Palermo – Mondello – going to the beach

I love Mondello for three reasons; the great restaurants, the lovely Stile Liberty architecture (see coming posts) and the beautiful beachscape (video here). I’ve been three times; for day trips in May and June in 2009 and 2010, and again for four nights in September 2021 to celebrate my 55th birthday.

Mondello is the city beach for Palermo and although it’s technically part of the city, it’s still a 30-minute bus ride from the centre. From central Palermo, you can catch the 806 bus from the Liberta’-Croci bus stop (near the Istituto delle Croci on Via della Libertà). To first get to this stop you might need to catch the regular 101 bus which takes you along Via della Libertà from Palermo Centrale train station. I’ve marked the bus stops on my map of Mondello.

Remember to buy a bus ticket from a tobacconist first as there are inspectors on this lucrative route lying in wait for teenage fare evaders and unknowing tourists who think they can pay on the bus. Don’t think they won’t shake you down if they can. Get a 90-minute ticket for €1.40 which will cover both bus journeys, and another for coming back. Once on the bus, remember to stamp the ticket in the validation machine.

If you’re on a day trip, make sure you know when the last bus leaves and where from (the 806 terminus is at Torre-Piano Gallo Interna). I forgot to do this in 2009 and ended up walking for 4 hours back to central Palermo after I couldn’t find a taxi! Local public transport shouldn’t be trusted anyway according to this alternative take.

As it’s a popular resort, there are plenty of places to stay in Mondello, but they become more expensive the closer you get to the beach. One day I’d love to come with a gang and rent one of the beautiful Stile Liberty villas along the waterfront…

…or perhaps the modernist Villa Azzurra which in 2022 could sleep six for £263 per night, just one minute away from the waterfront.

On my last visit I found a small, basic flat on AirBnB (with a washing machine but no A/C), about ten minutes’ walk from the beach, for just under £40 a night. There are slightly better deals to be had but you’ll probably need to book well ahead.

Mondello is blessed with a very picturesque, shallow bay that is perfect for swimming. The southern end is dominated by the imposing Monte Pellegrino, a famous mountain which is a symbol of Palermo and Mondello. Goethe once described it as ‘the most beautiful promontory in the world’ in his book Italian Journey.

At the opposite end of the white sand beach (approximately 1.5 kilometers long) is a second promontory, Monte Gallo, location of the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve.

Halfway along the beach is another famous symbol of Mondello, the Antico Stabilimento Balneare, a Stile Liberty building which dates from 1912 (see my coming architecture post). The term ‘balneare’ refers to a swimming or beach establishment with amenities such as changing rooms, bathrooms and places to eat. The free section of the beach is in front of the Stabilimento.

If however, like me, you like your creature comforts, you’ll want to hire a sun lounger and a parasol (lettino e ombrellone), on one of the private sections of the beach. Getting one of these can be a challenge during peak season and you’ll need to arrive early to beat the crowds. If you were going at the weekend, you’d need to get there before 10 to stand a chance of getting a place. Best to arrive a few minutes before they open at 9 and put your name on the waiting list to avoid being jumped in the queue. The later you are in joining the queue, the further back from the shoreline your lounger will be. You can avoid this morning scrum by paying for few days in one go, or by booking online. I went to Lido Onde Beach which in 2021 cost around €10 for a whole day as I recall, so a bit more expensive than other beaches I went to.

My first day trips to Mondello were at the weekend in May and June when it was absolutely heaving with people. However in 2021, I had no problems getting in anywhere as I timed by visit to avoid the school holidays which finish around September 10th. The lidos close down at the beginning of October when the weather becomes more variable (video here), so you have about 2 or 3 weeks to enjoy a quiet beach. Mondello is a completely different place out of season, much more peaceful, as only the local inhabitants stick around.

Mondello is also the place Palermitans come for seafood, more of which in my next post on restaurants and eating out…

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