Any grand tour of Europe includes a string of beautiful Italian cities: refined Florence, alluring Rome and glamorous Venice. While there’s no doubting their charms, they are well and truly on the tourist trail, which pushes up prices, particularly in high season.
Escape from the mainland to Sicily and you’ll find in its capital Palermo a city both redolent of the Italy of yesteryear and – if you ask a Sicilian – a country apart. Undoubtedly run down in places, the city unfolds many surprises, from churches covered in exquisite mosaics to cluttered neighbourhood markets, where you can snack on local street foods, like arancini (rice balls) and panelle (chick pea fritters), as you wander.
Where to stay
Best for popular attractions: Hotel Palazzo Brunaccini
Best hostel for location to the city: Balarm Hostel
Daily budget: Basic €35, occasional treat €50
Drink: Wine €2.50/glass
Food: Local pasta dish €5–8; pizza slice €2
Hostel/budget hotel: €15–30/€45–60
Travel: Train: Rome–Naples €20; bus: €12
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