Palermo has been named Italian Capital of Culture for 2018. One of the most beautiful cities in Italy—with an enviable historical and cultural legacy—was among the finalists on a 10-city shortlist: Alghero, Aquileia, Comacchio, Herculaneum, Montebelluna, Recanati, Settimo Torinese, Trento and a joint Elima-Erice bid that included Buseto Palizzolo, Custonaci, Erice, Paceco, San Vito Lo Capo and Valderice.
The award, bestowed to promote tourism in the chosen city, was launched two years ago. Mantua won in 2016, and this year’s champion is Pistoia. Palermo is already at work organizing Manifesta 12, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art for 2018. Currently under development is also an Arab-Norman “route” recently granted UNESCO Heritage status, that will connect Palermo with Cefalù and Monreale.
During the course of its millennial history, Palermo was one of the most important cities in Europe. What made it impressive in its golden age survives today, shaping Sicily’s capital into a fascinating place to explore. Palermo’s past greatly influenced its architecture, culture and customs, but nowhere is it more evident than in its cuisine. Each invading rule introduced new ingredients, broadened agricultural methods and shared cooking styles, so what we find on palermitano tables today is essentially the result of thousands of years of cultural food blending.
The best way to discover its secret alleys and grandiose palaces is with a food angle, strolling around Palermo in the company of a local food expert in search of its most representative snacks, like fried arancine(rice balls), pastries like cannoli and cassata; and perusing old and new markets, like Mercato del Capo, Ballarò and the newly inaugurated Sanlorenzo Mercato.
If you’re interested in exploring the culinary and artistic culture of the city, check out our Palermo listings on the Sicily page for inspiration.
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.