurred in the district of Tagliavia. In the nineteenth century, the sanctuary of Madonna del Rosario was erected in honor of the Virgin Mary for the miraculous healing of animals during an epidemic.
Segesta is an ancient town in the province of Trapani, famous worldwide for its history linked to the Carthaginians. The village is about 75 km from Palermo. The majestic and magnificent Doric temple, and the Greek theater – built up in the fifth century A.C. – attract tourists from all around the globe.
The history of Segesta is shrouded in mystery. The date of its foundation is not known, but the documents show that the city was inhabited in the ninth century BC. The Greek historian Thucydides told that the Trojan refugees crossed the Mediterranean Sea, went to Sicily and founded Segesta – at that time it was called Aegesta. These refugees were named Elimi. However, according to legend Segesta was founded by Acestes, son of the aristocratic Trojan Egesta and the God Crinisus. Finally, the Roman poet Virgilio told the legend that Segesta was founded by Aeneas to rest the old men and women after they had set fire to the ship shortly before resuming their journey.
Cefalù is a seaside town situated on the northern coast of the region, about 75 km from the Sicilian Capital, at the foot of a rocky promontory. Despite its size, every year it attracts a significant flow of local tourists, especially during the summer seasons, arriving to triple the population. The town is included in the list of “I Borghi più belli d’Italia” (the most beautiful small Italian cities), an association of small Italian towns of historical interest. A stroll across the coast, a nature trail, and a visit to the cathedral are an absolute must.
Selinunte is an ancient Greek city bordering on its eternal rival Segesta. The town became famous for its archaeological park, the biggest in Europe. In the archaeological site, many stunning temples have attracted the attention of historians around the world.
Many temples were ruined by the earthquakes that occurred in medieval times; however, two of the most famous temples, the E (the so-called Temple of Hera) and the C have almost been completely reconstructed.
It is among the first cities in Sicily to mint coins, dated around 550-530 BC, roughly in the same period of Himera.
Parco delle Madonie
The Madonie Park is located in the north-west of Sicily, about 90 km far from Palermo. It was created in 1988 to safeguard the terrific variety of wildlife and vegetation. The flora is the protagonist of the Parco. This botanical paradise with its altitude of 1,979 meters is home to more than half of the 2,600 species existing in Sicily. The fauna consists of 65% of birds and all mammals present in Sicily.
At some points in the park, you will experience ecstasy while taking in the surreal view; Mount Etna, Nebrodi and the Aeolian Islands kissed by the rays of sunlight will keep you gaping helplessly and blissfully for hours on end.
The village of Monreale is 5 km away from the capital Palermo area. It is known across Europe for its magnificent architectural creations of the Arab-Norman dynasty in the eleventh century. The history of the village can be summed up in its characteristic Duomo. According to historical sources, the Norman King William, while resting in the shade of a carob tree, saw the Virgin in a dream who showed him where the old royal treasure was hidden to build a temple dedicated to her. Then, the king built the beautiful Cathedral of Monreale, also called “Chiesa di Maria del Fiore”. An imposing structure features many mosaics on the walls, roof, and in each capital of the building. The golden mosaics depict the scenes of the New and the Old Testament.
Seaside resorts and islands
Near Palermo, there are a huge amount of bathing resorts and small islands, so many in fact that there will not be enough time to visit all of them in one life; Aegadian Islands, Aeolian Islands, Riserva dello Zingaro, Scopello, and San Vito Lo Capo are just some of the Sicilian beaches globally recognized among the best in Europe. To learn more about the best beaches in Palermo and the surroundings, check out the special section.
Full of charm and distinction, the 750-meters-above-the-sea medieval town of Erice is among the most popular tourist destinations, not only in Sicily but all over the continent. Erice is situated on the top of an isolated mountain, in the northwest of Sicily, and is around 100 km from Palermo. It is in a splendid panoramic position, and on clear days, you can spot Etna on the horizon. The town keeps the structure assumed in the Middle Ages intact; it seems that time has stood still for centuries.