In the terminal building are a cafe, convenience store and, on the second floor, a Western Union office with Internet access.
Palazzo dei Normanni
(Piazza del Parlamento, open Monday - Saturday 8:30 a.m. - noon, and 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. - noon), is home to the Sicilian parliament and considered the island's greatest treasure. The palace dates to the days of Arab control in the ninth century. It was restored by the Normans, and then by the Spanish. The must-see inside is Cappella Palatina, built for the very wealthy Roger II in the 12th century, and adorned with breathtaking mosaics and gold.
The recently renovated Teatro Massimo
(Piazza G. Verdi) was built between 1875 and 1897 in neo-Classical style and boasts the second largest indoor stage in Europe after the Paris Opera House. The steps out front are the big attraction as this is where a key scene in "Godfather 3" was filmed (when Don Corleone's daughter Mary is shot and cries, "Papa, papa").
The city's Cathedral, Piazza di Cattedrale
(open Monday - Saturday 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.), is of Arab-Norman design, built starting in 1185 A.D. It's actually prettier outside (a nice photo opp) than in -- your chance to see Greek-Roman, Norman and Arabic influences all blended together.
Museum Archaeologico Regionale
(Via Bara all'Olivella 24, open Tuesday - Saturday 8:30 a.m. - 6:15 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.), is located in a former Renaissance-era monastery and houses some of Italy's most valuable Roman and Greek artifacts including sculptures from the temples of Selinunte, once a major Greek city on the Italian coast. The Roman collection includes mosaics and frescoes.
Inside the 15th-century Palazzo Abatellis
(Via Alloro, 4) is one of Sicily's best art museums, Galleria Regionale della Sicilia (daily 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. and Tuesday - Thursday 3 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.), boasting dozens of religious panels and sculptures dating from the Middle Ages through the Baroque period.
Only six miles from Palermo is the magnificent Monreale Cathedral
, (Monreale, daily 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.), one of the finest cathedrals in Italy -- the design combines Norman, Arabic, Byzantine and Classical elements to create what is truly a dazzling interior. Forty-two scenes from the Bible are depicted in mosaics. To get there you can take a taxi or catch public bus no. 389, which departs from Piazza Indipendenza in Palermo (the trip takes about 40 minutes). There are up to three buses per hour, and the cost each way is about $1.25.
. Tre Erre Ceramiche ceramic shop (Via E. Arari, 49), a short walk from the ship pier, has worldwide fans including Chelsea Clinton. The ceramics here are breathtaking. Fancy stores, including Chanel, Tods, D&G (Dolce & Gabbana) and Armani, can be found on Via Liberta. Popular with Palermo's own chic set, Fiorentino, on Via Liberta, has been selling beautiful jewelry since 1890.
Cabs and horse-drawn carts offering tours can be found just outside the terminal gates. In either case it is wise to negotiate a price up front. Cabs can be hired by the trip or hour. Double-decker tour buses operate around the city. Public buses run around the city and to the suburbs as well. While this is a good walking city, and you can easily walk to dining, museums and shopping, be aware the old part of the city is a jumbled warren of streets and it's easy to get lost. Also be aware, pickpockets are particularly skilled in Palermo.
On our last trip we dined on seafood pasta at Sapori Perduti, a restaurant that was surprisingly hip and gourmet for being located on a downtrodden-looking side street (Via Principe di Belmonte) -- male models were sitting at the next table. The venue features new, albeit a little pricy, Sicilian cuisine. Open for lunch and dinner.
At Bar Alba (Piazza Don Bosco, off Via Liberta, Tuesday - Sunday, 7:30 a.m. until 11 p.m.), where you can sample arancine (Sicilian rice balls stuffed with meat and peas and fried) and cassata Siciliana (the Sicilian version of fruit cake).
Where You're Docked
You dock at a modern pier, within walking distance of downtown.
Watch Out For
The traffic is truly crazy. Use caution when crossing major thoroughfares. As mentioned above, leave your valuable belongings on the ship or guard them carefully.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The local currency is the euro. Most banks have ATM's. There are also individual ATM's throughout the city.
Colorful hand-painted ceramics, embroidered fabrics and coral jewelry (coral is considered a fertility symbol).
For More Information
On the Web: Italian Government Tourist Board
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Europe
The Independent Traveler: Europe Bargains and Features
By Fran Golden, Cruise Critic contributor.
Photos appear courtesy of the Italian Government Tourist Board.