Giardino Di Ballaro

Palermo, Italy


The weather in Palermo may well have been almost arctic but inside Il Giardino di Ballaro the warmth was contagious, from the roaring log fire in the lounge to the hospitality of owner Annalise.

It is housed in a converted ancient bakery and stables in the heart of Palermo's old town a few steps from Ballaro, the biggest of the city's four outdoor markets.

I have to admit my heart sank a little when we first approached, as Via Castro is not what you would call a salubrious street, but Palermo is full of narrow crumbling streets and old buildings behind which are some extraordinarily plush dwellings.

Open a door, or walk through an arch and you'll find yourself transported to a parallel universe.

Il Giardino di Ballaro is a bit like that, but what lay behind its front doors was quite magnificent; a beautifully crafted spacious lounge area still retaining much of the original steel and stonework of its former life. And complementing the arty interior, were artworks, many for sale.

The breakfast room is a communal space handy to use when we had a snack or two to nibble on after a few trips to nearby Ballaro market. As it happens we could come and go as we pleased, use the kitchen as and when, or just lounge about with a glass of Sicilian wine if we fancied it. A flight of steps from there led to a spacious terrace, a perfect shady oasis during the summer months.

A few minutes walk away are all Palermo's major attractions; the cathedral, the markets, the port, the Palazzo dei Normanni, Teatro Massimo, Quattro Canti, the Botanical gardens and the macabre Capuchin Catacombs. They can also arrange private tours, including a street food tour that I enjoyed.

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