The Best Street Food Markets in Sicily

Tantalize your taste buds with the distinct cuisine of the food-friendly southern Italian island with our guide to the best street food markets in Sicily.

Italy is synonymous with amazing food: pizza decorated with fresh toppings and a crisp crust (try Pizza Florida in Rome), rich risottos infused with seasonal ingredients, Bologna’s infamous Tagliatelle al ragù, and of course a scoopful of creamy gelato to finish things off. And don’t even get us started on the wine.

But a trip to the southern tip of this boot-shaped country will redefine your idea of Italian food. Sicily, the Mediterranean’s largest island, boasts a multicultural cuisine that draws on its French, Greek, Arabic, and North African heritage. Combine that with traditional Italian flavors and there you have it; a menu full of rich, delicious dishes that will have you loosening your belt (or maybe removing it altogether). And where better to experience this fusion of cultures than on the streets of Sicily at the lively street markets.

Whether you’re headed to Palermo, the island’s capital city, or the ancient port city of Catania, we’ve found the best street food markets in Sicily to add to your holiday itinerary, complete with dish recommendations and top tips to navigate these bustling hot-spots.

Our number one tip? Come with an empty stomach – you’ll want to try everything.

Mercato di Ballarò

Where: Via Balero, Palermo
Opening times: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday to Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday; 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Sunday
Best for: A bit of everything – fresh produce and cooked dishes
Try: Sfincione (small pizza)
Tour: Palermo Walking Tour and Street Food
Where to stay: Stay in the center of Albergaria at La Terraza sul Centro.
Nearby: Archaic architecture such as Chiesa del Gesù and Chiesa del Carmine Maggiore.

For starters, head to the Ballarò market in Palermo, one of Sicily’s busiest shopping spots. Shelter under a quilt of colorful tarps and wander along the cobbled streets where you’ll be awakened by the wonderful smells of the fresh produce and the loud cries of the marketers as they try to catch the attention of passers-by. Shop here for fresh seafood, meat, cheese, vegetables, and spices as well as local favorites such as sfincione, a spongy pizza laced with oil, tomato sauce, onions and caciocavallo cheese. If you’d like to be a little more adventurous, try the North African inspired panelle, a fritter made from chickpea flour that is cooked in hot oil then sandwiched in a thick, fluffy sesame bun.

Located between the Piazza Ballarò and Via Maqueda in the Albergheria district of the island, an afternoon at the Ballarò market will also give you a glimpse into the mixed heritage of the island – lookout for grand Arab-Norman monuments and ancient Grecian temples.

La Vucciria

Where: Piazza Caracciolo, Palermo
Opening times: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Saturday; closed Sundays
Best for: Classic, noisy market experience
Try: panelle (chickpea fritters) and arancine (deep-fried rice balls)
Tour: Palermo Street Food Walking Tour
Where to stay: Hotel Ambasciatori – eat at the hotel’s restaurant to mingle with other travelers.
Nearby: Teatro Biondo Stabile, a grand theatre hosting regular shows; Pretoria Square featuring the Palazzo Bonocore (museum); and Fontana Pretoria.

If you can manage to squeeze in a couple more mouthfuls, take a stroll to La Vucciria, Palermo’s oldest market. It may have shrunk in size since it opened over 700 years ago, but La Vucciria still reigns supreme as Palermo’s best open-air market. Starting at 4 a.m. when local fishermen arrive to sell their latest haul, the most serious of shoppers arrive by 6 a.m. – so if you really want to experience Palermian life, get there early.

Locals come here to stock up their cupboards with essentials such as pasta, beans, tomatoes (any which way you want them), cabbage, olives, herbs – the list is endless. You’ll hear marketers announcing the latest deals louder than the person next to them, and boisterous locals haggling them down as far as they dare. In the heart of the market is the Piazza Caracciolo, the fishermen’s square where you’ll find the (very) early risers layout their morning catch over sheets of crushed ice to be quickly snapped up by eager customers.

You’ll also be able to get your hands on souvenirs and local arts and crafts as well as wine and grappa – perfect gifts to take home. In fact, the market has so much to offer, there’s even a Sicilian expression about it, ‘Quannu s’asciucanu i balati dà Vucciria‘ which loosely translates to ‘when the streets of the Vucciria run dry’ i.e. it could never happen. A market that’s survived over 700 years is sure to be around for a couple more – so make sure you visit.

Mercato di Capo

Where: Via Cappuccinelle, Palermo
Opening times: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday to Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday; 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Sunday
Best for: Very fresh meat and fish
Try: A cannoli and espresso combo
Tour: Palermo Street Food Walking Tour
Where to stay: Stay in the Apartment Papyri, a modern apartment complex that’s only a three-minute walk away from Mercato di Capo.
Nearby: Chiesa dell’Immacolata Concezione (Church of the Immaculate Conception) is only a short walk away.

Step back in time with the Mercato di Capo, a much-loved market that was once Arab run before the Norman invasion. It runs the full length of Via Sant’Agostino in Palermo so you’ll have plenty to choose from. Whilst food is definitely the highlight at Il Capo, marketers also sell antiques, artwork, and furniture. The narrow streets are overflowing with shiny tomatoes, thick, full leafy greens, and juicy oranges alongside freshly caught seafood that will be sliced and diced in front of you.

Whilst Mercato di Capo is known for its buzzing atmosphere, this market isn’t for the squeamish traveler. Expect to see meat carcasses hanging from giant hooks and googly-eyed fish glaring out at the crowds. If you can stomach that, head to the market first thing to catch vendors setting up shop to give yourself plenty of time to peruse the stalls before deciding what to buy. To trace the Arab influence in Sicilian cuisine head to the spice stalls. Vendors will gladly offer advice on how to use eastern spices in Sicilian dishes (probably best to take a phrasebook).

Borgo Vecchio

Where: Piazza Don Luigi Sturzo, Palermo
Opening times: Open until late evening
Best for: An evening market stroll
Try: As much cheese as you can stomach
Tour: N/A
Where to stay: The Hotel Vecchio Borogo is located next door to the market, offering local homemade food for breakfast as well as beautifully decorated rooms, some of which have balconies.
Nearby: Teatro Politeama Garibaldi, a theatre housing the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana; the Palermo Docks are only a short walk away.

If you’d rather spend your day admiring architecture or climbing Mount Etna and save the markets for a cool evening stroll, Borgo Vecchio is the place to go. It stays open late and is less touristy than the other markets so makes the ideal spot for a quiet pre-dinner stroll. It’s also the perfect place to spend an hour or so before seeing a show at the nearby Politeama Theatre.

Borgo Vecchio is proud of its Arabian roots, channeling a souk-like structure with narrow streets, dimly-lit stalls, and produce strategically piled high to entice customers. Expect to see mountains of fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, and cheese, all for reasonable prices.

La Pescheria

Where: Piazza del Duomo, Catania
Opening times: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Saturday
Best for: Seafood
Try: Ask a stall-owner for a recommendation (take a phrasebook)
Tour: Gastronomic Street Food Tour of Catania
Where to stay: Barocco, a 17th-century building located in the heart of Catania that’s decorated with beautiful antiques and furnishings
Nearby: Museo Diocesano Catania (The Diocesan Museum) and Cattedrale di Sant’Agata (Catania Cathedral).

Take a trip to Catania, an old port town on Sicily’s east coast, if you’re a big seafood fan. Head towards the Giardino Pacini and you’ll probably smell La Pescheria before you see it. From the fountain terrace you’ll get a great overview of the market, so spend a few moments here taking it all in. There’s so much going on – marketers shouting, gutting fish, unloading deliveries – you’ll want a few minutes to appreciate it all.

Visit first thing to see fish so fresh they might still be moving. Pick from octopus, swordfish, lobsters, shrimp, clams, tuna, and cod – and that’s just to start. Whether you’re an established chef or hopeful amateur, La Pescheria is a playground for food lovers. You can also pick up vegetables and spices to complement your fish, with plump Sicilian tomatoes and fresh cloves of garlic being amongst the favorite options.

If you need something sweet to finish, seek out one of the dried fruit and dates stalls that appear in abundance thanks to Sicily’s Arabic roots. Don’t leave without trying Mostarda di Mosto, a caramel-like treat traditionally made from grape must, cinnamon and nuts.

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