The Sicilian street markets in Palermo and Catania introduce you to a heightened world of sights, smells and sounds, with splashes of brilliant colours, noisy street vendors and the powerful aroma of sizzling food.
Dating back to the ninth-century Saracen rule of the island, Sicily’s outdoor markets share many characteristics with Arab souks. Indeed, some of the names – such as Palermo’s Ballarò – are Arabic in origin and the markets are possibly the best-preserved of Sicily’s Arab traditions.
The main markets in Palermo are Ballarò, Vucciria and, located behind the Teatro Massimo, Capo. Vucciria is perhaps best known for its food stalls, ranging from immaculately displayed layers of sardines and swordfish to vegetable stalls piled high with glossy fruit. Even if you are not hungry when you arrive, the smell of smoky barbecue from the stigghiole and the fried panelle is guaranteed to work up an appetite. The Ballarò is also mainly a food market, interspersed with a collection of stalls selling clothing, houseware and toys. A fourth market, the antiques market at Piazza Peranni, is located behind the bishop’s palace off Corso V. Emmanuele.
Unlike in Palermo where the markets are in narrow medieval streets, in Catania they are in open Baroque squares, such as Piazza Carlo Alberto. Fera o Luni (Monday’s Fair) is the most famous market, now open every day, with clothing and goods from fruit to fresh fish. On Sunday mornings, there is a flea market. There are also numerous smaller antique markets, both in Palermo and Catania.