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The Best Lesser-Known Attractions In Palermo

Palermo Castle

Palermo is one of the Mediterranean’s top destinations, offering visitors the perfect combination of stunning coastal views, long stretches of beautiful beaches, a fascinating cultural heritage and delicious regional cuisine that you won’t find anywhere else. And while the city’s most famous landmarks, such as the Palermo Cathedral, usually grab the headlines, there’s a whole host of hidden gems that you really can’t afford to miss out on seeing. To help you plan a truly unique vacation to Palermo, I have compiled a comprehensive list of the city’s most interesting off-the-beaten-track attractions for you to discover.

Museo Delle Maioliche.

The enchanting Museo Delle Maioliche, located in a private apartment in the Palazzo Torre Pirajno, is home to an amazing treasure trove of priceless majolica tiles. Named after the glorious Baroque fountain outside, the museum exhibits a collection of more than 5,000 Campanian and Sicilian terracotta tiles that date from the Neoclassical period to the glamorous Art Nouveau period. The majolica tiles are made with terracotta and hand-glazed with intricate patterns and designs. These lovely majolica tiles were originally used to decorate the homes of the aristocracy in Palermo, as well as many of the public buildings and the porticos of churches.

As you wander through the collection you’ll be able to enjoy a delightful overview of the way that the artistic vision of the region developed between the 14th and early 20th Century. The museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday between 4 pm and 6.30 pm, and on Sunday between 10 am and 12 noon. If you’d like to join a guided tour of the collections then you can reserve your place on the private museum tour that takes place each week on Monday.

BioPark Of Sicily.

If you’re looking for an unusual day trip from Palermo then why not visit the BioPark of Sicily to see the monkeys, exotic birds and large mammals? With more than 60 species of monkeys living on the reserve, as well as numerous birds, American bison, lemurs, hippopotamus and more, the BioPark is a lovely place to spend a leisurely day amongst nature’s delights.

Perfect for a family day trip, the BioPark has a Dinosaur walk, with life-size models of dinosaurs scattered amongst the forests as well as a reptile house with snakes, iguanas and super cute turtles. Just an hour’s drive from Palermo city center, there are also lots of parks and quiet gardens where you can have a picnic in the shade and even a self-service bar where you can grab some cool refreshments.

Oratorio Di San Lorenzo.

The interior of the Oratorio di San Lorenzo commemorates the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence in a series of heavenly sculptures that are an absolute marvel to behold. Saint Lawrence was one of the 7 deacons of Rome, under Pope Sixtus II, who was martyred on the orders of the Roman Emperor Valerian in 258 AD during the cruel persecution of the Christians.

Designed by Giacomo Amato and constructed between 1699 and 1707, the stunning sculptures are one of Palermo’s finest artistic masterpieces. Giacomo Amato’s work on the Oratorio di San Lorenzo put him in the spotlight and earned him the reputation as the best stucco artist of the era, gaining him many other commissions to embellish and decorate churches all over Sicily. The Oratorio di San Lorenzo is open daily between 10 am and 6 pm.

Camera Delle Meraviglie.

The Camera delle Meraviglie, or the ‘Chamber of Wonders’, was discovered by accident by a couple in 2013 who were renovating their home in Via Porta di Castro, near the Ballaro market in central Palermo. As they were removing the paint from the apartment walls, they uncovered a layer of old plaster that was covered with mysterious golden inscriptions written in the Arabic language.

Carefully, they continued to remove the paint until they had revealed an entire room that was covered in elegant Arabic script and esoteric religious symbols.

Eventually, the couple, Giuseppe Cadil and Valeria Giarusso contacted two professors from the Institute of Oriental and Asian Languages at the University of Bonn, who managed to decipher the mysterious phrases, which included ‘Praise God, nothing is similar to Him’. Realizing the importance of their discovery, the couple opened the room to the public to show visitors another facet of Palermo’s amazing heritage and its ancient Arabic influences.

The Chamber of Wonders is situated on Via Porta di Castro 239, and guided tours are available by reservation only. To book your private tour you can call +39 338 3483372.

Palazzo Cinese.

This remarkable palace was built by King Ferdinand III of Bourbon in 1799 and served as his main family residence in the city. Designed by the architect Vananzio Marvugia, the Palazzo Cinese is a truly unique attraction that is too often overlooked by visitors to the city. The unusual combination of traditional European neoclassical features and Chinese architectural styles, the Palazzo Cinese sits on the outskirts of La Favorita Park and is one of the best examples of the hugely fashionable ‘Chinoiserie’ trend of the times.

Decorated with exquisite antique furniture, sculptures, textiles, ceramics, elegant floral motifs, pagodas, bamboo plants and Oriental costumes, the palace is one of Sicily’s most eclectic attractions. It’s free to visit the Palazzo Cinese and it’s open on Tuesday and Wednesday between 9 am and 2 pm, Thursday to Saturday from 9 am to 7 pm, and on Sunday from 9 am to 1 pm. Before you visit, you need to contact the palace to confirm your visit by emailing sopripa@regione.sicilia.it.

Foro Italico.

Palermo is surrounded by lovely sea views and coastal walkways, but if you’re looking for an out-of-the-way place to spend a few hours sunbathing, splashing in the waters or having a picnic, then Foro Italico is just what you need. A favorite spot for local Palermerians, the seafront park is ideal for families with children, couples seeking some quality time together and the solo traveler who’s exploring the coastline.

It’s free to relax in Foro Italico in the Kalsa district of Palermo and there are also footpaths and lots of nearby shops, restaurants and cafes in the area. The oceanfront public park runs from Villa Giulia to the Felice Gate and there are lots of trees to sit under in the sun while enjoying the cool sea breeze. In the evening, you can sit on one of the brightly colored ceramic benches to watch the sun set over the ocean as you reminisce on your time so far in the city.

Santuario Di Santa Rosalia.

The Santuario di Santa Rosalia was built in the early 17th Century and boasts some of the finest views of the city below. Nestled against huge stone cliffs, the sanctuary is a popular pilgrimage site that is dedicated to Santa Rosalia, who is one of the official patron saints of Sicily. Santa Rosalina is said to have been found dead in the caves behind the sanctuary in the 12th Century and because the plague on the island disappeared just after she was found, her bones were paraded through the city and she was named a patron saint of the island.

Located on Via Pietro Bonanno, you can walk up to the sanctuary from the north side of Palermo to see the striking church that is partially carved into the caves behind it. Several hiking routes will take you to the top of Monte Pellegrino, although if you’d prefer you can catch a city bus up the hill and then enjoy a casual walk back down after you’ve had a look around the church.

Museum Of Geology And Paleontology.

With an astounding collection of almost 700,000 fossils, the University of Palermo’s Museum of Geology and Paleontology exhibits fossils and bones that cover more than 270 million years of history! Amongst the rare collections, you can marvel at the bones of our early human ancestors as well as long-extinct creatures, including the super cute dwarf elephants that once lived on the island of Sicily. Some of the other crowd-pleasing highlights in the museum are the huge teeth and jaws of a prehistoric shark, a 6 million-year-old drop of water that is preserved in a chalk crystal, fossils of ancient sea creatures and even the oldest skeleton in Sicily.

The museum is a great place to visit with children but it’s also a fascinating day trip for anyone interested in learning more about ancient history and the distant past of Sicily. Founded in 2017, the museum is located in the Botanical Gardens of Palermo, so you can also wander around the grounds and have a picnic after you’ve had a look around the exhibits.

La Favorita.

For a fun evening of bowling, tasty food and some light-hearted competition, Bowling La Favorita has 20 bowling lanes and several on-site restaurants. Suitable for complete newbies as well as seasoned bowling enthusiasts, Bowling La Favorita also has an on-site mini-casino, a billiards room, slot machines, video games and even a state-of-the-art airsoft shooting range.

Perfect for an action-packed trip for families, groups of tourists visiting Palermo and anyone who wants to have a great time at the bowling alley, Bowling La Favorita is a hit with visitors to the city.

Tandem Paragliding Flight Over Palermo.

Take off for the adventure of a lifetime on a tandem paragliding tour of the skies over Palermo and the surrounding countryside. Starting from the slopes outside either Monreale or Celafu, you’ll fly over the Zingaro Nature Reserve and miles of the Sicilian countryside and northern coastline. As you glide through the air, you’ll be able to appreciate the spectacular landscapes and rugged coastlines, the rolling hills, historic landmarks, hidden ocean coves, and the quaint towns and villages below.

And don’t worry if you’ve never been paragliding before because you’ll be taken up on the flight by a highly experienced pilot who will handle everything for you. So all you need to do is to sit back, relax and absorb the magnificent aerial views of Palermo and the countryside around it. Just remember, that flights are dependent on the weather conditions although generally speaking the weather in Palermo is ideally suited to paragliding, so flights rarely have to be canceled.

Palermo’s Lesser Known Attractions.

While it’s definitely advisable to see Palermo’s most famous attractions, you should also make time in your schedule to see some of the off-the-beaten sites as well. From visiting the animals at the BioPark to seeing the Palazzo Cinese, from taking a dive into the hidden history of the city at the Camera Delle Meraviglie and relaxing by the coast in the Foro Italico, there are lots of things you can do to make your vacation in the city unique.

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