Monte Pellegrino (AKA Mount Pellegrino) is a small mountain located next to Palermo – the capital city of Sicily in Italy. One of the main attractions atop Monte Pellegrino is Santuario di Santa Rosalia (Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia), which is an astounding church located inside a cave. In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything about visiting Monte Pellegrino and Santuario di Santa Rosalia in Palermo. We’ll talk about all of the best things to do during a visit to Monte Pellegrino, other than just visiting Santuario di Santa Rosalia. This will include information about hiking on the mountain and visiting an epic lookout called Belvedere di Monte Pellegrino.
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Monte Pellegrino (Mount Pellegrino): A Perfect Day Trip From Palermo
Monte Pellegrino, which is also known as Mount Pellegrino, is literally located right next to the city of Palermo. At 606 metres above sea level, the mountain imposes itself over the densely populated city. Certainly, visiting Monte Pellegrino and the famous Santuario di Santa Rosalia makes for the perfect day trip from Palermo. But, there’s more to this mountain than just Santuario di Santa Rosalia.
You’ll find excellent hiking routes in Riserva Naturale Orientata Monte Pellegrino (Monte Pellegrino Nature Reserve). There are also several outstanding viewpoints at Monte Pellegrino, where you’ll enjoy views of Palermo and the surrounding coastline.
The Best Things to Do at Monte Pellegrino
Let’s look at the best things to do during a day trip to Monte Pellegrino from Palermo. We’ll start with Monte Pellegrino’s star attraction – Santuario di Santa Rosalia. Then, we’ll talk about the nature reserve atop the mountain and the best hike to do there. We’ll then talk about the best lookout – Belvedere di Monte Pellegrino. Finally, we’ll cover some tour options including the popular Mountain Bike Tour From Palermo.
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Santuario di Santa Rosalia (Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia)
Certainly, Santuario di Santa Rosalia is the main attraction of Monte Pellegrino. From the outside, you’ll see a church incredibly built into the side of a cliff wall.
But, perhaps, it’s what you’ll see on the inside that’s even more amazing. By entering Santuario di Santa Rosalia, you’ll get to see the impressive church built around 25 metres deep inside a cave. By the way, it’s free to enter!
Santuario di Santa Rosalia is a particularly popular place to visit for locals because of its historical significance. Santa Rosalia is the patron saint of Palermo with the Festa di Santa Rosalia (Feast of Saint Rosalia 2022) celebrated annually. So, who was Santa Rosalia and how did she become Palermo’s patron saint?
Long story short, Santa Rosalia was born in Palermo in 1130 into a noble Aristocratic Norman family. After learning about her proposed arranged marriage, she immediately became a nun, fled and took refuge elsewhere. She would eventually relocate to Mount Pellegrino, where she would later die in 1170.
Fast forward to 1624, the plague is starting to wreak havoc through Palermo. Its people are praying to their four patron saints but to no avail. As legend has it, Vincenzo Bonelli, a soap maker, had a vision on Mount Pellegrino of Santa Rosalia, where she guided him to her bones, located in the cave, where Santuario di Santa Rosalia is now located. After parading the bones through the streets of Palermo, during a procession, the plague immediately stopped spreading.
Afterwards, the four previous patron saints were replaced by Santa Rosalia. Santuario di Santa Rosalia was then built around the cave, in 1625, where the bones were found.
Explore the Mountain Range (Riserva Naturale Orientata Monte Pellegrino)
Other than visiting Santuario di Santa Rosalia, we highly recommend exploring Monte Pellegrino Nature Reserve. Personally, we think the best way to experience the nature reserve is by taking a hike. Below, we’ll talk about the circular walk we did around the nature reserve.
Monte Pellegrino Hike
After parking at Belvedere di Monte Pellegrino, we briefly followed the road south, soon arriving at the trailhead. The nature reserve has two mountain bike trails (Costa Finocchiaro and Cozzo dello Mandra), which also serve as walking trails. By combining the two trails, you can do an approx. 9km circular walk, taking around 2–3 hours.
During the walk, you’ll get to enjoy the magnificent local flora. You’ll also visit many awesome viewpoints, some providing stellar views of Mondello Beach. Additionally, you’ll pass by a maze called Labirinto di Monte Pellegrino.
For more information about this circular walk, including details about trail specs and a GPS-guided map, click here.
DJI Air 2S
Sunset at Belvedere di Monte Pellegrino
You’ll find many fantastic viewpoints at Mount Pellegrino. There are several lay-bys along the main road, that winds through the mountainside, where you can stop and enjoy views of Palermo. Otherwise, by far, the best lookout is Belvedere di Monte Pellegrino. You’ll find Belvedere di Monte Pellegrino located at the end of the mountain road, where there is a huge space for parking. In particular, visiting Belvedere di Monte Pellegrino for sunset is a memorable experience.
Other than outstanding views of Palermo and the coastline, you’ll find Statua di Santa Rosalia (Statue of Santa Rosalia) located at Belvedere di Monte Pellegrino.
Monte Pellegrino and Santuario di Santa Rosalia Tours
Many people choose to explore the mountain and Santuario di Santa Rosalia by doing an organised tour from Palermo. GetYourGuide offers two main tours to Monte Pellegrino from Palermo.
The Panoramic CruiserCar Tour From Palermo is a great way to enjoy viewpoints along the mountain road and learn more about the history of the area. Although, the Mountain Bike Tour From Palermo is the more popular option. Beck and I saw plenty of people participating in this tour. Of course, keep in mind, that the bike tour is fairly physically demanding given the elevation profile of the mountain and the typical hot weather in Sicily.
Click below to find out more about these two awesome tours.
How to Get to Monte Pellegrino
The easiest and quickest way to get to Monte Pellegrino is to drive there yourself. You’ll find free parking at both Santuario di Santa Rosalia and Belvedere di Monte Pellegrino.
We recommend hiring a car. Personally, Beck and I picked up our car hire from Catania International Airport. For an automatic car, we only paid around €7 ($7USD) per day!
If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.
It’s also possible to walk up to the top of the mountain from Palermo. Indeed, there is a stepped walking path (crossing the mountain road several times) that directly heads up the mountain.
Monte Pellegrino Bus
If you don’t have your own vehicle, it’s possible to catch a bus from Palermo to Monte Pellegrino. From Piazza do Sturzo in Palermo town centre, you can catch the local 806 or 812 AST bus to Santuario di Santa Rosalia. Unfortunately, the AST bus website is an insecure website, so we don’t want to send you to that page. But, we’ve been advised that this website would be the best place to check the timetable.
What to Wear and Pack
These are our gear essentials for visiting Palermo’s famous mountain.
Osprey Skarab 30
The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.
Osprey Ultralight Raincover
A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.
BUFF Original Ecostretch
The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.
To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.
- The mountain road is narrow and winding: despite the nice views en route, make sure to concentrate on the road. It’s not uncommon for local drivers to drive dangerously, with plenty of speeding and weaving. Indeed, it’s more the drivers to worry about than the road itself!
- Arrive at Santuario di Santa Rosalia early: tour groups start to arrive at around 10am. The church usually opens at 9am. So, for a quieter visit, try and arrive for the opening.
- Visit Mondello Beach: if you’re looking for another great day trip from Palermo, then visit Mondello Beach.
Please leave us a comment below if you have any questions about visiting Mount Pellegrino.