Cooking with the Duchess

Palermo is a great place. It’s partly falling down, with rats running around and for the other part it’s stunning and full of hidden treasures. It’s a city full of contrasts.

Obviously the summer is rather hot and sweltering but even in a 35° degree heat, you can’t be disappointed with this great Sicilian city.

For foodies, Palermo is also an exciting destination. The gastronomical heritage of Moorish and Arabian influences are very much present in the cooking traditions. They make the food here very exciting and exotic. One of the oddly interesting stops on any foodie tour of the city has to be the Antica Focacceria S. Francesco. It’s speciality is the spleen sandwich. So not for the faint hearted! If you are looking for good pizza or other ‘classics’ then you are better off somewhere else. However the spleen sandwich is a rite of passage for any lover of exotic food.

We stayed in a rambling 17th century palazzo that was home to Prince Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of the Leopard (Il Gattopardo). The prince’s adoptive son and daughter-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Palma, house guests in several comfortable apartments. And the great thing is that the Duchess is also a superb cook and hosts cooking classes!
We had the chance to meet Nicoletta, the Duchess and she kindly showed us around in her private apartments. The rooms are very airy and spacious and the slightest breeze of the mediterranean sea in front of the palazzo makes it all quite cool.

The Duchess explained us that she organizes a very hands-on cooking day for guests. (so no standing around!)
It begins with a morning visit to the Capo market, the oldest in Palermo, where you buy fresh seasonal ingredients, chosen amidst the colourful stalls glowing with fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, resounding with the “abbanniate”, the sellers’ cries to attract customers. You will see foods you have never seen before! Then a short stroll home to savour the hidden beauty of Palermo, one of the most intriguing and mysterious cities of the Mediterranean, will take you past the baroque magnificence of the Quattro Canti along via Alloro to the luxuriant exuberance of Piazza Marina garden and the austere majesty of the Norman palazzo Chiaramonte.
Once home, the spacious kitchen of the palazzo by the sea, welcome you in a the coolness of a wonderful kitchen full of copper pots and hand-painted Sicilian tiles. This uniquely hands-on experience allows a maximum of 8 participants to create a 5-course Sicilian meal from antipasto to dessert in an intimate yet relaxed environment.
The palazzo, which faces Palermo’s seafront, was built in the second half of the 17th century atop the Spanish military casemates behind the 16th century city walls. At the beginning of the 16th century, a crucial moment for the naval supremacy in the South Mediterranean, Spain fortified Sicilian cities with new walls.

Ramparts were built for defence against the new artillery warfare. Palermo’s seafront was protected northwards by the fort of Castellamare, southwards by the bastion of Vega, and the bastion of Tuono was built in-between.  The area behind the ramparts was militarized, and only in the second half of the 17th century the first palaces were built. The bastion of Tuono was pulled down around 1720, the bastion of Vega at the end of that century. The first buildings were the palazzo Branciforte di Butera and the Noviziato dei Crociferi.  The Lanza Branciforte family owned the whole bastioned front from Porta Felice, one of the city gates, to the bastion of Tuono. The buildings behind the bastion were handed over to the Gravina family. The Gravinas then leased them to the Theatine fathers, who created there an Imperial College for the education of young aristocrats. The College was founded during the Spanish war of succession and in 1728, the foundation year, Palermo acknowledged as its king Charles VI of Habsburg.

If you want to stay at Buter28 or if you are interested to cook with the Duchess, call Nicoletta on +39 333 3165432
More info on

We stayed in one of their superb apartments with a kitchen to die for!

A Day  Cooking With The Duchess
Butera28 Apartments

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