Here's an unusual and exciting concept: reopen a faded century-old lodging in the gritty old center as a gleaming, ultramodern hotel. The result is an ideal base for exploring Palermo. The expansive rooftop balcony boasts a hot tub and encircles the restaurant and bar in a sleek wood frame that feels almost Scandinavian. Minimalist (for Italy, anyway) rooms have all the modern amenities, with the exception of Wi-Fi. Call ahead to reserve a room facing the front of the hotel for a bird's-eye view of three church cupolas and the Piazza della Vergogna (Plaza of Shame), one of the few plazas in Italy with no statues of saints.