Ballarò Market

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Ballarò is the largest food market in Palermo, and also the oldest. Although more than a thousand years have passed since it was established, it is still one of the city’s liveliest spots, where food products from all over the world are sold. Ballarò is also a must for anyone wanting to try Palermo’s street food and for fans of street art. In the evening, it becomes one of the main centres for Palermo’s nightlife.

History of the Mercato di Ballarò

Together with Vucciria, Il Capo, Lattarini and the Mercato delle Pulci, Ballarò is one of Palermo’s oldest historical markets. It probably dates back to the 10th century and extended to the southern part of Palermo and outside the city walls. The name Ballarò is possibly taken from the Arabic suk-al-Bahlarà, the name of the Monreale village from where Islamic farmers came to sell their wares. The market’s current layout dates back to 1468, while the arcades and counters were built under Bourbon rule. Ballarò still retains its character as a predominantly food market. The presence of numerous vendors from North Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Central Africa means that the stalls offer a huge variety of products, including the most exotic. In addition to fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and cooked food can also be purchased.

Interesting fact: The Ballarò market, like all Sicilian markets, is brought to life by the so-called abbanniate. These are the shouts with which vendors promote their products, trying to get people to buy.

The Mercato di Ballarò and street food

The Mercato di Ballarò is one of the best places to sample Palermo’s street food specialities. The most famous of which is undoubtedly u pani câ meusa, or ‘spleen sandwich’. It is a sandwich stuffed with veal spleen, lung and trachea. These entrails are first steamed and then fried in lard. Another iconic street food that is a little less challenging is the ‘panino con le panelle’, which are pancakes made from chickpea flour. Other savoury specialities worth trying are: cazzili or crocchè, which are potato croquettes; sfincione, a leavened bread topped with tomato sauce, onion, anchovies, oregano and cheese; and, of course, arancini.

Tip: If you want to know more about Palermo’s cuisine, and street food in particular, don’t forget to visit the Antica Focacceria San Francesco.

Ballarò and Street Art

Strolling through the streets of the Mercato di Ballarò also enables you to become familiar with a very interesting artistic side of Palermo: street art. The entrance to the market is marked by the words of the artist TuttoeNiente: “Si vucìa, s’abbannìa, Ballarò è magia” (i.e., “You shout, you promote products by shouting, Ballarò is magic”). Included amongst the various displays are those related to redevelopment projects in two different parts of the district. In Piazza Mediterraneo there is the Contapunti Antirazzista (Antiracist Scoreboard) created by Collettivo FX. At the top of the scoreboard are the faces of the ‘Winners’, i.e., people who throughout history have fought for human rights and greater racial integration. From left to right these are: Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Malcom X, San Suu Kyi, Emiliano Zapata and Chief Joseph. At the bottom are the ‘Losers’: Théoneste Bagosora, Vladimir Putin, John Chivington, Rodolfo Graziani, Adolf Eichmann and Slobodan Milošević. After the redevelopment of Piazza Ecce Homo, a project promoted by the SOS Ballarò committee and the CaravanSerai Palermo association led to the creation of new artwork, such as ‘The Moth’ by the illustrator, Sbrama and pieces by the artists, I Mangiatori di Patate and TuttoeNiente.

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