By the time that you finish reading this article, you will have a much better concept of the places to go around the incredible province of Palermo and why you should not miss them. Below, there are 10 must-see stops outside of the city limits that could take you an entire day (or more) to appreciate.
Ciao! It is I, your full-blooded Sicilian friend Nico here once again. Today, I am telling you about the villages and attractions outside of Palermo that are worth your time to visit.
Before you just start scrolling to the ‘important bits’, take a second and read what I have to say in full. I am a skimmer too, but I promise it’s worth it.
I know you want to scroll down to the few spots you think apply to you, but you might then miss a few things you need to know before you see the list of attractions surrounding my beloved Palermo.
If you are visiting this historical region, it is likely due to one of these three reasons:
- There are tons of villages surrounding Palermo that have made it on the ‘I Borghi Più Belli D’Italia’ or ‘the most beautiful towns in Italy’. This is like a Michelin-guide for the best towns in the country.
- Sicily is one of the most-conquered regions in the world. More than 15 cultures have occupied this island at one point or another, adding incredible diversity to our heritage.
- Sicily has more UNESCO sites than nearly anywhere else in Italy.
So, why should you care about any of that? Obviously, I love talking about Palermo, but this information helps you to appreciate a crucial concept: in Sicily, there are always things to do, see, and a lot of moving around to get places.
Despite there always being something to do, you can screw yourself and your experience without a plan.
You should really take a few moments, sit down and plan out a trip by writing everything down. Creating an itinerary provides you with a thorough narration of what you intend to do and see.
I have made your life a little easier by already putting together 4 itineraries that could help inspire you when creating your own. If you aren’t sure where you should start, these can help you to fixate on the most important stops.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best attractions you can see around Palermo.
Looking at attractions without fully appreciating them or knowing their story, is the same as watching a stand-up comedy routine without the sound on. That’s just a guy standing there with a microphone, right? Along with creating a proper itinerary, you should grab audio guides to help you better appreciate what you are seeing.
Top 10 Attractions You Should Make Time to See Around Palermo
While I would have no idea if you did or not, and have no intention of busting your balls, I hope you didn’t skip over the fundamental introduction I decided to write above.
If you already read that introduction, below you will find the top 10 tourist attractions near Palermo and the reasons I think they are important to see.
1. Piana degli Albanesi Village – ‘Cannoli Village’
Piana degli Albanesi, or more commonly known as Piana, is a village inn the mountains that is only a 40-minute car trip from the city center.
Here are three reasons why the village is famous.
1. They are known for the best cannolis in Sicily
You might know that cannoli are a Sicilian invention, so it is not hard to find delicious options nearly anywhere you go.
If you were to ask a Sicilian where to find the best ones, they will probably bring up Piana degli Albanesi.
The cannoli here is delicious for three very important reasons:
First, the shell is handmade and not a prefabricated pastry purchased and delivered to the shop.
Second, they use their own ricotta cheese, which is derived from local upland sheep. The result is unparalleled quality in the cheese. Don’t ask me what the difference is, but I can certainly taste it. I have barely even seen sheep out here before.
Lastly, the pastry chefs carry on a tradition that has been going on for generations. Most of these chefs have done nothing but make ricotta pastries for generations and generations, mastering this art.
2. Residents Aren’t Original Sicilians and Speak Another Language
Here is an interesting fact about this village. Despite it being part of the greater Palermo province, and considered Sicilians just like me, I couldn’t tell you most of the words that come out of their mouth.
In fact, the bulk of this village has Balkan origins, so they speak an ancient Albanian language that dates back more than 500 years.
As the story goes, in 1488, the Muslim Turkish expanded into Albanian territories and persecuted the people there because of their Christian beliefs.
Much like you would expect, they didn’t appreciate being kicked around for their religion. The Albanian people fled to Sicily and found their place where the current village sits.
Despite over 500 years passing, they have maintained much of the culture and heritage that they started with. Even much of their language remains the same, which is why it’s official name for the village is Piana degli Albanesi.
Before this, it was known as Piana dei Greci, but I will save that story for another time.
When you visit Piana, we were sure to find tons of beautiful churches, monuments, and museums that tell the story of this ancient village and its people.
3. Home to the Oldest Artificial Lake in Sicily
Piana is home to the oldest artificial lake in Sicily. The body of water was sculpted out back in 1923 as a source for electricity, but became far more of a recreational area for the local residents.
Here, there are many diverse outdoor activities that can take place ranging from hiking to riding horses. I would say that the favorite action of the locals, however, is bringing up several cannoli and stuffing themselves at the picnic areas!
An Interesting Fact to Finish:
This is both interesting and sad – but Piana was the site of the first political mafia massacre of the 20th century, which happened in 1947. Historically this event would be known as Portella della Ginestra.
An infamous mafioso Salvatore Giuliano and his men shot into a crowd of people, killing many of them. A monument stands in the village in remembrance of this event that you should check out.
Bottom Line: This is hands-down the best place for you to grab cannoli (which is a sin not to have on a trip to Sicily.) It is worth the visit for this alone, but there are many historical points of interest you might want to check out as well while you are here.
Planning a Visit to Piana degli Albanesi
If you have a rented car, this is not one of the trips that will take you more than a day to achieve. The total round trip from Palermo in back is only an hour and a half. Just give yourself some good audio guides to teach you what the monuments are about, because there are no good explanation to be found.
The best way I would suggest to visit this villages through an organized tour conducted by the locals here called “Bike and Cannoli”. You will cycle around Piana with a local guide that shows you all that you should see, along with a much needed stop for delicious cannoli.
What Should You Bring Back?
Make sure that you grab a cannolo to eat on the way back. By the way, when you bite into it, open your mouth wide. You should hear crunchy sound that makes you want to bite it again. This just goes and goes until it is gone. Soon, you are swept away with the ecstasy and you don’t realize that you need another cannolo until you’ve already purchased it.
2. Corleone: The Anti-Mafia Village
Movies and media have led many to misinformation about Corleone. They tell people this is where monsters are made.
The history of this town has been troubled, yes, but it is not the land of the mafia. In fact, you can take an anti-mafia tour here, and NOT a mafia tour. Let me be very clear about that so you don’t get the wrong idea of what to expect.
I’m going to describe the three best reasons you should visit Corleone if you have the chance.
1. Corleone Has an Interesting and Entertaining Anti-Mafia Museum
In the middle of the town, you can find a little museum called CIDMA, or more commonly known as the anti-mafia museum. This is where you can learn more about the Italian mafia, and not just the glamorous fabrications.
You’re not going to walk in here and see tommy guns, horse heads, or relics from famous movies that you might remember. Instead, the museum depicts mafia horrors that Sicilians experienced during the 20th century.
In fact, I would suggest anybody interested in the mafia or its history to get a new view of the mob by visiting this place, as it is very different then what you might see on the big screen.
2. Instructive Anti-Mafia Laboratory with Incredible Paintings
Corleone has another cool place that we refer to as the Legal Laboratory.
This is a sort of gallery depicting paintings regarding massacres and murders conducted by the mafia in some of Sicily’s darkest years.
Once you have seen some of these paintings, you can actually have a better understanding and appreciation of the pain and hell that many Sicilians endured, not to mention those that lost their lives to the mafia.
Ironically enough, the place where this laboratory exists was once owned by a feared mafia boss by the name of Bernardo Provenzano. After he was arrested, the government turned it into the legal laboratory.
3. Don Vito Corleone Comes from this Village
Speaking of the glamour and phenomenon that was the mafia, you have heard about or likely seen the The Godfather film series. This is considered one of the greatest movies ever produced in Hollywood.
The main character of this movie is mafia boss Don Vito Corleone. He was played by Marlon Brando, and hails from Corleone, Sicily, which is probably why this town has become such a popular place to those around the world.
Many of the scenes in the movie were set in Corleone, though actually filmed in other Sicilian villages. Corleone was considered to be too modern to make the story work.
Many fans of the franchise come here to take a picture with the signpost for Corleone. If you are a fan as well, this is something you might want to consider doing.
Bottom Line: If you have seen The Godfather series, this is a place that you definitely want to see for yourself. Besides, you have the chance to see the CIDMA (Anti-Mafia Museum) that can showcase the bloody phenomenon of the mafia and the stains it left on Sicily.
Planning a Visit to Corleone
A round trip drive to Corleone is one a couple of hours, and there is a dedicated bus that can take you there if you are not renting a ride. You can leave in the morning from Palermo and be back by nightfall without much trouble.
Want to make life easier? Try the Half Day Tour of Corleone with transfer included. This is pretty popular, so it might be hard to find availability at the last minute. If you get it, you will have many stories to tell when you go home.
What Should You Bring Back?
A souvenir you might want to pick up in Corleone is a bottle of Sicilian wine – ‘Cantina Principe di Corleone’. The red wine is not blood, though it is dark. There is a white wine option as well. This is a family-run winery in the area that has been operating since the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
3. Archeological Park of Segesta
If you want to see one of the most important archeological parks in the world, you need to see Segesta. There are monuments so old here that historians don’t even know the whole stories.
Here are some reasons you should take some time to see the ancient village:
1. It has a well-preserved ancient temple
Many come to Segesta to see the ancient temple here that many historians have deemed to be a miracle. Why you ask?
This temple has been in this place for nearly 2500 years. In an area where war was an almost everyday occurrence, the lack of damage to the structure is certainly miraculous.
You might think the Greeks had something to do with the temple when you see the architecture, but it was actually accredited to the Elymians. You wouldn’t be alone if you didn’t know who the hell the Elymians were – even educated historians don’t have the complete picture about this culture.
What we DO know, is that they were an ancient civilization of people that were among the first to arrive here in Sicily.
The Elymians hated the Greeks and were constantly battling with the nearby Greek colony in Selinunte.
Despite wanting to kill each other every day, Elymians called in a Greek architect to design this temple with a Greek style. Why? Yet another mystery that baffles the historians.
2. Ancient Greek Theater Overlooking the Gulf
Still another reason that many find their way to Segesta is to see the ancient semi-circular Greek theater here.
Located at the highest peak of the valley, this offers an amazing view of the Gulf. You will never forget this place as long as you live – I assure you.
This theater has also been standing here for nearly 2500 years, using local limestone building materials. This is a Greek design, but not entirely. In fact, there are multiple differences that set it apart from traditional Greek structures, but I cannot remember them right now.
If you would like a truly remarkable experience, try to sync your trip with one of the live performances and shows held here throughout warmer seasons.
Shockingly, the theater is still going and active, offering a spectrum of performances. Shows include opera, plays, ancient drama, musicals, and more.
3. Incredibly Picturesque Hiking Trails
If you are someone that enjoys some hiking, Segesta is certainly a place you should try. There are many suggested routes through the village you can follow, allowing you to discover many of the remains and ruins of the ancient civilization that used to occupy the area.
I would say the most popular of these routes you can choose is ‘Contrada Mango’. This takes you to a sanctuary dating back centuries before Segesta was founded.
No matter which you choose, a professional guide is always recommended. I know of people who went to Segesta and I never saw them again. Just kidding. But seriously, though, it can be easy to get lost if you don’t know the area.
Bottom Line: Both the Doric Temple and the Greek Theater alone keep Segesta catering to tourists all year long. These marvels are worth your time and something you should see for yourself. You might want to take a moment and brush up on some history before you get here, though.
Planning a Trip to Segesta
Being 70 km from Palermo, you can possibly make this trip over a day without an overnight stay if you have a rented vehicle. Make sure you brush up on Segesta before you come and have good audio guides to help you. If you don’t you might not know where you are and where you want to be.
Honestly, you won’t be disappointed to try the organized tour put on by the locals. You will see Segesta in full, as well as nearby Selinunte (listed below) for a full day’s tour of the region.
What Should You Bring Back?
One of the things the area is famous for is making the most delicious cassatella with ricotta in all of Sicily. These delicacies are fried dough crescents stuffed with sweet ricotta and chocolate, then dusted with icing sugar. They are great and you should stock up – eat some there, on the way out, on the road home, and then more when you get settled.
4. The Ancient City of Selinunte
Selinunte is an ancient Greek city here in Sicily near to Segesta that draws in more than 300,000 visitors annually. Let me show you three reasons why you should be wanting to be part of that number.
1. The Amazing Story of Selinunte Dates Back 2700 Years
If you are coming for anything, come for the history! When you first arrive, you step into an ancient city first derived from settling Greeks in approximately 628 BCE. That’s almost 2700 years ago!
Selinunte wasn’t just a random city put together by the Greeks, but rather a flourishing colony of Greeks that would have their own place in history. The tale of the city is one of power-starved rulers and drama – and we know that those that try to take everything often end up with nothing.
In fact, the colony was thriving and very successful until they decided to go to war with neighboring Elymians in Segesta. They wanted those territories. So, what did that do?
Selinunte was eventually razed to ashes after decades of bloodshed and battle. Fortunately, the city itself was not completely obliterated – and many of the artifacts from that ancient civilization are still intact and on display to create the largest archeological park in all of Europe.
2. Here You Will Find the Largest Archeological Park in Europe
As I mentioned, Selinunte was a part of decades of war, and eventually ended up wholly defeated. The area still has much to offer to showcase the prominent Greek colony that existed here, however.
This place is home of the largest archeological park in Europe, housing 7 distinct temples. Some are in fair condition for their age and life, but others have just partial remains to appreciate to showcase the brutality of the final loss these Greeks endured.
Each of these temples was dedicated to a different God worshipped by the Greeks, so each had different rituals and purpose. You need to make sure you have quality audio guides for each of these seven temples, the stories behind them are really pretty cool.
Even without the temples, you can still see sanctuaries, the necropolis, and other interesting artifacts.
3. Find a Stone Quarry with Secrets of How Greeks Built Their Elaborate Temples
If you have ever wondered how the hell these Greeks built such enormous and ornate temples, you need to come to ‘Cave di Cusa’. You can find all of the answers you seek here.
This is an ancient stone quarry where Greeks took material to build the temples you will find in Selinunte. Once you know the feeds achieved in the work to complete these temples, you might be very impressed.
About 150 people (who maintain residence in the quarry by the way) dug gigantic pillars from the stone enrolled them up to Selinunte for installation.
For perspective, the town is 13 kilometers (or about 8 miles) from the quarry, so appreciate what an incredible feat this was. You can learn all about the steps and stages of construction when visiting this interesting location.
Bottom Line: Selinunte was one of the largest and most inhabited of Sicily’s Greek colonies and areas, and today you have the largest archeological park on the continent here. You can also appreciate incredible feats of engineering and architecture with the building of the temples described in detail at the old quarry.
Planning a Trip to Selinunte
With only being 120 kilometers from Palermo, it’s possible you can make this a day trip if you have rented a car for your vacation. Take some time to research the area before you arrive, so you know where to go and what to see.
While undoubtedly more expensive, it is worth the money that you spend to take an organized tour. You can opt for the same organized tour that I mentioned in the Segesta portion and see both areas in the same day.
What Should You Bring Back?
There are many delicious local products sourced here, but you should grab all of oil and ricotta. Try some sweet ricotta products like the Cassatella or Pane Cunzatu – which is a bread with olive oil, cheese, salt, pepper, and tomato.
5. Cefalù Village
This small seaside village is only about an hour drive from downtown Palermo.
There are three very important reasons that you should not miss an opportunity to see it.
1. Among the Most Beautiful in Italy
This is not just me making a statement about the village, but Cefalù has been listed among the ‘Most Beautiful Villages in Italy’ by a famous Italian publication, similar to the organization UNESCO, which put together this list.
This list of villages includes areas that have great cultural and historical significance, but are also plainly beautiful and entertaining on top of this.
Cefalù has an entire attractive package which includes: culture, traditional food, gorgeous beaches, history, and an enduring at night life that you don’t want to miss.
2. Home to an Important Flemish Art Painting
Here you will find an important museum called Mandralisca. It has everything and anything you might want to see from the area, including stuffed birds, old currency, artifacts, and tons of paintings belonging to an old Sicilian Baron.
The reason that so many people frequent this museum though, is for “Portrait of an Unknown Sailor” by Antonello Da Messina from 1465.
This artist was one of the most important painters in the era of Flemish art in the 1400s. This particular style has an obsessive attention to detail, and this painting is an excellent example of that.
If you are someone who is into art, I am certain you have heard of this particular piece. If not, I recommend stopping by as it is an important part of art history that has sustained for more than 600 years. You cannot see it anywhere else.
3. Cathedral is Among the Most Highly-Praised UNESCO Sites in Sicily
The Cathedral of Cefalù is definitely one of the most beautiful monuments that you are likely to see in this tiny village.
The building was constructed in 1131, making this church almost 900 years old.
This is a famous UNESCO site along with other monuments in Palermo, as it features three different styles working together: Byzantine, Latin, and Islamic.
Sicily is one of the only places in Europe where you can see this historic mix of styles working together.
This cathedral has many pieces of art, but it’s highlights or the Byzantine mosaics and Christ Pantocrator.
I would also take a moment to mention how intriguing the external facade is for these two towers, which is a charming welcome to all of its visitors.
Bottom Line: I’m rarely a supporter of touristy sites in the area, but this is worth spending your time. I want you to see all of what the village has to show you. Take a swim in the crystal waters or partake of the lively nightlife here. Don’t forget to visit the cathedral and the museum, there are some the places you don’t want to miss on the entire island.
Planning a Trip to Cefalù
This village is easily reachable from Palermo in about an hour with a rented car. Before you go, grab a book and good audio guides to describe the main attractions here for you.
There are several tours on both the land and the sea in the area, dozens that you can choose from. It’s possible there might even be aerial tours in the works, who knows. I would suggest one of the six-hour tours to Cefalù and Monreale, so you kill two birds with one stone.
What Should You Eat?
I would not be quick to dismiss the ice cream here, as it is the best that you can likely find in all of Sicily. If you have my guide, The Sicilian Way, you can find the best ice cream shops that I recommend in Cefalù. If you don’t have it, can always ask the locals. Just don’t end up in one of the tourist traps.
6. See the Medieval Town of Erice
Erice is a small, medieval village that stands more than 750 meters up. There are many, many reasons that I would recommend going there – and here are the three most important.
Let’s take a look.
1. A Medieval City for Over 1000 Years
This is the type of town that makes you want to throw on armor and challenge someone to a duel with swords.
It is truly incredible how Erice has kept its medieval historic center intact for all of these years. It is as though you have taken a time machine and gone back to the Middle Ages every time you visit.
Walking along the stone-laid narrow streets among the craft shops and little lodges, seeing the castle and church, everything is just as it was in the Middle Ages.
2. Views from the Historic Castle Take Your Breath Away
At the highest peak of Erice is an ancient medieval castle, or at least the remains of one. While the full building might not still be intact, you do get a magical view over the Gulf of Trapani. Very few other places offer this type of panorama on Sicily.
The history of this place is worth mentioning as well. Normans built it on the ruins of an older temple around 1070.
The ancient Elymians built that temple first, dedicating it to Venus. As the story goes, Romans arrived and also prayed to Venus in this temple. They did this to solicit the God owner of Sicily, Apollo Helios.
Apollo was the God of sun and light, which is why Sicily is known as the Land of the Sun.
Strangely enough, its history also shows that this temple was one of three sanctuaries in the ancient world where a sacred prostitution was practiced (as far as we can tell, anyway).
3. The Place to Try Genovese
In Sicily, there is a famous pastry known as Genovese, that might change your life. Once you have it, you may never be able to live without it again.
This bit of bakery sorcery is made from sweet short crust pastry, and the inside is full of a sweet cream. Each bite takes you to heavenly heights before bringing you crudely back to earth. Once you try it, you may have an epiphany about why you were born in the first place.
Personally, I have a serious problem with these pastries. When I visit the village, I can’t stop with just one. I have to eat three or four in a row.
In my opinion, there is only one place that you will find proper Genovese, and you can find directions to this place in my guide The Sicilian Way. You can also rely on asking the locals.
Bottom Line: Erice is an amazing experience because of its undeniable preservation of medieval look and feel. Beyond the heritage, come here for the eats and attractions. They are so remarkable that you will remember them until the day you die.
Planning a Trip to Erice
If you rent a car, you can reach this village in about 2 hours from Palermo. You can park just outside the door of the town, as you cannot enter with a vehicle. If you are visiting in July or August, make sure you do pack your armor and broadsword in case you have to battle someone for a spot in the parking lot.
There are several different local tours that combine multiple locations with Erice. One combines a tour with Segesta (we spoke of above) and another includes both of those places and also adds Trapani. I put them in my preference that you should choose so you don’t feel the need to ask.
What Should You Eat?
Honestly apart from the Genovese and some of the other local pastries, I’ve had very little special food in the village. Erice is very tailored to tourists. I believe the good traditional dishes and places to eat or not easy to find if you are not from the area.
7. Check Out the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento
You might be interested to know that there are over a million people that visit the Valley of the Greek Temples in Agrigento every year.
This is deemed one of the most important archaeological parks in all of Europe, and UNESCO has recognized it as a World Heritage site. To put this plainly, you can’t really afford to miss it if you are traveling through the area.
Let’s see why.
1. The Valley Held ‘The Most Beautiful of Mortal Cities’
Known as Agrigento today, the area was formerly called Akragas by the ancient Greeks occupying the area where the Valley of the Temples sits.
According to a famous poet in ancient Greek times, Pindar, ‘Akragas is the most beautiful of the cities of mortals’.
It was one of the most powerful, recognized, and rich cities of this era of Greek prominence in the world, too.
To further illustrate this point – during the V century BCE, they were so rich (and I suppose bored) that they could spend all their time in constructing monuments and attractions. While today it might have been casinos and roadside attractions, then it was temples. This transitions nicely to our second talking point.
2. Well Preserved and Prominent Greek Temples
The Valley features 11 temples in all, many of which are still mostly intact, though others have fallen apart. Some others have only shells or ruins left behind to mark where they were.
Let’s be fair – almost 2500 years have passed!
You can find the remains of the Temple of Zeus here, which is important because it is one of the largest sacred buildings ever constructed.
Each of the 11 temples was dedicated to a different Greek god, so they had multiple different purposes and rituals. Your choice of the temple to visit would depend on what you needed to ask, pray for, or what miracle you hoped to witness.
I would strongly suggest good audio guides for this. A good guide will give you all of the stories and gossip about each of these prominent temples.
3. See How the Culture Transitioned from the Greeks to Romans
Akragas maintained autonomy until roughly 210 BCE, when the Romans arrived and took over the city handily.
As with all of Roman civilization, they would revolutionize the way things were done and leave their mark on the entire city.
Perhaps the best example of this would be the Temple of Concordia – which the Romans transformed into a Christian church dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul.
You can still admire the Temple of Concordia in all of its splendor, however. It is one of the most well-preserved temples you are ever likely to see.
Bottom Line: The Valley of the Temples brings people in by the masses all year round. These are Greek temples that have stood here for more than 2500 years. Don’t skip out on seeing these – you might kick yourself if you do.
Planning a Trip to Agrigento
You are always better going by car anywhere you want to be in Sicily rather than relying on any branch of public transportation. If you don’t have one, it is possible to grab a train to Agrigento from Trenitalia that can get you there and back in the same day.
For fans of itineraries that get right to the point, you can appreciate some local tours departing from Palermo that bring you to Agrigento in a van, show the temples and explain them, and return you back to your accommodation.
What Should You Eat?
The only thing you should be bringing back with you is a sated appetite, because there are no shortages of excellent foods to try in this city. The specialties of local cuisine here are artichokes, beans, and fish.
8. Try San Vito Lo Capo Village
San Vito Lo Capo has earned its reputation as one of the most popular seaside communities in Sicily.
I could list dozens of reasons why you could stay here for days, I will stick to my three main reasons and you can make your choice from there. Here we go.
1. Take a Dip in Crystal-Clear Water
I would say the primary reason visitors and locals storm the village of San Vito Lo Capo is the popular crystal-clear water and long expanses of white beach.
You could swear it was mineral water with how transparent the sea is here. This classic beach is something you might see on postcards, screen savers, or alluring advertisements.
The convenience of the beach and its amenities is also a draw. There are many restaurants, bars, and private beaches established to make the experience unique for each of its visitors, however they wish to spend their day.
2. Lose Yourself in the Gorgeous Village Center
This village is the type that it can entrance you and leave you a spell.
You can get lost (figuratively) in a tangle of small streets featuring amazing shops, boutiques, craft stores, cafes, and ice cream parlors. You might lose track of time appreciating all this area of the village has to offer.
This place makes you feel like you are on vacation.
You might also appreciate some of the history and heritage of the area with monuments. The most well-known of these is the ancient Sanctuary Fortress constructed roughly 1700 years ago and is still standing to this day.
3. Binging ‘Cous Cous’ and ‘Caldo Freddo’
Here, there are two delicacies that you must try.
The first is called Couscous. This is tiny pasta that is mostly wheat, steamed in an earthenware paused and heavily seasoned with a fish soup broth.
It’s so popular here the town is the site for the international couscous festival that takes place every year. It draws in crowds from all over the world.
Another thing that you need to try is Caldo Freddo (which translates to cold heat in English.)
This is an earthenware bowl with a soft biscuit soaked in rum at the bottom, lots of ice cream added, and then topped with a sweet white cream. The entire concoction is covered with a hearty serving of melted dark chocolate.
you can find directions to the best place to grab either of these dishes in my guide The Sicilian Way.
Bottom Line: San Vito is a heavily visited village in Sicily not just for its clear water and white beaches. There are many delicacies to try, but don’t miss out on the couscous and Caldo freddo. They are worth your time.
Planning a Trip to San Vito Lo Capo
If you didn’t rent a car, I would not rely on public transportation to get you here. There is a local bus company that can take you here from Palermo, but it is pretty unreliable overall. If you’re in Trapani, there are typically a few more reliable and decent options to reach San Vito.
Honestly, I don’t see a reason why anyone would want to pay for an organized tour to visit this village but in case you want to go on a tour, you can check out this one called: Scopello and Tonnara di Scopello. You really just needs to arrive and hang out without expectations or itineraries, so I’m not going to mention any tours available at the moment.
What Should You Eat?
I have already taken the time to mention both Coucous and Caldo Freddo, so I’m not going to dwell much longer on what you need to try. Consider that there are other specialties here that you also might want to grab while you are around. Some of these include Pane Cunzato, pasta Pesto alla trapanese, or sweet and sour tuna.
9. Take a Stroll Through the Ancient Village of Scopello
Scopello is an ancient village near to Palermo that is popular with both travelers and locals. There are three primary things that you would do when visiting this place.
1. Visit a Rural Village Center
Scopello has a very scenic and picturesque environment. When you first arrive, it almost feels like you’ve walked into a living nativity scene.
The entire area has a very rural look compared to nearby Palermo. You immediately get taken back almost 2000 years. Despite its small size, you have enough here to get lost for a few hours walking its charming, narrow streets and lanes.
As you stroll through the town, you want to keep your phone at the ready. There are too many things you want to get a picture of when visiting. The village is very tiny, but it will be a place that stays in your heart for the rest of your life.
2. Eat Way Too Much Pane Cunzato
In Scopello, Sicilians come from all over the island to get some Pane Cunzato.
Maybe I shouldn’t even mention it, because you can’t live life without it once you try it the first time.
It is fresh baked bread stuffed with tomatoes, anchovies, cheese, salt, pepper, and olive oil.
The secret to the success of this dish is not really the ingredients used, but the authenticity of the recipe.
You are talking the freshest ingredients and preparation, as everything is locally sourced by farmers who can hand-make the components according to old traditions. No one here even knows the word factory.
If you are asking me, there is only one place making authentic, historically accurate Pane Cunzato, and you can find where that is in my guide The Sicilian Way.
3. Stop Over to See Riserva Dello Zingaro
People go crazy over the Scopello coastline, and many people visit exclusively for this.
There is one area that really stands apart, though. The Riserva Dello Zingaro – which is a heavenly nature reserve spanning 7 kilometers. It features incredible coves against crystal-clear waters.
You can reach these various beaches through magnificent hiking trails and paths. Swimming in these waters should be something you don’t miss, otherwise you’ll regret it for the rest of your days.
Bottom Line: Scopello might be very small, but it is charming and unique. You will find authentic Sicilian dishes like Pane Cunzato here, but also some of the most magnificent reserves you will ever see in person like the Riserva Dello Zingaro. Don’t miss it.
Planning a Trip to Scopello
I would not recommend relying on public transportation to get you to Scopello. If you have rented a car, this is much more accessible. I don’t know of a bus company taking you here from Palermo. If you are in Trapani, there are likely decent options, however.
Much like other places, I don’t believe that there is a reason to pay for an organized tour to visit such a small village. You need to get there and maneuver the village freely so you can appreciate all that it has to offer.
What Should You Eat?
I cannot stress enough that you should eat Pane Cunzato here. I am not going to keep beating you to death with it. There are many other specialties you might wish to try as well like the Cassatella and Tuna.
10. Get to Madonie Regional Natural Park in Sicily
I will list the top three things that you can do at Madonie Regional Natural Park in just a few moments, but allow me first to pain you a picture of why this park is so special and important.
This is one of the green lungs that we have in Sicily. The park begins at the sea and stretches for more than 160 square kilometers to the higher reaches of the mountains.
If you were to look at a map, you can see that it’s a big green blotch on Sicily. In truth, this is a botanical paradise with more than 15 distinct picturesque villages inside.
Each stands out in its own way, allowing you to have many interesting things to see and do while within the borders of the park. Now let’s take a look at what some of those things are.
1. Plenty of Outdoor Activities and Entertainment
Inside of the park, there is an endless supply of amazing hiking or bridle paths of all difficulty levels.
An excursion inside of the park is like being within a nature documentary, and can wow you every time you turn.
Botanically speaking, there are over 2600 different species of plant life amid wild animals living here. Inside of the reserve you will find wildcats, foxes, hawks, wild boars, frogs, and more. It is a living zoo without confines.
Combined with a natural landscape that is breathtaking in itself, this is a memorable experience for anyone involved.
Beyond going hiking, there are many other outdoor activities that you might want to try as well. Within the reserve, you can go trekking, horseback riding, climbing, mountain biking, or even appreciate skiing slopes in the wintertime.
To put it plainly, there there’s no reason anyone should be bored here.
2. Scope Out Ancient Towns and Villages
Beyond the Woods, you will find upwards of 15 small towns and villages that you can visit. Anyone traveling through the reserve should consider themselves foiled with so many choices. Each has its own distinctive beauty and history.
Many of these towns have remained the same as they looked and felt when they were first founded, including the medieval Petralia Soprana, which is one of my personal favorites. When I’m there, it feels as though I stepped into Camelot and might encounter King Arthur at any moment.
To further up sell this particular village, it was deemed the most beautiful village in Italy in 2018.
I also enjoy Gangi. This place is characterized by its cascade over the mountain of houses, noble palaces, and ancient churches. The views from this town are phenomenal, and you will never forget them.
Each of these villages has its own cultural heritage worth mentioning and learning, so it rivals the allure of big cities all on its own. This includes the many castles, medieval churches, famous paintings, and frescoes from a time long ago. You might call it an authentic blast from the past.
3. Gorge Yourself on Authentic Sicilian Delicacies
Before you set out, slip on your comfy pants with some elasticity and set aside the diet. You are about to have some truly divine dishes.
Each of the villages within the park has its own specialties, but something they might all have in common is locally sourced ingredients and fresh flavor.
It would take ten seasons of a TV show to tell you all of the things that you need to know, so I will not even attempt this.
Allow me to just name a few: Pappardelle pasta and wild boar sauce, Pasta with porcini (penny bun), pasta with wild fennel and fresh ricotta, many artichoke recipes, baked baby goat with potatoes, and so much more.
If you’re a fan of mushrooms, this is one of the places in the world where you can get Caesar’s mushrooms. These are egg shaped mushrooms typically eaten raw with oil and pepper. Magnificent!
Finally, do you know the Italian panettone bread-like cake shaped as a dome? In Madonie Park there is an award-winning version of artisanal Panettone at a pastry shop called ‘Fiasconaro’. I recommend everyone giving it a try.
Bottom Line: Parco delle Madonie offers one of the most immersive and beautiful environments in all of Sicily. It is authentic, with clean air and older traditions. There are so many great foods, especially for meat lovers where you can taste the most unique dishes like black pig and boar.
Planning a Trip to Parco delle Madonie
Apart from the allure of the park itself, there are about 15 different villages. There is no gate telling you that you arrived here, so you just have to travel from place to place to accommodate different hiking trails and attractions you might want to see. Plan ahead with a sound and thoughtful itinerary.
The park is quite large and can be overwhelming with all that you can do and even with the potential for paid tours. I recommend getting a car and touring the space on your own after you research a bit. You can set your own pace and only do the things you really want to.
What Should You Eat?
I brought up several traditional dishes a little bit ago, so I am not going to hit you over the head with the topic again. I would tell you instead my personal recommendations if you have limited time. Try the mushrooms, eat some boar meat in pasta (boar ragù), and try the black pig meat. It’s incredible.
Many things were discussed in this guide, and while I won’t dwell on places I already mentioned, I would like to stress a few things a second time:
- There are many things to see and do around Palermo, as it is one of the largest cultural heritage sites in Europe.
- You have to have a well-planned itinerary to cover everything you want to do
- Nearly all attractions lack adequate explanation for tourists. Get audio or human guides to help you understand and appreciate it.
You should take a moment to appreciate all the monuments and attractions available within Palermo – because there is a lot to see and do within the city limits as well.
You can save yourself time and energy by securing your place with organized tours. I put together a nice list of organized tours without the BS. Most of these leave from Palermo and offer you unique, one-of-a-kind experiences.
I would also urge you to take a look at our tourist page. You will be sure to thank God after you read it because it is loaded with helpful details and tips for the traveler before their trip.
That’s all I have for you at the time. For more questions, concerns, or doubts, make sure to use a comment box underneath this guide and I can get back with you as soon as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
PS – Do not forget to get the Free Itinerary – Palermo in One Day I mentioned earlier. You will get 5 videos with exclusive tips on Palermo too – check it out now!