What’s the best time of year to visit?
Speaking generally, March through June and then September through November is best for most people. Beaches and other “summer” localities are crowded in July and especially August, so make reservations early for those months. December and February can be interesting times to visit, allowing you to avoid the crowds. It’s never very cold in Palermo.
Is English widely spoken in Palermo?
Unfortunately, it is not. In fact, per capita far more residents of Amsterdam and Addis Ababa speak English than Palermitans. However, many of the people you’ll encounter in Palermo’s hotels, restaurants and better shops understand at least enough English to successfully communicate.
How far is the port from the historical districts and how do I get into the old city?
A good question if you’re arriving on a cruise ship. On foot, walking along Via Amari, it takes ten minutes or less to arrive at Via Roma, and another few minutes to reach Politeama and Via Libertà. Turning left from Politeama it takes about five minutes to reach the Teatro Massimo opera house. From there, following Via Maqueda, it’s about another five minute to the Quattro Canti.
In terms of personal safety, what should I keep in mind in Palermo?
Palermitans are generally nice, though often a bit guarded with unfamiliar people. While violent crime rates are generally low in Sicily, purse snatchings are quite common, especially from thieves riding motor scooters. To avoid these “ride-by” snatchings, walk on the side of the street facing traffic with your purse on the other side of your body. Carry only a small purse, never a large bag, and choose one that you can keep in a pocket or close to your body, not something with long straps.
Visitors from some countries often look like “tourists.” Their white sneakers and light-colored clothing mark them as tourists. Within reason, avoiding that look makes it less obvious to thieves that you’re a visitor: shoes instead of athletic footwear, more subdued colors, long pants instead of shorts, etc. Of course, in Palermo an exceptionally tall woman with light blonde hair will stand out regardless of what she wears.