Shopping in Palermo

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.

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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.

Via Roma

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…

If you want this, ask for "Gelato con brioscia"
If you want this, ask for “Gelato con brioscia”

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…

Street markets

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.

Yeah, right!

No it isn’t.

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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.

D&G still being gorgeously Sicilian for Spring 2016
D&G still being gorgeously Sicilian for Spring 2016

Via Volturno

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.

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Via Squarcialupo

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:

Trip Tipp

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15 thoughts on “Shopping in Palermo

  1. When I visited Palermo 2 years ago, we stayed in a little hotel on Via Principe di Belmonte. I loved the area and we had gelato and coffee at the Antico Cafe Spinnato several times. Mmmm, pistachio gelato! I missed the Dolce & Gabbana store though–I want to be sure and find it next time! If only to window-shop. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good advice.
    We stayed near Via Della Liberta and had bought a coat for my wife on sale very shortly after we hit the street.
    The views from La Rinascente are truly excellent.

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  3. Hello, I have been reading your website for several days.I am not even sure how I came across this, but I am loving it! We ( my parents and extended family) are traveling to Sicily in Sept. We are staying at a cute place in Sferracavallo. I would like to avoid driving or the bus entirely when visiting Palermo or other sites. Would you recommend a private car service?
    Also, is your new book on audible? or audiobooks?
    Thank you, Michelle

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    1. Hello! I am afraid it is only available in paperback and kindle.
      As far as private cars in Palermo go, I am not sure what to recommend. I have never used one and there are few available… Demand is low because it works out very expensive. If you choose a good base to rent that is near a well connected railway station, the trains in Sicily are great (despite all the moaning Sicilians do about them!)
      If you go to trip-tipp.com there is a whole section there about public transport in Sicily to and from the sites.

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  4. loving your blog! i’m currently visiting palermo to do a short italian language course. just wondering if you can share the name of the cake shop mentioned above? the one that is dangerous to get to.

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    1. I have tried to find it on Google earth but I cannot get to the right angle! But if you follow my directions you can’t miss it. It is the corner building, so if you go up Via Roma past the very first shop, you know you have gone too far!

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    2. I have tried to find it on Google earth but I cannot get the resolution needed to see the name! I don’t remember a name on the building being at all noticeable. But if you follow my directions you can’t miss it. It is the corner building, where a curved crescent joins Via Roma which is dead straight, so if you go up Via Roma past the very first shop, you know you have gone too far!

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  5. I’m loving your blog and just ordered two of your books. I will be visiting soon and I LOVE textiles- yardage to sew clothes, historic or folk textiles, etc. The Dolce and Gabbana shows always leave me drooling. Do you know of any sources for new or used textiles? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are quite a few shops for fabrics in Palermo but they are mostly scattered around secret little side streets, and in Italy people usually buy from a shop where the seamstress or taylor provides both the material and pattern and makes up the garment for them.
      My own favourite source of material for home sewing is the Bagheria street market, which is held every Wednesday morning. Bagheria is on the train line from Palermo Centrale to Termini Imerese, it is 12 minutes (the first stop). You just come out of the station, turn right to cross the road at the level crossing and keep going till you see the market on your left. It sells all kinds of things but the fabric stalls are scattered throughout.
      You sometime find people selling vintage hand embroidered tablecloths etc, either in perfect condition or damaged which you can repurpose into wonderful things. There’s also an amazing choice of curtain and bedspread type material. Haggle hard as they start high with foreigners!

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