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In a city that’s ranked one of the best in Europe for street food, taking a Palermo food tour is a delicious introduction.
The best local guides tantalize your taste buds at local eateries you wouldn’t find on your own.
While in Palermo exploring the local food specialties, diving into traditional street food was part of our quest.
Teaming up with Streaty food tours, we went to explore the vibrant markets and fascinating history and culture.
Here’s what to expect on a Palermo street food tour.
Palermo Street Food Tour – A Unique Culinary Adventure
In Sicily’s capital, street food is one of the city’s most defining characteristics.
Eager for an authentic and immersive experience, we partnered with Streaty food tours, the first company to offer food tours in Palermo.
What attracted us to Streaty, was their focus on real authentic gems, mostly small family businesses who keep Italian culinary traditions alive.
Angelo, a local Palermitano, took us on our culinary adventure through the alleyways and backstreets to try some of the best Palermo street food.
Over our 3+ hours together, we learned about the fascinating history and culture of the street food and interacted with some vendors.
Uncovering The Secret Treasures at Palermo Mercato di Capo
Street foods pay tribute to the local ingredients, dishes and the vendors that preserve these culinary traditions.
The heart beat of the street food culture is found at the local markets. And, we were thrilled to start our food tour at Mercato di Capo.
Palermo has three main markets and, on this street food tour, we visited one at the beginning and one at the end.
After our small group gathered in front of Teatro Massimo, at 11:00 am, we walked over to the lively Mercato di Capo.
The historic Mercato il Capo, commonly refered to as Capo Market, is a dizzying blend of colors, smells and sounds.
The market, organized like a souk harkening back to its Arab past, was full of stands with seasonal fresh fruits, vegetables, and more.
As we strolled through the stalls, Angelo introduced us to a few local vendors while sharing their unique stories.
Along the way, we picked up some amazing wild strawberries at the start of season. Bright red, plump with concentrated sweetness, this was a great treat.
The market, already bustling was a delight for the senses. The fresh fish, dried nuts, spices and stalls filled with everything you could possibly want.
With a labyrinth appearance, Capo Market invites you to get lost in time. The morning market vibe along with the history and context from the guide transports you back to an ancient period.
Just like in any major market, Angelo tipped us, you want to keep a close eye on your valuables.
A Few Palermo Street Food Favorites
The proper way to go on a street food tour in Palermo is on an empty stomach. Plan to eat and taste a wide variety of authentic food specialties.
While meandering through Capo market, we stopped at family owned eateries for iconic bites.
One of the highlights was the arancini or fried rice balls. A street food we first discovered in Catania and then got introduced to the Palermo version.
As a symbol of Sicilian street food, be prepared for an aminated discussion about the arancini. It is a much debated street food particularly around the Palermo and Catania versions.
Next up, were two typical traditional fried snacks that quickly became our favorites.
Panelle or fritters made with chickpea flour, are one of the most popular Palermo street foods. These fritters we learned, come from the Arab tradition of pancakes made with chickpea flour.
In Palermo, they are cut up into slices, are cooked with parsley and topped with salt and pepper.
One other representative Palermo street food Rosemary absolutely loved was the crocchè.
These are potato croquettes with an elongated shape, with parsley and eaten with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Typically served together, these two delicious foods became regular snacks during our Palermo stay.
Satisfied and starting to get full, our next stop was barely 5 minutes later. This time it was to a Rosticceria.
In Sicily, a rosticceria is a place where you can buy hot food to be eaten at the counter or for takeaway.
From this rosticerria, we ate small bites of calzone stuffed with ricotta and spinach. These were easy to eat on the go so we could continue our Palermo street food tour.
Palermo Street Food Walking Tour With Cultural Insights
“Look up”, Angelo told us, as we walked around Palermo. The “architecture reveals the secrets of the city.”
Palermo, we learned, was not only Italy’s 2018 capital of culture, but also the capital city of Sicily under the Arabs and Normans.
Therefore, the architectural styles we observed, was a mixture of eclectic, multi-ethnic cultures.
Rich in detail, historic buildings in the Arab-Norman and Byzantine styles were fascinating to see.
Churches can be found all over Palermo in different styles from Gothic, Baroque and Arab-Norman- Byzantine.
One of the reasons there are so many churches, Angelo told us, is they each represented a particular class or group of people.
We stopped by a spectacular church that belonged to craftsmen in the knife making trade.
It was interesting that there was very little mixing of communities in churches and instead separate chuches for different groups.
The history of the Mafia in Sicily invariably came up on the Palermo street food walking tour.
Angelo, happy to answer all questions, spoke openly about the resistance and rebellion against the mafia and racketeering.
Extremely passionate about his city and knowledgeable about the different cultural aspects, Angelo, was the perfect guide to explore Palermo.
Stop at Venues Only Locals Know
One of the perks of joining a Palermo street food walking tour is the chance to go to places only the locals know about.
As we walked down Via Roma, toward La Vucciria, we stopped at Panificio Pietro Bonaccorso. The stop at this family owned bakery was for sfincione, sometimes called Sicilian pizza.
A a bread lover, this was one of my favorite stops on this Palermo street food tour. The name, sfincione, which means “sponge” describes its soft consistency with slightly crunchy edges.
Absolutely delicious, we picked some up sprinkled with anchovies, onions, and oregano.
Next door to the bakery was a stop at a salumeria, a type of Italian deli store with an selection of local produce.
We picked up some caciocavallo, traditional Sicilian cow cheese and continued our tour next door to Taverna Azzurra tavern.
At this lively bar, and one of the oldest in Palermo, we tried a few local drinks to go along with the cheese and sfincione.
Sague, a “blood wine” typical from Palermo was very unusual. It’s a sweet local wine more like a liquor and a tasty accompaniment to the local bites.
Thinking we were about to end the tour, Angelo, asked us to leave some room for the last two stops.
La Vucciria Palermo Street Market
For our next savory stop, we walked into the heart of Vucciria Market. Another historic market joined together via connection of small cobblestone streets.
This market today, is less of a traditional market with stalls all over. It has one fruit and vegetable stall and several local eateries where you can sit down and try Palermo food specialties.
Unlike the other Palermo markets, La Vucciria is popular at night as a place eat, drink and party.
Beyond getting to experience a different local market, the stop was also to experience one Palermo’s most unusual street foods.
The pani ca’ meusa or spleen sandwich is one of the most famous Palermo street foods.
Angelo, introduced us to Rocky, the pani ca’ meusa street vendor, and a local celebrity in his own right.
We all watched in awe as Rocky served sizzling organ meat or spleen on fluffy buns with a bit of lemon juice.
No one in our group was particularly jumping to try this specialty, but Angelo convinced everyone to take at least one bite.
It has strong flavors and chewy textures. It does take some getting used to and those that eat organ meat will likely enjoy it.
In Palermo, the history of pani ca’ meusa runs deep. It dates back to the 15th century and has since become of the most celebrated Palermo street foods.
Sweet Finish At Piazza San Domenico
The Palermo street food journey finished with some sweet delicacies at Piazza San Domenico.
We were all relieved to move on to something sweet after the offal sandwich.
You have your choice of treats, we chose two different traditional Sicilian sweets.
The famous cannoli with fresh ricotta filling. And, Rosemary enjoyed a very delicious broscia col gelato or tasty brioche stuffed with ice cream.
The outdoor seating at Lucchesse cafe, facing the square of San Domenico was the perfect finish to our Palermo street food tour.
Overall Impressions of Palermo Street Food Tour
What We Loved
Food tours are our favorite way to discover the local and authentic specialties of a new destination.
Our Palermo street food walking tour was a delightful experience mostly due to our tour guide, Angelo, an entertaining storyteller.
We loved hearing the backstory about the iconic Palermo street foods and meeting reputable vendors at the markets.
Learning about the history of Palermo, Mafia stories and the current state of affairs gave us even greater context.
The one tip Angelo gave us, to always look up at the buildings to see the architectural history served us well for the rest of our stay.
By far, the best part about the Palermo street food tour with Streaty was the authentic and unfiltered experience.
This tour took us right into the heart of the local street food scene to eat what locals are eating. Nothing excluded and you get to sample authentic street foods that range from palatable to unsavory.
The hours flew by with our local guide, who in the end felt like were were hanging out with an old friend.
What Could Be Improved
Overall, there is not much negative we could find about our Palermo food tour. The only thing we can think of is that we spent most of the time on our feet for the three hours the tour lasted.
We had a chance to sit down at Capo Market and not again until the end. Mostly due to the fact that it had rained that day and outdoor tables were not available when we stopped at the Taverna. We ended up standing to have our drinks and small bites.
Having the chance to sit down one more time during this food tour of Palermo would have been welcome.
How To Book Your Palermo Street Food Tour
This street food tour with Streaty is one of the best Palermo food tours in the city with an authentic focus.
Engaging local guides take you to the local markets, where you meet the vendors and sample a range of local specialties.
In one of Europe’s top street food capitals, navigating the street foods with a guide will ensure you sample the best foods.
Tours are conducted in small groups of 10 people and last 3 hours. Make sure to book ahead as it fills out fast. Wear comfortable shoes, plan to keep an open mind with the street food, and most of all, have fun!
If you are looking to escape the summer heat, Streaty also offers a Palermo Night Tour visiting the food stalls and back streets.
If you are a wine lover and looking to learn about Sicilian wines, check out Streaty’s Palermo wine tour.
If your travels take you to Catania, Sicily’s second-largest city, a Catania street food tour is not to be missed.
Street food is a path to taste a place and get a sense of it’s history and cultural values.
This Palermo street food tour takes you not only to the food, but to the people keeping the culinary traditions alive.
From the market visits to the carefully selected vendors and eateries, you leave with a true understanding of Palermo street food.
We spent several weeks in Palermo and the invaluable insights we received from Angelo guided our stay.
From the vendors to shop from at the markets to favorite local restaurants to visit, his tips were very useful.
If you are just arriving in Palermo, do yourself a favor and take a Palermo street food tour. Save time, get tips and you’ll enjoy a more enriching experience.
Have you been to Palermo? Would you take one of the Palermo street food tours? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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Disclosure: Special thanks to Streaty for having us on this Palermo Street Food tour. All views and opinions expressed are our own. Full bellies and happy taste buds too.
Claire is a culinary explorer who travels the world in search of the best local foods. She is always looking for her next culinary adventure to bring you the best bites while exploring new places.