According to my friend and Sicily guru Salvatore Spatafora, Mercato del Capo is the best market in Palermo. Despite their innate beauty and charm, the Ballaro and Vucciria markets–much like Campo de’ Fiori in Rome, sadly–have become just a bit too touristy.
Mercato del Capo is glorious, alive and beautiful! Fish scales glisten, butchers chop meat, and the most vibrantly colored fruit and vegetables shine. While walking, the occasional whiff of cheese sneaks up on you and it’s just dreamy. Stroll, stop, ask questions, smile and just be! Sicily is special and the foods that define the island’s particular terrain never fail to enchant. Plus the island’s diverse history–which includes both Arab and Spanish rules–is reflected in the cuisine, so every meal made from these goods is an exotic treat on some level. I can’t wait further explore the rest of this exquisite island.
Spanning the narrow Via San Agostino, Mercato del Capo extends onto some of the even narrower side streets. A stroll through here is the best way to see and experience Palermo at its most authentic and get a feel for the renowned warmth of the Sicilian people. Locals have been shopping at this ancient market since the Arab era so it’s fascinating to imagine all the Sicilians who have passed through here for their spese during the last thousand years: their shopping strategies, what they bought, what they discussed with the vendors, what they cooked for dinner, etc. I couldn’t help but wonder in which ways they were similar to and different from today’s market patrons.
Here are some shots from my morning market stroll. I swear those fragolina di marsala are as red as they appear and that the image isn’t saturated! BTW, I bought a cestino of them and they were tart, refreshing, juicy and bright: the perfect snack to have on hand for some mid-day nourishment–in case I needed it between all the eating I was doing!