Palermo or Taormina?

Old Aug 5th, 2017, 07:17 AM
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Palermo or Taormina?

Hi guys,

I'm a 20-something woman traveling to Sicily with my 50-something parents in September, and we're torn about which city to visit. We're leaning toward either Palermo or Taormina, because both cities offer nearby airports with flights from Rome, where we'll be coming from. Here's what to know about us:

- We are Sicilian (from Polizzi Generosa originally), though we've never been to Sicily before
- We travel to eat, plain and simple. Food is very, very important to us.
- Our favorite destinations include Florence, Rome and Positano
- We tend to stay away from tourist traps (the usual restaurants right on the beaten path, the souvenir shops, etc.)
- We like to stay at luxury hotels
- We will not have a car
- We will stay 3 nights in Sicily (arrive on Sunday afternoon, depart on Wednesday morning)
- We're not huge museum/church folks. We'd prefer to take in the town's shops, local markets, etc., though of course we'll be sure to see the must-visit attractions.

One big thing we know we need to decide is whether or not we want to go to Polizzi Generosa in order to meet our family there. We know that it's nearer to Palermo than Taormina, though we hear there is literally nothing to do in Polizzi. So we'd prefer to pick a city based on its own merits/activites more than its distance to Polizzi. Simply put, we don't want to go to Palermo just because it's closer to Polizzi.

Any and all advice would be appreciated!

Thank you,
NYCItalianFoodie is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 08:24 AM
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Taormina is a small town as touristy as Venice, Palermo is a city that caters for it's inhabitants as well as tourists
dotheboyshall is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 08:29 AM
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Palermo. No question.

The whole of Taormina is a tourist trap.

Palermo has local markets and plenty of restaurants. You are also within easy bus distance of Monreale (not to be missed even if you are not church/museum folks), Trapani and Erice, and Cefalu.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 09:04 AM
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Been to Palermo. Loved it. Haven't been to Taormina, so can't compare. I would, however, recommend you read the book, if you haven't already, The Stone Boudoir by Theresa Maggio. It's about her return to her roots in Polizzi Generosa. Great book!
Holly_uncasdewar is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 09:08 AM
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If you travel to eat, go to Palermo, not Taormina. However, if you can find a luxury hotel in Catania, that might be even better for food. Taormina is solidly touristy when it comes to restaurants -- although if you think Positano has a lot of good restaurants, maybe you'll be okay with Taormina.

Foodies who don't impose on their Sicilian relatives for a meal are missing the chance of a lifetime. Even for some reason you are not going to do this, then
whichever city you stay in, consider booking a Home Food meal. There are no restaurant meals in Sicily that will beat a home-cooked meal.

The people who told you there is nothing to do in your ancestral town might have gone there in the middle of the day, and not had an invitation to lunch. Most of the life of Sicilian towns is in the early evening, or the morning market.
massimop is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 10:56 AM
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I adored Palermo. I thought the views from Taormina spectacular, but I found it seriously unpleasant during the day, when it can be completely jam-packed with day-trippers.

And yes, do make time for Monreale!
kja is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 11:04 AM
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We tend to stay away from tourist traps (the usual restaurants right on the beaten path, the souvenir shops, etc.)>

Yes avoid Taormina as a base as it is as touristy as they come- Palermo is typically Scillian - but a large city - I'd suggest maybe staying in dreamy Cefalu - a seaside gem a short drive or train/bus ride from Palermo.
PalenQ is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 11:37 AM
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I just got back from Sicily yesterday and was in both Taormina and Palermo.
Palermo was our least favorite destination on the trip. I expected to love it, as I love gritty, exciting Naples but Palermo just felt run down and depressing. On the plus side, we did enjoy going through the food markets (not much to buy but fun to hear the yelling and be apart of something so old) and experiencing the street foods as well as great restaurants which was important to us as well.
Taormina was beautiful, but touristy and while we did enjoy our meals there, we scouted for more authentic places.
My recommendation is Cefalu. It's beautiful, has a great energy, shopping, and lots of great food. Plus it's closest to your family (but not the reason I'm recommending).
JES28 is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 12:00 PM
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Unlike the previous two posters I was not that excited by Cefalu. There isn't much to do/see there and it is out of the way for day trips.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 12:09 PM
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I loved Palermo but haven't been to Taormina.

I guess we all have different faves, likes and dislikes (I really enjoyed both Naples and Palermo, though I don't think they are terribly similar).
Leely2 is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 01:17 PM
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A great deal of the activity in Palermo stops in the heat of the Sicilian summer and residents go to -- Cefalu! (or Mondello beach or the hills). I spent a January week in Palermo and while locals rarely hurry and are reserved in public, it is definitely an active, strongly commercial city. There are several parts of Palermo where I don't think I could afford to live, so it depends on where you go. All that said, much of Palermo was never rebuilt after the extensive bombing of WW2 (or built with emergency cheap housing), the south of Italy bears the brunt of the economic imbalances of the Eurozone and Palermo to this day carries the burdens of a complicated history, with many divides in the city. But it's still an open city, which s remarkable (more open than Napoli, which is a great favorite of mine, but Palermo has one extended toward everybody in the Mediterranean. It's a city of great education, history and wide outlook.
massimop is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 01:21 PM
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just one example of what I mean
massimop is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 01:26 PM
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When it comes to food, this isn't a bad guide to Palermo (although Antica Focacceria San Francesco suffers from tour groups)
massimop is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 01:38 PM
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Only wanted to add that I looked back at JES28 threads when planning this trip and saw it was suggested from the start to drop Palermo from the whirlwind itinerary, since everything JES28 described as wanting from Sicily is not what Palermo offers. Not sure why JES28 "expected to love it." People weren't kidding when they warned it wasn't likely.
massimop is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 01:41 PM
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I liked and stayed in Palermo but feel that casual tourists may find it a bit...whatever - I really like Catania - just walking around for a day but nobody ever mentions it much here - seemed a more suave elegant city of tree-lined boulevards vs a more tattered Palermo but that was several years ago so Palermo may well have cleaned up its act.

Palermo has a reputation of being a bit unsafe but I saw no hint of that.

In any case, do not miss Segesta and its awesome Greek temples west of Palermo in a stark natural setting and Montreale and the church near there with lots of skulls in its basement.
PalenQ is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 01:42 PM
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You couldn't find two places more different from each other than Palermo and Taormina.

Palermo is a city, Taormina a town. Palermo is full of working (or unemployed) people, whereas Taormina is slanted toward tourists with lots of money.

Palermo has many interesting sites, but the majority are churches. In Palermo, you will especially see the layers of civilization, different styles of architecture, markets, busy traffic, the opera, and have good transport links to places around the area as mentioned by thursdaysd.

In Taormina, you will find more luxury accommodations, fewer sites, the exception being the Greek/Roman theater, excellent views, lots of tourists during the day, good food, but expensive food. Taormina is a resort town, so if you're looking for the real Sicily this is not it. Close by though, is Catania, Syracuse (Ortigia) and Mt Etna.

So, I think it depends what you want from your trip. There really isn't a lot of time in 2.5 days to go much beyond whichever place you decide on, so if you want authentic, go for Palermo, if you want luxury, go for Taormina. But places have luxury shopping, by the way.
sundriedtopepo is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 01:50 PM
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What massimo says about Palermo in the summer is interesting. I was there in the early spring, and the city was lively and comfortable for touring on foot--we lucked out with coolish, but very sunny, bright and cheerful days. I'm sure that added to my enjoyment.
Leely2 is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2017, 02:40 PM
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I stayed in Naxos Glados (?) the seaside town below Taormina and loved it as a base -smack right by the Taormina train station - only went up to Taormina twice.

Can take bus to Randazzo and tiny train around base of Mt Vesuvius to Catania - really sweet - at Philosophers Tower area (up from train line) you can take a cable car and 4-wheel drives to the active crater.
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