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Things to do in Palermo

Catch the breeze with some water sports

As it's a coastal city, there are plenty of water sports possible off Palermo and a number of companies offering classes and equipment hire. Make the most of the breeze and try your hand at kitesurfing; Kitesurf Palermo (tel: +39 392 368 9854; www.kitesurfpalermo.com) will show you how. If that's not your thing, Albaria (tel: +39 91 453 595; www.albaria.org/windsurf) focus on windsurfing.

Dive among the colourful corals of Sicily

If you think the sights of Sicily are stunning, wait until you're under the sea. Between April and October, divers can explore the waters off Palermo. Ustica is a nearby marine park, home to lobsters, bream and barracudas plus colourful corals. Ustica Diving Center (tel: +39 335 821 0017; www.usticadiving.it) takes divers to the best spots.

Grab a ticket for a Sicilian opera

Like the rest of Italy, Sicily has a strong operatic culture but unlike the mainland, the performers are puppets You'll see them in the souvenir shops, dead-eyed in elaborate dress, but they're much more impressive alive. Catch a show and watch as two puppeteers breathe life into 20 marionettes (tel: +39 91 323 400; www.figlidartecuticchio.com/cuticchio_intro.html).

Hike the old pilgrim’s way to Saint Rosalia

For hikers wanting a little challenge, nearby Madonie Nature Park boasts six peaks over 1,500m (4921ft) and great views to boot. Easier is the old pilgrim's way, which leads to the sanctuary of Saint Rosalia on Monte Pellegrino. The walk takes about 1 hour 40 minutes to complete.

Learn how to cook like a Sicilian

Sicilians are very proud of their cuisine, none more so than Mamma Lucia (tel: +39 091 612 4095; www.ristorantecincin.com/eng/mck.html). Join her for a tasting tour around Palermo's markets to try local delicacies such as pane con la milza (regrettably translated as spleen sandwich) before heading to the kitchen to learn some of Sicily's more appetising dishes.

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Featured Hotels

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Hotel Principe di Villafranca

It may have just 34 rooms, but this stylish hotel makes up for size with an intimate restaurant and bar, and a cosy reading room with an intriguing collection of books. Located in the city centre, close to some top fashion boutiques, it is conveniently place for shopaholics. Expect a refined atmosphere and elegant furnishings.

Grand Hotel Etes des Palmes

The sumptuous rooms of this historical, city centre hotel are decorated with antique furniture and fine fabrics. Founded in 1874, and renovated by one of the great masters of the art nouveau style, Ernesto Basile, in 1907, this has been the haunt of Italian socialites, writers, musicians and film stars for more than a century.

Hotel Garibaldi

In the heart of Palermo's shopping area, Hotel Garibaldi is a decent, moderately priced stay. Recently renovated, all rooms are now modern with funky fabrics and contemporary photographic prints bringing them to life. Wi-Fi, LCD TVs and tea and coffee making facilities are among the home comforts.

Centrale Palace Hotel

In the historic centre, near the Quattro Canti, this luxury hotel has 103 rooms and 11 suites, all tastefully decorated. Breakfast is served in a grand restaurant. There is a roof terrace for evening drinks and a grand red Sicilian marble staircase for those who like to make an entrance.

Grand Hotel Villa Igiea

At Acquasanta, 3km (2 miles) north of the city, this 5-star hotel, restored by renowned 19th century architect Ernesto Basile at the end of the 19th century, is housed in a sumptuous art nouveau building. Seriously stylish accommodation, it offers original frescoes, decoration and furniture.

Grand Hotel Wagner

The luxury Grand Hotel Wagner is full of old-world charm. Recently restored, this early-20th century building boasts antique furniture, chandeliers, rare marble, rich carpets and old paintings. Rooms are exquisitely decorated and there's a laid-back piano bar and a fourth-floor terrace with stunning city views.