Palermo is a fun place to go shopping, and you can find some real bargains if you know where to go. If you don’t, you can find a truly amazing amount of tiny weeny Chinese clothing, that you would not have fitted into by the time you were 12.
Never fear! Follow my advice, and you will go home from your holidays as a happy shopper with two suitcases, not one.
Via Roma – NO! Don’t bother with it!
The guide books all send you to Via Roma, but that is old hat nowadays and a lot of the shops have closed down. You need to go there, though, as many of the good shopping streets lead from it.
There is one brilliant thing to do in it, though. In fact I would class it as one of the “don’t miss” things to do in Palermo. There is a café on the very corner, which has the best cakes I have ever seen and truly fabulous coffee.
They are the kind of cakes that leave you with a large dollop of chocolate and cream on your nose and you don’t even care. They are the kind of cakes that make it worth staining your favourite tie with nutella. You can only get them at a price, though, and I am not talking about money…
Via Roma is dead ahead of you when you come out of Palermo Central Railway Station main exit. From here, you are can only escape by playing chicken as you dash through the middle of The World’s Fastest-Moving Taxi rank, The World’s Craziest Coach Station, and then Italy’s Most Dangerous Roundabout which is adorned with Italy’s Longest Zebra Crossing. Honestly, it is 40 feet long and actually divides into two separate black and white stripy ends forming a giant Y-shape. Whoever designed this place scored Null Points for road planning, as they entirely forgot the bit about humans needing to get in and out of railway stations.
You have to go through this ordeal if you want to get out of the station and into the city.
I advise you to do as the locals do, and buy a string of rosary beads to twirl while running, all the time praying loudly to the Madonna for protection and guidance.
Then you can have a coffee and cake in the lovely café on the right, to set you up for a long stomp up Via Roma towards better places and safer things to do…
You will find the Vucciria Street Market scarcely exists any more either. This leads off the upper end of Via Roma, and the guide books to Palermo still claim that is a vibrant street market.
No it isn’t.
If you want to see Sicilians flinging vegetable peelings and fish guts all over the place whilst shouting their heads off and shovelling edible free samples into your mouth, go to Il Capo or Il Ballarò instead. Wear very high platform sandals to keep your feet well above the slurry of squishy fruit on the cobblestones.
This is my detailed post about it:
The Vucciria Market in Palermo
La Rinascente department store – good if you’re not scared of perfume and like panoramic views
La Rinascente is also in Via Roma, at one corner of Piazza San Domenico, alongside the church of the same name and opposite the few touristy stalls left of the once thriving Vucciria market. It has five floors of designer clothes and handbags, one of those perfume departments SpongeBob and I are terrified of, and along with some extremely chic kitchen gadgets which you can only find in Italy.
The rooftop of La Rinascente has a café called Obikà which gives you stunning panoramic views of Palermo. Their food is less stunning so I recommend just having a coffee and shooting off about 2 gigabytes of photos.
Viale Strasburgo – posh
This is probably Palermo’s swankiest shopping street. It features, amongst others, the official boutiques of Max Mara (at no. 156) and Marina Rinaldi (no. 133), whose clothes are particularly flattering for fat birds like me. It is a broad road with very fast-moving traffic, so don’t go there if you have flaky runaway kids.
Via Principe di Belmonte
This small, pedestrianised shopping street has boutiques of designer clothes and accessories, and a large selection of restaurants and cafés which are nowhere near as expensive as they look. It is my favourite place to go when I want to feel posh and sit at a pavement café pretending to be Holly Golightly (a fat Holly Golightly).
Via Ruggero Settimo
Via Ruggero Settimo, continuing north from Via Maqueda, is a large and busy shopping street with clothing and other shops. It is popular among Palermo’s younger, trendy population.
Via Della Libertà
This road continues northwards from Via Ruggero Settimo and is home to some seriously mouth-watering apparel boutiques, including the Dolce and Gabbana official shop.
Starting in front of the Teatro Massimo, Via Volturno is great for beautiful leather bags hand-stitched in Sicily, shoes and other leather goods.
The Quattro Canti
All four roads leading away from the Quattro Canti, especially Via Maqueda, are fantastic for bargain jewellery including genuine pearl necklaces for as little as eight Euros. Walking south down Via Maqueda will take you to various shops selling ethnic clothing. This is also the place to go for traditional Sicilian ceramics. Scope out lots of shops before buying, so you can do a price comparison. They ask for whatever price they think you will pay, so feel free to haggle as if it is a market, and walk away if you think they are being greedy.
For high class gold and silver jewellery and designer watches, go to Via Squarcialupo, which runs from Piazza San Domenico northwards to Via Cavour. This little street is fun for window shopping even if you are not buying.
Via Bandiera street market
Starting opposite Piazza San Domenico, in Via Bandiera (leading from Via Roma) is a major street market selling clothes, bags, shoes, jewellery, ethnic handicrafts and other fun items all at bargain prices. The shops in this road are also fun and cheap, yet many sell good quality items. The market crosses Via Maqueda and continues in Via Sant’Agostino almost all the way to the Teatro Massimo. Be ready to haggle, and be sure to go in the morning if you want to get the best choice of items.
For serious and more detailed advice on shopping in Sicily and many other tourist info pages, I strongly recommend you click on this link: