Walking through the historic center, the capital of Sicily gives you the chance to taste the never-ending magics of three sites where you’ll really feel a local: Palermo Markets.
Easy to reach from some of the main streets of the city (Via Maqueda, Via Volturno, Via Vittorio Emanuele), Palermo Markets are perfect to visit in the morning; whether it’s sunny or rainy, you’ll find the putiari (stalls-owners) there to offer the best of the countryside, typical cheeses and extraordinary street food, often attracting the potential customers with the abbanniata, a sort of song they sing in an almost unintelligible dialect (born and raised here, still don’t get them, but they’re so good at it that I’m moved to their stall as if they were magnets!).
Ballarò: the main market of Palermo
From via Maqueda you can reach Ballarò, the most ancient and active among the Palermo Markets. Starting very early in the morning, you can find really everything here: fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, dessert, typical cheeses you can usually taste before buying, flee market stalls, and – of course – any kind of street food produced in the city.
Today Ballarò is a multiethnic neighborhood, where 24 languages are spoken and the smells of different spices and cuisines mix together to create an unforgettable, unique small world within the world.
Other Palermo Markets
Crossing Porta Carini, you discover another little jewel of the city: il Capo. This market, once far bigger than now, is famous for the just-baked bread coming from little villages near Palermo (e.g., Monreale, Piana degli Albanesi) and for the beautiful churches and buildings you can meet walking through it (once among others, the Curch of Sant’Agostino). Locals prefer to go to the Capo among the Palermo Markets for the convenience of its shops that sell curtains, bed sheets, blankets and any kind of items to decorate the house.
Last but not least, the area of the Vucciria deserves a visit, even if today the market is not lively as it was in the past. Its name comes from the French boucherie, meaning butchery.
Indeed, among Palermo markets, this one was mainly dedicated to the meat. Actually, one could find everything here: monkeys dancing, people selling everything existing in the world, the élite of Palermo going to the Restaurant Shangai (now closed) and famous painters and singers taking inspiration by the people of the neighborhood.
The glorious past of the Vucciria can be seen in the symbolic painting by Renato Guttuso, one of the best-known artists of the city. Moreover, a popular saying about the balate (typical flooring slabs you find in the area) still exists, as a reminder of the grandeur of the market: when you think that something will never happen, you say “quannu s’asciucano i balate raa Vucciria”; meaning, “when the balate of the Vucciria will get dry”.
In fact, the market was once so active that the stall-owners kept throwing water to the fish and vegetables, making the streets of the Vucciria always wet – and slippery. Today, you can find street art, street food stalls and many typical restaurants in the area, every day except from Sunday. At night, it becomes a very popular nightlife location, loved by the local youth.