Seeing Palermo on a Bicycle

In today’s article, old Don Tano is going to tell you all about exploring Palermo on a bike and where to rent bicycles in town.

Cycling in Palermo

Ciao a tutti. Your good Sicilian amico — your semi-official Palermo host and guide, Don Tano here.

I want to talk about bicycling because bicycling is very popular here in Palermo and I’m gonna tell you everything you need to know about getting around Palermo on a bike.

When I didn’t have the title “old” in front of my name, I loved to hop on my bike and roam everywhere throughout Palermo and this great city’s surroundings.

These days, sfortunatamente, I get tired too quickly. These old legs give out.

But I remember.

Allora, if you’re thinking about renting a bicycle in Palermo, it’s important that you pay close attention, because in this article I’m gonna give you a few important tips.

Please pay attention to this because I know you want to have some great rides and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to become part of the asphalt.

It’s not only your money that’s at stake here. It’s your life.

So today, I’m gonna recommend the three best bike itineraries that cover just about all the major features that make Palermo such an outstanding city and   —  I’m adding some valuable information to help you avoid problems.

So, that being said, let’s get to the actual ride.

Where to rent bicycles in Palermo

Palermo isn’t particularly friendly toward bicycle enthusiasts.

I’ve thought about this and I came to my own personal conclusion.  I think that rather than get all sweaty pedaling a bicycle for miles, Sicilians have more important things to do.

I’m speaking of our great food.

We’d much rather eat and drink, possibly while kicking back on one of our world-famous beaches.

That’s just one man’s opinion of course.

But I think that’s why — for want of a better reason — there aren’t too many (honest) bicycle rental agencies in Palermo.

Mondello Rent

One rental agency I recommend is Mondello Rent.

I’ve known Gianluca and Daniele for years. These two brothers own Mondello Rent.

They’re friendly and honest and they always give good service and pricing. (And I don’t take a penny for this recommendation. I never post paid reviews in these little articles.)

The brothers have two locations. The one is in Mondello and the other is right in the city center in Via Roma.

The brothers have a nice selection of bicycles for you to choose from. They have mountain bikes and city bikes for both men and women. They have folding bikes as well.

If you’re a lazybones, I have good news for you.

You can rent an electric bicycle (or a scooter) at a reasonable price. Believe me when I say that during the summer, an electric bicycle can be a godsend to bikers.

If you mention old Don Tano’s recommendation when you go to one of these two shops, I’m sure they’ll give you a really warm welcome.

If you Google bicycles for rent in Palermo, you can find other bicycle rentals as well and as far as I know many of them as good as Mondello Rent. That’s all I can say because I’ve never rented from them or read any reviews.

My advice is to make sure any rentals have decent prices and that the bicycles are in good condition.

Is it dangerous to bike around Palermo?

Okay, this ain’t Amsterdam, a city famous for its safe streets and bicycle paths. A city where there are probably more bicycles than automobiles. That’s a city where you’ll see expensive lawyers in suits and ties with Italian leather briefcases casually riding their bikes to and from the office.

But Amsterdam is not Palermo.

I don’t want to frighten you off, however. Biking in Palermo is safe enough.  As long as you’re careful and pay attention you’ll be in no more danger than you’d be at home.

My idea of being careful and paying attention is for you to remember three simple, basic rules:

  1. Try not to bike on streets where there is heavy automobile traffic.
  2. Wear a helmet. In Palermo, the helmet isn’t required, but I do recommend that you wear one.
  3. Follow the itineraries I’ve laid out here.

Another warning: you won’t see too many cycling paths and the few you do see aren’t always too pleasant. More and more pedestrians have begun to appropriate these paths and some can be very rude indeed. Just be careful not to hit anyone — although you’ll probably want to.

The three best bike itineraries

Okay! Let’s saddle up and pick out a route to explore.

Here are my choices for the three best bicycle itineraries in Palermo.

The Historic Center

The Historic Center Bike Tour

Difficulty: Easy

Google Maps Link

This is a 12km (Less than 8 miles). This route is all on paved roads and is and it covers the entire historic center of Palermo.

Leave from Piazza Castelnuovo (just a short distance from the Mondello Rent office. If in doubt, someone at Mondello Rent will point you in the right direction.

Starting from there you ride along Via Ruggero Settimo. You’ll see the Politeama Theater and as you continue, you’ll see the Massimo Theater on your right.

Now, still along Via Maqueda, you’ll be able to admire some of Palermo’s most beautiful buildings including not only churches but historical residences.

Remember, Palermo is one of the oldest cities in the world. Many cities claim to be the oldest, but Sicily was occupied as early as 415 BC by Carthaginians.

Their main fortifications were where today’s Palermo is situated.

Just a little after you pass Vittorio Emanuele Street, you’ll see the Fontana Pretoria on your left and the Church of San Giuseppe dei Teatini on your right.

A bit further you’re gonna see one of the most fascinating churches in the city, San Cataldo, standing next to Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio.

As you continue along Corso Tukory, you’ll pass Piazza Porta Sant’Agata and skirt around the district of Ballarò. From there, you’ll turn right into Via G. Arcoleo and then make a sharp left into Via G. Majali.

ballaro market

Now, you ride along Via C. Forlanini street on the walls of Porta Moltalto and then left into Via del Benedettini, home of San Giovanni degli Eremiti.

Take the Via E. Basili next and turn right into Corso Re Ruggero and Riazza Indipendenza.

This is a good time and place to take a little break and maybe do a little shopping while you admire the beauty of a square that is surrounded by beautiful architectural monuments.

The first of these is the Palazzo d’Orleans, the seat of the presidency of the Sicilian Region and the Palatine Chapel. Next comes the military district of Palermo and the church of the Madonna dei Rimedi.

This was once dedicated to Santa Teresa d’Avila.

One thing that ‘s sure to get your attention is the Norman Palace with its large central garden and the recently restored ramparts of the building.

Now, taking Vittorio Emanuele Street, on your left you’ll have views of a number of churches such as Santa Maddalena and San Giacomo La Mazara, and on the right of the villa Bonanno, you’ll turn left into Via M. Bonello, Via Papireto, Piazza V.E.Orlando, Via N. Turrisi and turn right into Via S. Balsamo, Via Volturno, skirt around the district of Capo.

This is home to the famous Capo Outdoor Market.

Visit the Street Markets

Passing Piazza G. Verdi again you’ll ride along Via Cavour which brings you right down to the seaside. Then you’ll ride on up to Piazza delle Tredici Vittime.  Turn right into Via F. Crispi.

Follow along Via Cala where you’ll see the famous Piazza Marina, a unique and great pit stop to enjoy the specialties of Palermo street food. After a nice bike ride, you’ll surely be ready for a sandwich with fritters.

After a snack, just ride along Via dei Foro Umberto 1. Enjoy the exquisite view of the Port of Palermo and the Mediterranean Sea. A bit further brings you the Piazza della Kalsa on your right and next comes the Botanical Garden, next to Villa Giulia.

Botanical Garden

After that just follow Via Lincoln and the rest of Via Roma as far as Via E. Amari. Then you’ll turn right to get back to Piazza Castelnuovo.

Palermo and Mondello

Palermo and Mondello bike tour

Difficulty:  Easy/Medium

Google Maps Link

For this ride, you’ll begin at Piazza Marina, just a short distance from Mondello Rent along via Roma.

The entire tour is not difficult for most riders.

The 20 km (slightly less than twelve and a half miles) ride takes you to parts of Palermo and the coast that you’ll surely find enchanting.

You’ll start from Piazza marina in the Kalsa district. Designed by the architect Giovan Battista Filippo Basile in 1863, the Villa Garibaldi sits at the very center of the square.

This square is a reminder of Palermo’s historical link with the sea and the changes that its port has undergone over the centuries.

On your left, just before you cross the Porta Felice, you’ll see the church of Santa Maria della Catena. An outstanding structure with its Gothic-Catalan design.

This was built at about the same time Columbus was discovering the new world.

Mondello bike tour

From this landmark site, you ride on to Sant’Erasmo. Here the route reverses and you’ll be going south-east through the Bourbon Arsenal, the Shipyards and seaside villages such as Arenella, Addaura, and then on into Mondello.

From this point, you have two choices.

If you rented your bike at the Via Roma office of Mondello Rent, and you’re getting tired, you can drop the bike off at that office and take a bus back to the city.

Or —  as an alternative — you can return through the Favorita Park and return to Palermo that way.

Mondello — Capo Gallo Marine Reserve

Capo Gallo Marine Reserve bike tour

Difficulty: Easy

Google Maps Link

This is an easy 8 km (Just under 5 miles) jaunt starting at the Piazza Mondello, just a quick walk from the Mondello Rent office.

You can stroll along the beach to the tower of the Village of Mondello, at Via del piano di Gallo you’ll have a gorgeous view of the entire marina.

Make a right at the Hotel La Torre, but pay attention to the heavy traffic heading toward you.

Next, turn left and you’ll be entering the Park of Capo Gallo. You have to buy a ticket to enter but I’d strongly recommend that you do so. You’ll love the waters of the reserve. After that, you can climb up to the lighthouse. The view from there is awe-inspiring.

Weather permitting, you may be able to see the island of Ustica.

Well, I believe that’s everything I can tell you to get you around safely while seeing the best parts of the city.

One other detail before I sign out. I have to mention Nico’s detailed travel videos. Through interviews with our local residents, Nico was able to create a video detailing their opinions, their likes and dislikes, of our local residents. Well worth watching.

If you’re into running, be sure to check out one of the itineraries I’ve talked about.

As usual, I’ll be happy to address any concerns you may have and answer your questions.

Arrivederci,

Don Tano

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About Don Tano

I’m full-blooded Sicilian born from the noise of the Vucciria market and the gentle sound of the waves of Mondello. I grew up eating “pane e panelle” and “pasta con le sarde”. But most of all, I grew up with an awareness: Palermo is a beautiful city to live intensely and to love without question!