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Mount Pellegrino Hike, Palermo Sicily

Mount Pellegrino Hike, Palermo Sicily

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Mount Pellegrino is one of the granite-covered mountains that dominates the landscape in Palermo, Sicily – and it begs to be hiked. Not all Italians may agree with my compulsion to climb to the top, though. 

Hiking isn’t a favorite outdoor activity here, but it is growing in favor. So in my quest to get to the summit of Mount Pellegrino (Monte Pellegrino), I wondered how the trails were going to be. Would they be well marked?

Getting lost on the way up is nobody’s idea of a fun day. As it turns out, our concerns were quite misplaced because of what lies at the top of the mountain. It turned out to be one of the best things to do in Palermo during our trip.

Mount Pellegrino’s Cobbled Hiking Path

Path up Mount Pellegrino, Palermo Sicily

Path up Mount Pellegrino, Palermo Sicily

The path to the top of Mt. Pellegrino is paved. Or, more accurately, paved by the same granite stones that line the sidewalks throughout Palermo. This ancient road switches back and forth along the steep mountain, sometimes over raised walkways.

The Mount Pellegrino trailhead is clearly marked. You can find the Scala Vecchia (old stairway) on the roundabout on Via Pietro Bonanno near the Fiera del Mediterraneo grounds.  There is a water fountain and a handy fruit vendor there. 

And the trail is well marked, appropriately, with the symbol of Sicily.  The symbol of Sicily is the Trinacria, also known as the “Triskelion” or “Trinacria symbol.” I

t is a three-legged figure with wings and three wheat ears, arranged in a triangular shape. The three legs represent the three capes of the island of Sicily, while the wings and wheat ears are additional elements that have varied in their representation over time.

The Trinacria has historical and cultural significance, serving as a symbol of Sicilian identity and heritage. You also seeversions of it available for purchase at every souvenir shop.

 

The Trinacria - The Symbol of Sicily

The Trinacria – The Symbol of Sicily

The hike is steep in sections, but the views along the way are spectacular. Early in the hike, a sweeping panorama reveals the city of Palermo and its harbor.

View along the path up Mount Pellegrino

View along the path up Mount Pellegrino

 

Mount Pellegrino Hike - Palermo, Sicily

Mount Pellegrino Hike – Palermo, Sicily

All the way along the suspicious rustling in the brush that accompanied our hike turned out to be these colorful lizards. They sun themselves on the rocks along the side of the path.

Lizard sunning itself on the path up Mount Pellegrino

Lizard sunning itself on the path up Mount Pellegrino

As the trail continues the view is dominated by hills dotted with cacti and shaded wooded areas with wildflowers and thistles. Along the way, we came across curious wooden crosses draped in purple cloth and shrines of various sizes.

Shrine on the path up Mount Pellegrino

Shrine on the path up Mount Pellegrino

As it turns out, the path was constructed in order to lead the faithful to the Sanctuary of Saint Rosalia. Legend has it that Saint Rosalia was the only one of the patron saints who answered the prayers of the citizens of Palermo in the time of their greatest need.

One of many purple-draped crosses on the path to the top of Mount Pellegrino

One of many purple-draped crosses on the path to the top of Mount Pellegrino

In the 1600s, people were dying of the plague in alarming numbers. Only after the discovered bones of Rosalia (now affectionately known as “La Santuzza” – the little saint) were paraded around the city, did the plague end.

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Mount Pellegrino Sicily Hike

To give thanks, a sanctuary was constructed inside the cave on top of Mount Pellegrino. She was a devoutly religious hermit who lived out her life within the cave where her bones were reportedly found.

During an annual tradition on September 4, many faithful pilgrims make their way up the path from Palermo to pay homage to La Santuzza. Quite a few make the trek barefoot, and others crawl the entire way on their knees. I shuddered at the thought as we walked with our sturdy hiking boots up the sharp granite stones.

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Sanctuary of Saint Rosalia

Santuario Santa Rosalia on top of Monte Pellegrino, Sicily

Santuario Santa Rosalia on top of Monte Pellegrino, Sicily

The fact that the bones that were found were later determined by scientists to be those of a goat has not dissuaded the faithful from their devotion to Rosalia.

The trek and the visit to the unusual sanctuary, even absent of a spiritual quest, are well worth the effort. The beautiful formal baroque exterior gives little hint of the interior of Rosalia’s sanctuary. We walked inside and then deeper into the interior of the sanctuary.

Sanctuary of St. Rosalia, Mount Pellegrino (Pilgrims Mountain), Palermo Sicily

Sanctuary of St. Rosalia, Mount Pellegrino (Pilgrims Mountain), Palermo Sicily

Now well inside the cave, we found intricate ornamental icons including a statue bathed in blue light. It is surrounded by offerings ranging from flowers to notes, to motorcycle helmets. The juxtaposition is striking, unusual, and completely worth the hike on the slippery spiky rocks.

Sanctuary of Saint Rosalia - Patron Saint of Palermo

Sanctuary of Saint Rosalia – Patron Saint of Palermo

You can reward yourself for completing with journey with a little of Palermo’s famous digestive, Amaro Della Stanuzza. The liqueur is produced in honor of Rosalia with herbs that grow along the path. It wouldn’t do to show your respect now would it? Even if you are just on your way through to the gift shop.

Digestive - health purposes only

Digestive – health purposes only

If the idea of a steep 1 1/2 hour hike up the stony path doesn’t appeal to you, shod or not, there’s another option. Take a seat on bus 812 and it will bring you straight to the top.

Bus to the top of Mt. Pellegrino and the Sanctuary of Saint Rosalia in Palermo, Sicily

Bus to the top of Mt. Pellegrino and the Sanctuary of Saint Rosalia in Palermo, Sicily

Here is a related article about travel in Sicily that you might enjoy:

Or general stories and information about travel in Italy HERE

Planning a trip? Visit our Resources Section for money-saving tips, information about language learning on a budget and our recommended travel gear.

HB

Tuesday 8th of August 2023

Hello,

I am looking to visit Mount Pellegrino next week whilst I'm in Palermo and I was wondering where do I get the 812 bus from- is it from central Palermo or will it be somewhere near the Fiera del Mediterraneo?

Thank you!

Sean

Tuesday 8th of August 2023

You can definitely pick up the 812 bus at the Fiera del Mediterraneo. If you search for "812 Bus Palermo" you should be able to find a map with all 22 stops, and choose the one closest to you.

Laura

Thursday 4th of July 2019

A really useful article, I’m hoping to do this hike soon (in Birkenstocks, hope that’ll be fine!). But how do you get to the start of the trail? I’m not really familiar with that area.

Jen

Sunday 14th of July 2019

Birkenstocks should be fine. You can find the trailhead to the Scala Vecchia (old stairway) at the Fiera del Mediterraneo grounds and looking for the cobblestone path.

Becky John

Thursday 11th of April 2019

I didn't realise there would be hikes here. I don't have any trainers only a pair of flip flops or sandels. I'm a hiker anyway so fit and healthy, as the path is paved do you think I'd be OK in those? Thanks in advance!

Jen

Saturday 13th of April 2019

The path is paved with stones, so I'd say that sandals would probably be ok depending on the type. I wore my basic everyday sneakers and didn't have a problem. Have fun!!

Tim

Saturday 27th of October 2018

Sneakers are fine.

Alice Liri

Tuesday 19th of June 2018

I am going on a quick four-day trip to Palermo and hence, packing light. Are hiking boots necessary or can the I walk the trail in a pair of sneakers?