HISTORICAL MARKETS AND STREET FOOD: VUCCIRIA, BALLARO’ AND CAPO
The true soul of Palermo can be discovered by abandoning the tourist and museum itineraries and entering its hidden alleys, among the people, letting yourself be seduced by the bright colors and intense scents of its historic markets.
Like small pieces of a large mosaic that shapes the urban center of Palermo, the historic markets help to give the city an immense historical and cultural value, representing not only a place for exchanging goods, but also an authentic and irreplaceable meeting point and sociability.
From Palermo Mare Holidays it is easy to reach the main historic markets of Palermo by taking the 628 bus to the Stadio stop. Then bus 101 to the Politeama stop. From there on foot to the markets in 5 minutes.
— Capo and Ballarò
Near our structure, near the Massimo theatre, there is one of the oldest and most energetic markets in Palermo, the Capo Market. It extends over the same area where the ancient Arab quarter of the Schiavoni once stood, from via Cappuccinelle it leads to the widening where via Beati Paoli, via Sant’Agostino and via Porta Carini cross. The latter takes its name from the fourteenth-century gate with the same name, which is the main entrance to the market adjacent to the Palace of Justice.
The Mercato del Capo is the fish market par excellence, but on its exposed stalls sheltered by colored awnings you can also find fruit and vegetables, preserves, spices, fresh meat and street food products, from fried fish pans to roasted squid. Just continue along via Beati Paoli and then along the suggestive via Vittorio Emanuele, where the majestic Cathedral of Palermo stands, to reach the Albergheria district which houses the oldest and most characteristic market in Palermo: Ballarò.
The ancient local market of Ballarò winds its way from the heart of Piazza del Carmine, with the Baroque church of the same name, and offers any type of product and food, but also a glimpse into a universe of flavours, colors and traditions that has remained unchanged over time . Here it is also possible to savor delicious street food products, not only at the market but also in the many clubs that crowd the multi-ethnic district.
— The Vucciria
You cannot say that you have seen Palermo without having first visited one of the most famous historic markets in the city centre. It is the undisputed protagonist of literary and pictorial works; the words of Camilleri and the brushstrokes of Guttuso, an artist who also inspired one of our art suites, were dedicated to the Vucciria market.
The Vucciria market is located in the ancient Loggia district, between via Roma, piazza San Domenico and via Vittorio Emanuele. It is precisely from Piazza San Domenico that you enter one of the markets, once the most chaotic, popular and noisy in the historical centre. Its name which recalls the French boucherie, literally “butcher”, says something more about the origin of this market once dedicated to meat. Yet, over time, fish, fruit, vegetables and local canned products also began to be sold in this market. Thanks to the proximity of La Cala and the port, fish became one of the protagonists of this crowded market where the “balata” were always wet due to the water sprayed by the fishmongers on the fresh fish.
Over time, the link with the etymological origin of the name was completely interrupted, giving way to the name used by those who really lived the market. From the “vuci” (voices) of street vendors and of the people who crowded via Argenteria and piazza Garraffello every morning, the Vucciria has entered the collective imagination at full capacity and has remained there.
Today, walking among the fish stalls and street food stalls of the historic markets, one cannot help but fall in love with the truest and most authentic face of the historic center of Palermo.
Where to eat in the center of Palermo: taverns, trattorias and fried food shops
– Restaurant at the Vecchio Club Rosanero
The wooden tables, the stone walls, the scarves and the photographs of the Palermo players hanging everywhere. In this trattoria the heart is truly “rosanero” (pink and black, the colors of the football team), and it seems to me that one cannot be more in Palermo than this!
Address: Vicolo Caldomai, 18.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 1.00pm-3.30pm; from Thursday to Saturday, also open for dinner from 20.00 to 23.00; closed on Sunday
– Osteria al Ferro di Cavallo
The restaurant, born in 1944, is right in the heart of Palermo, small (it’s a bit cramped) but very authentic, with many customers’ drawings hanging on the fiery red walls
Address: Via Venezia, 20.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 12.00-14.45; from Wednesday to Saturday, also open for dinner from 19.00 to 22.45; closed on Sundays (apart from lunchtime on certain pre-established Sundays).
More info: ferrodicavallopalermo.it
A restaurant created in the former stables of Palazzo Cattolico, on the edge of what was once the Jewish quarter of Palermo. A place divided in two: on one side the real restaurant with the à la carte menu, on the other the wine bar, with tables and high stools, where you can also opt for an aperitif.
Address: Via Calascibetta, 25.
Opening hours: every day, 12.00-15.00 and 19.00-23.00.
More info: osteriaballaro.it
Street food stalls and fry shops
– ‘Nni Franco u Vastiddaru
The menu and its prices certainly attract attention: arancine, panelle, crocché, sandwiches of all kinds, sandwich with spleen and the other great classics of the city, all for just a few euros.
Address: Via Vittorio Emanuele, 102.
Opening hours: every day, 09.00-01.00.
– Passami ù coppu
Here practically everything is fried: from ricotta iris to paranza, from arancine to panelle, from squid to cassatelle
Address: Via Roma, 195.
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday, 07.30-00.00; Friday, 07.30-03.00; Saturday, 09.30-04.00; Sunday, 09.30-00.00.
– Antica friggitoria dal 1947
The ancient Palermitan fryer in a very simple style, where typical Palermitan arancini, panelle and rascature are served.
Address: Via Niccolo Palmeri, 2.
– Nino ‘u Ballerino
One of the specialties of this chip shop is the ‘ca meusa bread; during the conzatura, i.e. the preparation of the sandwich, Nino lavishes himself in movements that look like a dance: hence the nickname “dancer” (Ballerino).
Address: Corso Camillo Finocchiaro Aprile, 76/78.
Opening hours: every day, 24 hours a day.
– I cuochini
A sort of rotisserie with a counter overflowing with fried and non-fried delicacies: arancini, milk croquettes, panzerotti in various flavours, savory croissants, small rolls filled with stringy cheese, and other delicious little bites.
Address: Via Ruggero Settimo, 68.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 08.30-14.30; on Saturday, also 17.00-19.30; closed on Sunday (winter time).
More info: icuochini.com
– Ke palle –Signature arancine
Here the arancine are perfectly round, served in a ramekin and with the most varied flavours, based on traditional ingredients, meat, fish and vegetables
Address: Via Maqueda, 270
Opening hours: the store in Via Maqueda, every day, 10.00-01.00.