A tour of the noisy Palermo market resembles a visit to an Oriental bazaar. Here you can have all senses are battered by crowding, shouting and strange sights and odours as a reminder of Sicily’s historical ties with the Arab world and the proximity to North Africa.
The most famous street market is Vucciria that runs from Via Roma along Via Cassari and down to the harbour in the Castellammare neighbourhood. This was where travelling merchants from Genua, Pisa and Venice sold their goods in the 17th century, but is was originally a butchers’ market. Today you can purchase everything from barrows in the narrow streets. There are mafia souvenirs, cheap shoes and fashion surplus along with gorgeous street food and all the ingredients needed for genuine Sicilian cooking. That is bunches of fragrant herbs, mountains of vegetables, bloody tripe and scary fish monsters like the huge swordfish, live lobsters and giant octopus. In Palermo dialect Vucceria means ‘confusion’ and the market generally lives up to this name. It is open long into the evening, which may explain the local saying ‘quannu e balati ra Vucciria s’asciucanu’ – when the Vucceria pavement becomes dry – as an indication of something that will never happen.
Another and even older Palermo market is the Ballarò from Piazza Casa Professa down Corso Tukory towards Porta Sant’Agata. Here you can also stuff yourself with panelle (fried chickpea bread), cazzilli (potato croquettes) and other local delicacies while you enjoy some of the old wooden houses that still line the streets.
For those who still have an unquenched ed passion for street markets there’s Il Capo on via Carini, via di Sant’Agostino and via Cappuccinelle near the momentously ugly Palazzo di Giustizia. And the flea and antique market Mercato delle Pulci near the cathedral. Mercato delle Pulci however is only open on Sundays until 1 pm.
For the architectural gems of Palermo try this guided tour.
More Italian markets