Palermo is best known for the wonderful sunny days tourists almost always find there. Still, it’s not unusual to have as much as a whole week of rain in Palermo during the winter or spring. What can you do in Palermo when it rains?
If the rain’s not too heavy, a walk through the alleys and streets of the historic centre is a must. Walking along Via Maqueda, you can go from the Teatro Massimo to Piazza Quattro Canti. Eventually, you’ll meet up with Piazza Pretoria and Piazza Bellini. You can get lost inside the Vucciria Market or explore the narrow streets around Piazza Marina and Via Alloro. With wet cobblestones and streets, Palermo holds a unique kind of charm.
Normally a rainy day offers time to relax, sip a hot drink and enjoy some home-made sweets. When I feel like doing this, I go with a friend to the Cioccolateria Lorenzo at 7 Via IV Aprile. There we relax and have tea (regular or herbal) and cake. Something you must try there is the cheesecake (which is every bit as good as the American version!).
Of course, you might want to eat something more substantial. For a while now, there’s been a hamburger craze in this part of the city. My favourite hamburger place at the moment is FUD (at 4 Piazza Olivella near the Teatro Massimo). They have fast service and a wide selection of burgers (including vegetarian ones) which are made with certified Sicilian ingredients. Want to try one of their specialities? Have the “panel bred” (made with “panelle” or chickpea flour) or “mortadella d’asino di Chiaramonte Gulfi” (a local salami). It is a very popular place, so a reservation is recommended if you want to get your own table.
Cold, dreary days are also a good excuse to feed any cravings you might have for art or culture. So why not spend a rainy day in a museum or gallery? There’s a wide choice in Palermo. Even if you have some time on your hands because of the rain, you may still want to pick a few to focus on. Palazzo Abatellis might be one of them. The Palazzo is in the Kalsa area of Palermo on Via Alloro. It houses the Galeria Regionale (the Regional Gallery) with its medieval, modern and archaeological collections. I could lose myself for hours contemplating the “Annunziata” (The Annunciation) by Antonello da Messina or the majestic yet macabre beauty of the “Trionfo della Morte” (The Triumph of Death) fresco.
On the other hand, if I feel like seeing contemporary art, there’s GAM or the Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Palermo (The Palermo Gallery of Modern Art) on Via Sant’Anna. This would be my alternate choice. Among the numerous artists whose works you’ll find there are Giorgio De Chirico, Pippo Rizzo and Renato Guttuso. The museum also frequently hosts interesting temporary exhibitions alongside its permanent collection.
Palermo also offers many kinds of inside entertainment. One of my favourites is going to the theatre. During the winter and into the spring, the Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele offers weekly concerts and classical operas or ballets featuring well-known companies. Performances there often have a modern twist and striking scenery. One of the great proponents of Art Nouveau, Giovanni Battista Filippo Basile, began to build the theatre in 1875 and it was completed by his son Ernesto in 1891. It’s one of the most prestigious and beautiful in the world and the third largest in Europe after the Opéra National de Paris and the Vienna State Opera. The theatre’s gilt interior and frescoed ceiling (which hides a sophisticated ventilation system) offer a show before the show. The building’s architecture alone is enough to dazzle and delight audiences.
If you feel like something more informal in the evening, you can start off with an aperitif in the centre. Afterwards, you can choose from a number of nearby bistros which often feature indie music groups or other good alternatives during the week. Bolazzi (in Piazzetta Bagnasco) and Fabbrica 102 are the most lively bistros in this regard.