I’m not much of a night owl these days so I can’t comment on the party scene in Palermo, but I do like an aperitivo or a digestivo, so here are nine of my favourite spots for a quiet drink and a snack. I’ve put them in general order of poshness but the dive bar at the end is actually my most recommended. All these bars can be found on my map of Palermo.
Grand Hotel Villa Igea, 43 Via Belmonte, sevenrestaurantpalermo.it
Originally a nursing home commissioned by the wealthy Florio family, the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea is now the poshest hotel in Palermo. Built in a neo-Gothic, Stile Liberty architectural style, it has a famous salon, the Sala Basile, decorated with frescoes by De Maria Bergler made from drawings by Ernesto Basile (see my earlier post). Located just to the north of the edgy port district, it’s a little hard to get to (best to take a taxi) but I walked there for the exercise. They allow people who aren’t guests to come in but it’s best to call ahead and reserve so the security know you’re coming.
There is a large terrace with a good view of the marina and the city beyond…
…but I spent a very pleasant evening inside sitting at the bar, enjoying the tinkling piano and good conversation with their excellent bartenders. I had my usual Negroni…
… but was also introduced to the house special, the Negroni Svegliato, whereby the coffee is made with red vermouth rather than water, and served in moka coffee pot for maximum effect, video here.
They weren’t cheap at €19 a pop but they are top notch, and you do get all the stuzzichini (nibbles) that you can eat.
Seven Restaurant, top floor of the Ambasciatori Hotel, 111 Via Roma, sevenrestaurantpalermo.it
Another hotel bar but this time with a terrace that has incredible view over the historical centre, framed by the surrounding mountains, video here. A good spot for my new favourite aperitif, the Hugo Spritz (prosecco, elderflower cordial, fizzy water, lime and mint). The view justifies a more expensive cocktail at €10 a time.
Kursaal Kalhesa, 21/A Foro Italico Umberto I, www.kursaalkalhesa.it
This bar is located inside the old city wall, next to the the Porta Felice in the Kalsa district. The high ceilings are pretty spectacular but you can also sit outside on a warm evening as I did, catching the breeze from the Foro Italico (the green park along the seafront). As well as a restaurant it’s a cultural space that hosts bookshop and rotating art exhibitions and jazz concerts. A Negroni cost me €8 here.
Mak Mixology, m.facebook.com, inside Galleria Delle Vittorie, 301 Via Maqueda, www.galleriadellevittorie.it
This cocktail bar is located in an old fascist-era shopping galleria that had sat abandoned since the 1970s. The frescoes above the entrances feature some of Italy’s military escapades in the First World War and the Ethiopian War. A Hugo with stuzzichini cost me €9 here.
St’orto, 31 Discesa dei Giudici, www.facebook.com/stortopalermo
This bar where I came most often, due to its central location near Quattro Canti, and its very well-made but exceptionally cheap Negronis (€5). It’s small, and you’d be lucky to get a table outside on the cobbled street but there are standing spaces inside. Craft beers, panini and bruschette also available.
Taverna Azzurra, 15 Via Maccherronai, www.facebook.com/Bar-Azzurra
I love this dive bar in the Mercato Vucciria for its atmosphere. The area in general was very buzzy in the evenings when I was there, with African drumming and dancing outside the nearby Ciwara restaurant in Piazza Caracciolo (video here). As well as apparently being the oldest (since 1982), Azzurra is also the cheapest bar I know of in Palermo with most drinks costing just a couple of euros. The barrels behind the bar contain local sweet wines such as Sangue and Marsala (€2.50 a glass). With their very varied clientele, there’s never a dull moment here. I had so much fun I lost all my photos!
Botteghe Colletti, 79 Via Alessandro Paternostro, www.facebook.com
They describe themselves as a dive bar but the vintage art-deco decor is a bit posher than that. It’s part of a little strip that pulls a mixed-aged crowd of bohemian types. For a change I tried their Campari cocktail made with Sicilian herbs which was very nice.
Ferramenta, 8 Piazza Giovanni Meli, www.facebook.com
Located in a hardware store dating from the 1800s, its now a popular hipster spot. There’s lots of seating outside but book as its very popular. As well as my usual Negroni (€7), I enjoyed a tagliere plate of DOP local hams and cheeses here (€15).
CiCala, 29 Via Sant’Alessandro, www.facebook.com
Just up the road from Ferramenta is this popular hipster bar, recommended by my local contact Vincenzo, where you can get good local ‘tapas’ with your reasonably priced Negroni (€6).
A quick spot of food shopping next!