BB22

Palermo, Sicily, Italy Book from

Reviewed by Abi Dare
Boutique B&B reaches Palermo: contemporary-meets-antique rooms spread across 2 smart townhouses in the heart of the old city
The concept of a boutique B&B - intimate accommodation with designer style and highly personalised service - has been winning friends among the fashionistas and dolce viveurs of mainland Italy for a while; now we have boutique-chic in Palermo. And a good thing too, for Sicily's vibrant, gritty, love-it-or-hate-it capital could do with an injection of personality to challenge its large and loveless hotels.

Milanese owner Patrizia Marchetti spent 3 years restoring her 15th-century palazzo, tucked away on a quiet side street behind the imposing San Domenico church. She kept her apartment on the second floor, but the floors above and below were transformed into 7 immaculate guestrooms, all furnished with an imaginative mix of antiques and sleek, contemporary pieces. They proved so popular that another 4 soon followed, on the upper floor of a separate townhouse a short walk away. Both buildings are topped with breakfast rooms and terraces where you can sit back on comfy sofas and gaze out over Palermo’s rooftops, and Patrizia and her staff are on hand with insider tips. Ideal for those seeking style and seclusion in this fascinating city of faded grandeur.

Highs

  • A chic and intimate escape from trafficky Palermo
  • Well-placed for historic sites, restaurants, the famous Vucciria market and the seafront
  • Large rooms for a city B&B; if you want more space, the rooms in the newer Moncada Palace building can form a self-catering apartment for 4-8
  • Muted colours offset by exuberant touches - we loved the Philippe Starck 'Ghost' chairs, and the fabulous egg-shaped tub in the suite
  • The roof terraces are great spots for lounging; Sicilian wines and nibbles are on offer come evening

Lows

  • Don't expect full hotel services: there's no restaurant, and reception isn’t staffed at all times (let them know your arrival time)
  • Expect some street noise, plus clanging from a nearby workshop if you’re in the original palazzo building (though it ends well before bedtime)
  • No lift, so you'll have to negotiate several flights of stairs
  • Breakfast is fairly basic, but Palermo has no shortage of places where you can top up with pastries
  • We’ve yet to see the Moncada Palace rooms in person, but we’re told they’re as appealing as the others

Best time to go

Spring (March-May) and autumn (September-October) are the best times to visit, although the weather can also be splendid in winter. Summer (June-August) is generally hot and sticky in this chaotic city.

Our top tips

Hire a horse-drawn carrozza on Piazza San Domenico for a leisurely tour of the city; prices are set by the authorities and it should cost no more than €50-60 for an hour. Ask to end up at the Foro Italico, a stretch of waterfront where you'll find several tempting gelaterie.

Great for...

City Style
Family
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 11 (+ 1 apartment for 4-8)
  • Breakfast only (+ restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
Room: Zagara - Deluxe Room (original palazzo)

Rooms

The bedrooms are spread across 2 buildings: 7 in the original palazzo and another 4 in Moncada Palace, an early 20th-century townhouse a couple of minutes’ walk away. In all, neutral colours provide a stylish backdrop for a playful combination of contemporary design and salvaged antiques. Starck chairs sit next to gilt-framed mirrors, tailor’s dummies by striped wallpaper, and candelabras beneath glass bauble lights by Ingo Maurer. Beds (mostly kingsize or twin) are wide and firm, flanked by lacquered shelves or chrome Eileen Gray tables, and ensuites are small but well-equipped.

Sizes range from the smallest Standard Room to the larger Deluxes, though none are by any means tiny. We stayed in a mid-range Superior Room, Gold: a vast space dressed in metallics, with brass bathroom fittings and lustrous fabrics. We also liked Mandarino and the shimmering, silver-themed Bergamotto, Deluxe Rooms with a terrace and a flower-filled balcony respectively.

If you want more space then splash out for the Suite, L'Orangerie, which has a doubled bed, a single sofabed, a kitchenette and a dining area. What's more, it’s one of the few rooms with a tub: a huge egg-shaped affair by Matteo Thun, placed decadently in the centre of its open-plan bathroom. You can also book 2 or all 4 of the Moncada Palace rooms (all Deluxes) as an apartment for 4-8.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Both buildings have breakfast rooms where a light continental spread is served: fruit salad, croissants, bread, jam, yoghurt, cereal. In season, creamy cannoli (sweet pastries) supplement the usual fare, and in fine weather you can sit under the sky on the terraces. You can also help yourself to tea and coffee at any time, and come evening guests often congregate for wine and a few nibbles.

For other meals, there are plenty of restaurants and cafés nearby. In your room you’ll find a list of recommendations, all personally vetted by Patrizia. We headed to Via Cassari and enjoyed delicious beef carpaccio and ceviche-style seafood at Gagini, a romantic restaurant with sparkling candelabras and exposed stone walls. Also worth trying are the eateries on the top floor of the Rinascente department store, just around the corner from either building on Piazza San Domenico. We spent a happy couple of hours working our way through the cocktail list on the outdoor terrace, before moving inside to trendy Obikà, which specialises in mozzarella-based dishes.

If you book the Moncada Palace rooms as an apartment, you’ll get full use of the kitchen for self-catering. It’s kitted out with everything you need - oven, hob, fridge, dishwasher, pots and pans, crockery and cutlery - and the famous Vucciria market is a great place to stock up on groceries. If you don’t fancy cooking, a chef can be arranged for an extra charge.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating: Roof terrace (Moncada Palace)
Activity:

Activities

  • Stroll around Palermo - a fascinating city of crumbling palazzi, glittering yachts, Baroque churches, tourists in horse-drawn carriages, and flagged alleys worn smooth by the centuries. It was once a flagship of Arab culture, then the seat of Norman kings; today it’s a melting pot where you can dine on everything from pasta to couscous, and admire stunning architecture in varying states of repair
  • Visit the Norman Palace, now the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. Wander through its arcaded courtyard and stately rooms, and visit the Palatine Chapel, whose Arabian carved ceiling and bejewelled arches will take your breath away
  • Stop off at the cathedral. Another Norman-Arab-Neoclassical hybrid, this imposing sand-coloured edifice displays all the architectural styles of the city's history
  • Browse Sicilian art at the Palazzo Abatellis art gallery, or view the classical marbles at the archaeological museum
  • Go shopping - Via della Libertà and neighbouring Via Enrico Parisi are lined with upscale boutiques such as Frette (linens), Furla (leather goods), Visiona (fashion) and Lethu (homeware)
  • The Vucciria, Ballarò and del Capo street markets are a must, as much for the people-watching and atmosphere as for the chance to buy exotic fruit and veg
  • Hop between the chic wine bars in the historic Kalsa district, then take in live rock, jazz or blues at Candelai (Piazza della Rivoluzione, on Via Candelai)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Carriage rides
  • Historical sites
  • Live music
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Theatre

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome, though most guests are couples. Chaotic Palermo can be a tricky place to navigate with little ones, although the seafront and parks provide respite from the heat and traffic.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Baby cots can be added to most rooms, and the Suite has a single sofabed. The twin Standard Room in the original palazzo building, Cedro, is ideal for older children as it connects with the neighbouring double room. Larger families can book 2 or all 4 of the Moncada Palace rooms as an apartment for up to 8, complete with a living area and kitchen.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
7/
Food
8/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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