9 Tips How To Explore Palermo Markets Like a Pro
Alright, so you’re going to Palermo, Sicily and thinking about strolling their famous markets? Ottima idea! Here are nine tips how to explore Palermo markets like a pro. If you follow, you’ll look a little less touristy, walk with more confidence, and make your overall Palermo market experience a breeze. Some of the popular markets include:
Ballaro Mercato | Via Ballaro, 1, 90134 Palermo PA, Italy
Mercato del Capo | Via Cappuccinelle, 90138 Palermo PA, Italy
La Vuccieria | Via Coltellieri 46, 90133, Palermo PA, Italy
1. Download the offline Google Map of Palermo before heading out
Depending on where you are in Palermo, phone reception quality and access to free Wi-Fi can be hit-or-miss. I suggest downloading the “Offline” Google Map of the city of Palermo before heading out to the market (or anywhere at that rate), and “star” your hotel or Airbnb on the map. Some of the markets are located off complicated winding streets, getting “turned around” is pretty common and can send you walking very far in the wrong direction.
You may not be able to do a ton of Google Map features while in Offline-Mode, but it allows you to see the street names which minimizes the chance of getting lost.
2. Get familiar with neighborhood
Especially when traveling in Palermo in the busy season, another good thing to do before heading out to peruse the famous markets is to get familiar with major streets. Not only will this obviously keep you on track, but it also adds to your overall confidence when walking around a busy foreign city. More confidence frankly means that you’ll look a little less touristy and you likely won’t need your cell phone out the entire time you’re walking places; Palermo is safe, but reducing the amount of time you have an expensive hunk of technology in your hand also reduces your risk of getting it stolen—just sayin’.
3. Do not wear flip-flops
You’ll thank me later on this one! What are the Palermo street markets known for? Fresh seafood. The fish stays delicious and food safe by sitting on large blocks of ice. When that bright Sicilian sun comes out, the ice melts to the street—leaving big, stinky fish puddles on the ground. Therefore, the sight of flip-flops is yet another way local vendors can spot tourists from blocks. So think ahead and wear closed toes shoes…unless you enjoy stepping in slimy fish puddles.
4. Bring a canvas bag
This may seem obvious, but is a good rule of thumb. Vendors will happily hand you plastic bags for your items, but one sturdy canvas bag is easier than lugging around thirteen plastic bags (especially if it’s 110 degrees Fahrenheit and humid—and the littlest inconveniences become royal pains).
5. Put wallet and phone in safe places
Like I already said, Palermo is safe. But in busy towns at iconic tourist destinations (like the famous Palermo markets!), it’s always a good idea to take extra precautions with precious items.
6. make sure you have euros
This is not a farmers market in Manhattan or San Francisco. These old-school Sicilian vendors do not have Square® chips in their smart phones, so bring cold hard cash with you.
7. Eye contact
This one is an important one, so mark it down! Even the smallest amount of eye contact signals the vendor that you either: want to buy something from them or have a question about the selection. Vendors will often drop everything to be of assistance to you and hackle you to get your business. They do this for a living, they’re good at it! You can of course look at their offerings, no problem, but do that while you’re walking at a steady pace and only make eye contact when you’re ready to purchase.
A couple Italian phrases to say if a vendor asks you a question and you’re not done making your rounds:
Voglio vedere più del mercato. Magari torneró!
I want to see more of the market. Perhaps I’ll return!
No, solo vedendo.
No, only looking.
8. Price Average
Okay, odds are even if you follow these tips, you’re still going to look like a tourist—so there’s chance you may get charged a little more. (Sorry, locals are bloodhounds for that stuff; I have Calabrese origins and speak nearly fluent Italian, but they can spot my Americana-ness from a mile away.)
There are displays with prices for most items, but not all. I suggest doing one or two loops around the market first to get an average of the prices before swooping in and making a compulsive purchase. This not only helps you to get a better idea of prices, but it also allows you to get a look at the varying quality of each stand.
9. Street Food Discernment
Every single street food stand will claim to be authentic Sicilian street food. And all of the vendors speak enough English to try to convince you that their street food is the best. You can roll the dice if you’re hungry, but I’ve had some pretty terrible sfincione and arancini at the small street carts. If you don’t care about finding “the best of the best”, then carry on your way and I hope whatever you purchase is delicious. However, if you are trying to find really good Sicilian street food, I suggest doing a small amount of research ahead of time so you know the basics of what classic street food is, the ingredients and what it should look like.
And that’s that! Follow these nine tips and you’re golden. And odds are, after a few hours in the powerful Sicilian sunlight, you’ll also be literally golden. Enjoy!