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The Phoenicians founded Palermo as a trade port in 700 BC, and a long string of rulers followed. Carthage was the first to conquer it, followed by the Romans, who named it Panhormus. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Vandals took over, followed by Arabian rulers who turned Sicily in to an emirate. Palermo transformed in to a magical city with mosques, minarets and markets. It is said that its beauty measured up well with Cordoba and Cairo. During the crusades, the city’s wealth was discovered by the Normans who conquered the city, but continued building on the Arabian legacy of tolerance and enlightenment. That era is known as "the Golden Years". Today tourists are discovering a city with an exciting mix of medieval areas where washing is still hung on lines between buildings to elegant residential districts with palm trees and palatial villas. A city with stunning historical sights, just waiting to get explored and many which are located in the city centre, making it easy to reach. Palermo, with its culture, history, food and energetic atmosphere has become a popular destination and even if you would spend months here, you still would not experience all of her charms.
Thanks to its rich and varied history, Palermo and its surrounding areas are full of architectural treasures, everything from historical and ancient museums to Medieval castles and churches, just waiting to get discovered. Many of the sights are ideally situated pretty central and in the heart of the city you will find treasures like Palazzo dei Normanni, as well as the beautiful Santa Caterina Church and the spectacular Piazza Pretoria. For a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, the beautiful volcanic island Ustica is a safe bet and will not disappoint you.
Sicilian cuisine is rustic but exciting mainly thanks to the influence of the many rulers the island has had over the years. The Arabians introduced couscous and raisins, the Spanish brought hearth sausages and fried dishes. Eating at small neighbourhood trattorias is recommended, as is visiting the market in La Vucciria where a freshly cooked chickpea rissole can be enjoyed.
The people in Palermo are almost as particular about their coffee as the Romans, and they don’t mind travelling to get it. They know exactly which place serves the best granita al caffè—frozen ice with coffee and whipped cream. Or the best cup of gran caffè (a cappuccino without milk). And don´t forget to pick a yummy dessert to complement your coffee, try the very traditional and famous desserts Cassata (a sponge cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur and layered with ricotta cheese and chocolate chips) or the Sicilian cannoli stuffed with ricotta cheese and pistachio.
The nightlife in Palermo follows the same pattern as in other Mediterranean cities: much of the gathering happens before dinner, and when the meal is over—sometimes not until midnight—it’s time to head back to the bars. The nightclubs don’t fill up until late in the night, and thanks to the student population, Palermo has a vibrant nightlife. As always, the trendiest nightclubs of the moment can be found by asking the locals.
Shopping in Palermo is a true delight, a city where you will find a little bit of everything, from boutiques of high fashion to colourful markets selling fresh fruits, vegetables, fish as well as clothes and crafts. It is at the street markets you will find some great bargains and where to experience some unique Palermo shopping. The largest market is La Vucciria, where you will find great items to bring back home and when you are looking for famous Italian fashion brands, such as Armani and Versace, head over to the smart Via Libertà, a street lined with both Italian and European high fashion labels. When seeking for a place to cool down then the malls in Palermo is a great option, one of the largest is the Forum Palermo, housing 120 shops, restaurants, cafés and a cinema, making it a great place to spend a whole day of shopping. When in Palermo, bring a typical souvenir back home that can remind you of your trip, painted pottery, coral jewellery and copperware are some of the special items you can get. On the streets and alleyways of La Kalsa you will find craftsmen who are creating beautiful handicraft by using centuries-old traditions.
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