The Vucciria Market in Palermo

I was bewildered recently to find an article online, published by Italy Magazine, purporting to be about the Vucciria Market in Palermo. It described the Vucciria as a flourishing food market full of exciting fruits, vegetables and meat and fish. It said visiting the Vucciria is one of the most exciting things to do in Palermo. It had photos and everything.

NOT the Vucciria
NOT the Vucciria

The problem is, it was not describing the Vucciria and not one of the photos was of the Vucciria!!! I am not certain where the photos were taken.

My money would be on Il Capo or the Ballarò, the two food markets in Palermo which are indeed still packed with exotic produce and people knee-deep in fish heads and squashed vegetables. I presume some people stumble upon another market and simply assume it’s the famous Vucciria. For someone on holiday this is a relatively unimportant mistake; for someone who earns money writing an article about things to do on holidays in Sicily, it’s unforgivable!

The Vucciria, founded over 1,000 years ago by the invaders from north Africa, is legendary because it has entered into the Italian Language in Sicily. Sicilians say “It was a Vucciria” when we would probably say “It was a madhouse” or “It was chaos”. They also say “Oh yeah, when the cobblestones of the Vucciria dry up” when we would say “Yes, when pigs fly” to imply something will NEVER happen. The Vucciria was a market that ran day and night, and the road was full of squishy gubbins and buckets of water thrown down by stallholders to clean it up a bit.

The Vucciria is just a little tourist market these days. The people of Palermo are still a bit sad that the Vucciria is no longer the crazy, noisy food market it once was.

Their spirit lives on in the other markets, though. You can’t stop a Sicilian being Sicilian! And the new, “tourist” Vucciria that now exists in its place is still fun to visit.

Have a look at the photo gallery below.






The entrance starts from Piazza San Domenico in central Palermo. When you enter the Vucciria, you will see the sign above your head.



Go on Mum, try on a hat! The first stall sells classic Sicilian coppolas as well as other types of hat.



I would be happy to take home everything from this stall of antique tableware!



Next comes bric a brac…. Bing bong! Do I see a picture of Big Ben on that blue and white plate?



There are second-hand books and antique prints, some of Palermo, some of other parts of Italy.



The market runs south along a tiny road parallel to Via Roma and finishes in Piazza Caracciolo. I noticed the cobblestones were all dry.



There’s a shop selling handy household items for locals. We do love our plastic plates here in Sicily.



And some art as well. Ooh look at that bottom. It reminds me of the Titanic movie.



You can stock up on saucepans, frying pans and dustpans in this shop. I wonder if they have bedpans too?



And this is the shop for you if you’re running low on ham, or fresh out of cheese or sausage.



I could have used my trick photography skills to make this look like a major spice market but, unlike the journalists who write for some Italian themed publications, I prefer to be DANGEROUSLY TRUTHFUL.

I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s a great stall with spices, herbs and ready mixes of dried garlic and chilli peppers for you to fry in olive oil and dress your spaghetti very simply, the way poor people in Sicily have done centuries.

But it’s still just one stall. In Il Capo market a short walk away, there are at least 20 of them.



We’ve reached the end of the market now – that’s Piazza Caracciolo. I haven’t been picking out the highlights, by the way. I systematically documented every inch.



Need any scrap metal?



In Piazza Caracciolo there’s a stall run by East Europeans who sell real amber, Russian nesting dolls and various antiques which change all the time. Sorry I didn’t photograph that – my friends and I cleaned them out! They’re probably on their way to Russia now, to get more stuff.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of the Vucciria. This post is not meant to tell you it’s uninteresting for tourists. I enjoyed it very much. It’s just NOT the bustling, vegetable-filled madhouse of Sicilians waving their hands and flinging food about that your guidebook has been telling you to expect.


If you cross over Via Roma at the START end of the Vucciria you will spot stalls of clothing and CDs. Go exploring down that road and you will find an amazing market selling everything from handbags, lace tablecloths and clothes to African wooden carvings and fancy light fittings. It is great fun and bargain-tastic.

It eventually merges with Il Capo, a crazy massive food market that not only sells fish, meat and types of fruit and veg you have never seen before in your life, but also spices and herbs, Sicilian chocolate from Modica, jars of fancy pasta sauces and other wonders for the palate. You need to go in the morning, as Il Capo is all over and packed up by 12.30. The stall holders are very friendly and, if you can speak a bare minimum of Italian, they will tell you about the foods and let you taste samples.






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30 Comments Add yours

  1. Anna says:

    So random and a little rough around the edges, huh… I do enjoy that porcelain though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I keep seeing things on that stall which would match my china at home…. or look good on the kitchen dresser….. so tempting!
      We went mad at the hat stall too – my son looks so adorable in his coppola!


  2. Ishita says:

    Those second hand bookshops are luring me. I am appalled that Italy Magazine could publish such a thing!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. And it’s not the first time either!!
      I was gobsmacked by another Italy Magazine article recently about “Sicilian ceramics” with a whole section about the mosaics of Monreale.
      Seriously? SERIOUSLY? They think those mosaics are made of ceramics? They are all gemstones and 2,000 kilogrammes of solid gold!!!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ishita says:

        OMG! That is so shocking. I will check this articles.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Here’s the “ceramics” article. It really is astonishingly embarrassing, for the editor as well as the writer.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Anne Marie says:

    I was there a couple of years ago and bought some deodorant in the shop you featured in your photo. I then had an excellent lunch nearby at Antica Focacceria del Massimo. Can’t forget to mention yummy food!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, super yummy food!
      That eatery by Piazza San Domenico has become a major nighlife hotspot in Palemo lately…


  4. Mary Vella says:

    I was saddened to hear that La Vucciria is on the decline. The first time I went there my sister in law practically had a heart attack. I started to wonder away from them looking for little chianti bottles to bring back as souvenirs for my fellow co workers. I did find them but I really got a scolding because La Vucciria has a lot of “mali carni” bad meat “scary people”. I had no fear at all. I loved shopping there. We also did the Capo and actually that had better food selections but La Vucciria had better “junk” selections. Absolutely love Palermo. Thank you for letting me revisit it if only in pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When you get to the far end of the Vucciria it really does look like Damascus after heavy bombing, but I’ve never actually heard people saying it’s a dangerous area. I guess it’s all relative, isn’t it? My husband would never park the car around there and leave it, but he feels fine walking around there and has never warned me against going there.


  5. David says:

    Wonderful article, thanks you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. steve says:

    the vucciria is discussed at length in a great book about sicily, Midnight in Sicily by Peter Robb.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I’ve read that book, it’s as much fiction as fact. He spent a lot of time in Naples and about ten minutes in Sicily, and just extrapolates what he knows of Naples to the Sicilians.
      He describes the Vucciria as it isn’t, and claims Sicilian men take no interest in their children or in cooking, for example. It’s poppycock!
      I am so frustrated that stuff like that gets published when I know so many good writers who live in Sicily who could describe what the place is really like. Including myself!!! 😛
      It seems publishers only want to promulgate the old clichés and ignore people who tell a different story.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Yes! So many writer have their own agendas and make everything fit around them rather than trying to discover real things. I recognised this market from a day trip from a boat around 5 years ago now. We were able to buy some useful bits like bottle openers and there was a cafe nearby where we had coffee. Love all your real pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder if the writers have dictatorial editors who demand something based on false information and they dare not say “actually you’ve got it all wrong….”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe! When I lived on the Costa del Sol, lots of British film-makers would arrive with their set storyboards even though they had never been their before – they wanted their own stereotyped view and had their own agenda – some of it was ridiculously incorrect. So perhaps they have to have a plan before it is agreed. Or perhaps some just sit in their office all day and glean travel stuff from the internet.


  8. browney237 says:

    We were there about 5 years ago and it looks just the same in your photos.
    It was not what we expected (based upon the guide book) but that seemed so often the case in Sicily – Sometimes great and sometimes not so…
    That said its only about 8 weeks until we are back there again and I’m so looking forward to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel so sorry for all the tourists who believe their guide books, which contain quite a lot of mythoplogy, and miss out on the really good stuff tucked away around the corner.
      That’s why I am working on the tourism section of my blog, so people can find out the reality!
      Many of the really interesting things I’ve seen and done in Sicily are not in any of the guide books.


      1. browney237 says:

        I’ll keep an eye out for your recommendations as we prepare for our visit.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. egesta says:

    Well, I was equally surprised by the way the Vucciria market was presented in Sicily Unpacked, 3 British TV films with chef Locatelli and art-historian Graham-Dixon. Locatelli, who must know his Sicily since he has a house in the Trapani area, enthusiastically talked about the Vucciria as thriving, implying, as I recall, that it was the most important market in Palermo. OK. The Shanghai trattoria was still open then, and it was generally in a better state than it is now, but it was already dying – and the Ballaro was far more interesting and fun. I was a TV documentary filmmaker, and it is ALWAYS about what will make the better story … sorry guys!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The silly thing, in my opinion, is that the Capo and the Ballarò are just as old as the Vucciria. So they coudl equally well make a big deal abotu them!


  10. I quite fancy that three-wheeler, full of ham and cheese. You’ve got to love journalists for their tendency to exaggerate the truth in the belief that nobody will contradict them.. I remember watching a French “nature specialist” on TV as he harped on about an ultra dangerous trek in Tahiti he was undertaking with the hope of local guides and a helicopter team, who kindly dropped him off and picked him up at a location he described as highly dangerous. He was kitted out in a protection helmet, mountaineering gear and crampon boots for a walk PF and I did in a pair of flip-flops. Either we are super-fit heroes, or he was telling fibs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha!
      Reminds me of a journalist, from The Guardian I think it was, overwhelmed by his own intrepidity when he visited Palermo, faced the Mafia and came back alive… except he faced them in a no-go danger area of no-man’s-land in downtown Palermo where I go and do my Christmas shopping and used to take my son in his push chair to buy cheap baby clothes.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Theresa Heath says:

    Sorry if I’m repeating what others have said, but I took the exact same photo as the top one (captioned: ‘Not the Vucciria) and it IS in the Vucciria – it’s at the bottom of the street with the plastic plates at the top. It’s the only food stall I found there, though, but it’s definitely the same one. I can upload photo as proof if necessary!


    1. VH says:

      Did you definitely walk under the sign that said Vucciria shown in my first photo? The only way into the market is under that, so you would have to remember that…


  12. Pete Cammarata says:

    Hello, My last name is Cammarata and I live in CA . My great grandfather came from some little town in Sicily where he was a blacksmith. I would like to visit
    Sicily some day.



    1. VH says:

      Ciao! I really hope you get to visit the beautiful isle soon!!


  13. Paul says:


    Irishman and former Palermo resident here! The photo you stated that’s not Vucciria is in fact Vucciria if you look at the building top right? I agree though that it’s way overstated in all the guide books and definitely not for your average tourist and especially at night time near the taverna!

    I used to live near Capo and it’s worlds apart with lots of friendly folk and that amazing church half way up.

    Hope to pay a visit next year!



    1. VH says:

      I am going to have to look at the photo on my phone next time I am there to check properly!!


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